Auburn bans food trucks in historic district

01/16/2013 12:00 AM

01/16/2013 8:04 AM

Food trucks are not welcome in Auburn's historic district under an ordinance passed by the City Council on Monday.

In a separate action, the council also voted to make it illegal for food trucks to operate within 1,000 yards of the city's high school.

Food truck operators also would have to obtain a conditional use permit, something many cities do not require, food truck operators said. The historic district restriction would not apply during special community events such as parades, cookouts or festivals.

The action comes as cities across the state respond to the mobile culinary trend.

Food trucks have moved beyond the old taco wagon to offer a variety of cuisine. But while they are popular with many hungry consumers, cities are trying to balance the concerns of brick-and-mortar restaurants and these new mobile businesses.

City Councilman Bill Kirby said fairness and safety issues were among his concerns, but his primary reason for supporting the restriction was aesthetic.

"I don't think they fit in the historic district," Kirby said.

Auburn's historic district is a collection of shops and restaurants that generally fit with the city's Gold Rush legacy.

Kirby rejected the notion that Auburn is anti-food truck or anti-entrepreneur. In recent years, food trucks have been the launching pad for fixed restaurants.

"We are opposed to food trucks in the historic district," Kirby said. "But we are not opposed to people starting businesses in appropriate areas."

He noted that food trucks would be allowed to operate in other portions of the foothills community.

The area covered by the ordinance includes the blocks of the downtown area surrounding Lincoln Way and High Streets north of the high school and the historic area between Brewery Lane and Auburn Folsom Road.

The separate high school-area ordinance, which will return to the council later this month for a second reading, makes it illegal to operate on a public right of way within a thousand yards of the city high school.

Auburn officials said they were following the lead of other cities such as Grass Valley and Napa that don't allow food trucks in their historic districts.

The city of Sacramento does not allow street vending in Old Sacramento.

David Vculek, who owns and operates the Krush Burger food truck in Sacramento, said food trucks might not fit the design aesthetic of a historic district, but the larger question is whether the city's action is legal.

"It's unfair business regulation," Vculek said, adding that cities need to heed state rules on the matter.

The city may be taking a shortsighted view, he said. Popular food trucks don't just siphon off business; they can draw in new customers.

While the city has fielded numerous calls on the issue, to date it has approved only two business licenses for food trucks, said Lance Lowe, the city's point man on the issue.

One now regularly parks near county office buildings, outside the city limit, Lowe said.

The other is no longer in business.


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