Torn between pleasing foodies who have found a sense of community in weekly food truck events and brick and mortar businesses who say they're losing money as a result, the City Council has delayed .
"Let's pause and evaluate the impacts," said councilman Kevin McKeown at Tuesday's meeting.
Currently, the city only issues temporary permits to food truck lots on private property at the and the corner of 14th Street and Santa Monica Boulevard. The permits regulate operations, such as lighting, noise and hours, and are supposed to expire after about six months.
City planners want a permanent solution, and have proposed allowing up to four events three days per week between 8 a.m. and 11 p.m. on Main Street and Pico, Santa Monica and Lincoln Boulevards.
Now, the council is asking them to look at creating an "intermediate" permit. They also want to know the direct impact on neighboring restaurants.
"There's some hesitancy to do something permanent... because of the hurdles we'd have to overcome if we found out it wasn't working," said councilwoman Gleam Davis. "That it was having such a negative impact on Main Street and we'd be stuck with it."
In the two years that the Main Street event has operated, city staffers have conducted at least one study of the popular event, but none that were "statistically reliable," said Davis.
There's been a noticeable drop in the number of customers who visit on Tuesday nights during the Main Street event, but no one from the city has contacted owner Ron Schur or his staff to ask about it, Schur said.
"As someone who has operated for 22 years... I find that kind of tough to deal with," he said.
The permanent permit proposed by staffers would have food truck vendors paying a flat $50 fee annually to the city. Restaurants pay $75 for every $60,000 in gross tax receipts, and $1.25 per $1,000 in revenue above that threshold.
"There are people who are very upset," councilman Bob Holbrook said of the competition between the trucks and restaurants. "It's tough to make the balance."
Also under the permanent permits, the lots would be required to provide two off-street parking spaces per truck, at least one on-site restroom and a maximum of 200 square feet for seating to keep noise low.
Coming up with a permanent solution to regulate the lots' operations has been on the City Council's agenda since the spring of last year. In November 2011, the council took one step toward that goal by adopting a new ordinance to bar vending on Main Street between Ocean Park Boulevard and Marine Street between 1 and 3 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.
In casting his vote Tuesday, councilman Terry O'Day cautioned, "I don't want to study this to death."
The lots at Santa Monica Boulevard and Main Street will continue to operate while the city does its study.
We want to know what you think, readers—should food truck lot events be guaranteed permanent spots in Santa Monica? Are they bad for business? Should the city adopt permanent rules to regulate their operations? Leave your opinion in the comments below.