Food & Drink

Sacramento City Council votes to ease food truck rules

New rules will give food trucks more time to operate.
New rules will give food trucks more time to operate.

After nearly four years of discussion and debate, the Sacramento City Council voted Tuesday night to lift restrictions on food trucks in an attempt to encourage more mobile meal vendors to operate within city limits.

The city’s Law and Legislation Committee asked the council to allow food trucks to park on city streets for as long as parking regulations allow – well beyond the current limit of 30 minutes – and simplify a permit process that enables trucks to sell food on private property.

Changing the way food trucks work

In a unanimous vote, city council members approved new regulations, which have been in the works since January 2012. The new rules, which will go into effect by the end of June, allow trucks to stay curbside for as long as parking limits allow.

“With the adoption of the proposed code, food vending vehicles could basically operate on the public right-of-way as long as it is legal to park or vend on private property with the issuance of a Private Property Permit,” according to a report compiled by city staff. “These changes should enhance the City’s opportunities for outdoor vending while still protecting the public safety.”

The ordinance, which Law and Legislation Committee members unanimously passed in March, was developed with an eye toward mitigating tension between brick-and-mortar businesses and the food trucks that park at a curb nearby.

Although the food trucks could park on city streets for the posted time limit, trucks would have to stay 50 feet away from intersections and 100 feet from outdoor seating areas at restaurants. In the early morning hours of 1 to 3 a.m., the trucks would be required to stay at least 1,000 feet away from business with entertainment permits.

Paul Somerhausen, the director of food truck organization SactoMoFo, asked that the 1,000-foot buffer zone shrink to 400 feet, which would allow trucks to park about a block and a half away from music venues and nightclubs. The council declined to make that last-minute change.

The new rules will also allow food trucks to park on private property in what city officials call “pods.” Two trucks could operate in small locations and more could operate in “large spaces” if they acquire a city permit and adhere to regulations. The rules include leaving open the minimum number of parking spots in a lot, notification of nearby business owners and access to a county-approved toilet and hand-washing facility within 200 feet.

Destination: Sacramento?

Food trucks unwilling to play by the city’s 30-minute time limit have found an audience beyond Sacramento, according to Somerhausen.

With this change, Somerhausen has said, trucks may venture into Sacramento more regularly.

“The biggest impact will be at corporate or state buildings with limited food options,” Somerhausen has told The Sacramento Bee.

Restaurant misgivings

Restaurant owners and advocates have said criticized Sacramento’s new, loosened restrictions as too weak to prevent overwhelming sidewalk traffic near brick-and-mortar restaurants and have cited other cities’ regulations, such as those in San Francisco, which require a 75-foot buffer between a food truck and the entrance to any restaurant – regardless of outside seating.

“Exhaust fumes and noise levels may affect restaurants by coming in through windows,” brewery owner Simon de Vere White said. Instituting a 100-foot barrier from the front door of all restaurants would “allow for brick and mortar restaurants and food trucks to peacefully coexist.”

The council will revisit this issue in six months to work out any persisting issues. Councilman Eric Guerra asked that the city test how noise and emissions affect local restaurants in that time.

“Are these true impacts?” Guerra asked. “If not, we should react accordingly and announce them as red herrings.”

Marissa Lang: (916) 321-1038; @Marissa_Jae

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