City of Sacramento moves to loosen rules on food trucks

A new ordinance going to the Sacramento City Council would make it simpler for food trucks to operate on private property and extend the time they could park on public streets. This truck was serving people at Track 7 in Curtis Park on Tuesday.
A new ordinance going to the Sacramento City Council would make it simpler for food trucks to operate on private property and extend the time they could park on public streets. This truck was serving people at Track 7 in Curtis Park on Tuesday. hamezcua@sacbee.com

Five years after the food truck craze took hold in California, Sacramento is poised to loosen rules that truck operators say keep them away from central city streets.

The Sacramento City Council’s Law and Legislation Committee on Tuesday approved a new ordinance that would allow food trucks to park on city streets beyond the current limit of 30 minutes. The proposed rule change now goes to the full City Council for approval.

In addition to removing the 30-minute time limit, the new ordinance also would simplify the permit process for trucks to sell food on private property.

“The food truck people wanted more options to vend,” said Brad Wasson, the city’s revenue division manager and one of the primary staff people who spent the past four years crafting the ordinance, which raised objections from some restaurant owners.

“(Restaurants) don’t want a food truck parked right in front of them,” he said. “They’re worried about their business. But we can’t regulate competition.”

Joy Patterson of the city’s Community Development Department said the new regulations are necessary because food trucks don’t operate the way they have in the past. “The way it all started, they’d go to places like construction sites, they’d go in and honk their horns and people would get all the food they wanted and then they’d go on to the next one,” she said. “But now things have changed – food trucks have changed.”

The council members serving on the committee unanimously approved moving the ordinance to the council, commenting on how long the measure has been debated by the committee. Three of the four members weren’t even on the panel when it was first proposed.

“Oh, yeah, it’s time for this to go to council,” Councilwoman Angelique Ashby said. “This has been way too long here.”

The ordinance was crafted to prevent tension between food trucks and the businesses around them. While they would be allowed to park at the curb for the posted time limit within the city, trucks would have to stay 50 feet away from intersections and 50 feet from outside restaurant seating areas.

From 1 a.m. to 3 a.m., the trucks also would have to stay at least 1,000 feet away from businesses with entertainment permits.

Javier Gonzalez, senior legislative director for the California Restaurant Association, said his group doesn’t think Sacramento’s proposed restrictions are strong enough to prevent overwhelming sidewalk traffic near brick-and-mortar restaurants, which he said could interfere with the movement of people in wheelchairs and pushing strollers.

The restaurant association has worked on legislation like this in other cities as well, including San Francisco. Gonzalez said that city’s food truck regulations prevent vendors from parking within a 75-foot radius of the entrance of a restaurant, whereas Sacramento would only regulate parking near outdoor seating areas.

“Some (restaurant operators) feel that this allows food trucks to park adjacent to restaurants,” he said. “I know that there are some that are concerned about (competition), but that’s not what we’re fighting for.

“We want the city to draft an ordinance that creates a balance and allows both brick-and-mortars and food trucks to grow and thrive,” he said, adding that he still thinks the ordinance is “a step in the right direction.”

Paul Somerhausen, the director of the food truck organization SactoMoFo, said he doesn’t think the ordinance would change much for the people he works with, though it’s long overdue.

“In a lot of ways, trucks are able to do these things already, just outside of Sacramento city,” he said.

Until now, he said, trucks have mostly stayed out of the city, finding enough business in the suburbs. Now they may venture in more.

The biggest impact will be at corporate or state buildings with limited food options,” Somerhausen said.

He called the concerns of restaurants “fear of the unknown,” and said there are plenty of pockets around Sacramento for food trucks. “None of the food trucks are interested in parking in front of restaurants,” he said.

Still, Somerhausen said he thinks the 1,000-foot radius around businesses with entertainment permits late at night is too wide. It makes much of the city off-limits for food trucks at that time, when food options are already limited, he said. It’s a whole new market that Somerhausen thinks mobile food is perfect for.

“Frankly, there just aren’t that many options in Sacramento for that time of the night,” Somerhausen said. “This would be a good opportunity for people to hang out, take some time to pause before they hit the roads.”

Wasson said the late-night 1,000-foot limit is designed to help crowds move along and to keep the curbs open for police, who are often called out to clubs and bars late at night.

Andrew Blaskovich, owner of grilled cheese-oriented Drewski’s Hot Rod Kitchen food truck, said being able to park downtown for longer than 30 minutes would be great for his business.

“Downtown is a great area, and if we could get downtown on a more regular basis, it would be huge,” he said. “It would allow us to not be rushed off of a spot before we even have a chance to make any money.”

He said he thinks consumers in the downtown area would love to have food trucks around. “I think if you asked people on the street if they’d like to see food trucks downtown, nine times out of 10, they would say yes,” he said.

Call The Bee’s Ellen Garrison at (916) 321-1006

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