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Food Trucks on Main Street Get a Reprieve—At Least for Now

The city council extends the Temporary Use Permit for the Heritage Museum Food Vending Event.

In a unanimous decision Tuesday night, the voted to extend the Temporary Use Permit for the  Food Vending Event on Main Street until for off-street food vendors is formally adopted.

While no decisive action on regulating mobile food vendors was taken, the council decided to look into ways to restrict food trucks from parking in certain areas on-street in the future.

“I would rather have [Santa Monica families] at food trucks rather than or ,” Mayor Pro Tem told the council. “You go to McDonald’s and there is no communal experience ... I think food trucks present an affordable option for people.”

Not everyone had positive feedback about the Main St. event. A survey of businesses around the area found that half of them reported a decline in business during the Tuesday event, Housing and Economic Development Director Andy Agle said. Brick-and-mortar restaurants in the area reported an unfair playing field in light of the mobile food vendors, he said.

Despite the survey results and concerns from local restaurants, the council was mostly supportive of the off-street food truck event held on Main St.

“I do think the experiment at the Heritage Museum has been successful,” Mayor told the council. “My major concern and [the main source of] complaints is in the most congested area of the city, and that is in downtown. ... We need to focus some energy there and get creative."

In its effort to regulate on-street food trucks, the city plans to evaluate whether to draft a proposal to the state Legislature to amend the California Vehicle Code. The proposed change could grant local governments, including the city of Santa Monica, greater regulatory power over on-street mobile food vendors.

At present, food trucks operate under both state and local ordinances. However, the California Vehicle Code limits the power of local governments to “regulate mobile food or non-food vendors on public streets,” according to a staff report.

Currently, a city's power is limited to creating no parking zones, reducing parking space and restricting the parking time of any vehicle, including food trucks.

During Tuesday's special council meeting, SoCal Mobile Food Vendors Association CEO Matthew Geller offered his association’s services while the city continues evaluating how to regulate food trucks.

“We opened a food truck lot on January 5, 2010, and we were shut down [the next day], but the city of Santa Monica saw how important it was to the community,” Geller told Santa Monica Patch.

“We were put on the next agenda meeting. ... We had a food truck lot within nine months of that initial meeting on a temporary use permit, and here we are 18 months later. We’ve had a successful lot and a great community event that [the city is] excited about, and they’re keeping it going,” Geller said. “Interacting with Santa Monica has been one of the highlights of the association’s dealings with cities.”

Santa Monica Deputy Police Chief Al Venegas, whose major concern is crowds gathering around trucks when bars close, was also pleased with the council’s desire to further regulate on-street food trucks.

“One of the city’s main goals is traffic safety ... and pedestrian safety trying to cross the street to frequent these trucks,” Venegas told Santa Monica Patch. “The main concern is the popularity with trucks and the crowds that gather around them late on Friday and Saturday nights. ... It’s not only the complaints of noise and congregations of large amounts people around them, but it’s also the fights and the assaultive types of behavior.”

Venegas said the easiest solution may be regulating food trucks so that they would be open during more reasonable business hours.

“[Food trucks are] taking advantage of these bars letting everyone out,” Venegas told Patch. “And it’s business, I understand that. I just want to make it safer for everybody, that’s all. ... [The council's desire to increase regulation is] a good first step in trying to find a happy medium.”

Ron Yukelson June 22, 2011 at 09:13 PM
Like them or not, perhaps if Mayor Pro Tem Gleam Davis would think before she speaks, she would remember how much revenue both McDonalds and Taco Bell generate toward the City's tax base and what valuable members they are of the local business community and economy. Her remarks are out of line and she owes both of these businesses an apology.
Eddie Greenberg June 23, 2011 at 12:46 AM
Some benefits of the food trucks on Pennsylvania ave. sounded good. This area is mainly a business location and if they bring some life to that area this is a positive. However if hundreds of these vehicles were out there no doubt problems would happen. Some regulations are required.
Joanne Leavitt June 23, 2011 at 05:17 AM
Could there not be a positive reason for having food available to people when the bars close? Most restaurants are closed, even fast food places. This is the only late night dining alternative besides Norms. Seems it is a good idea for people to grab something to eat and hang out for half an hour after an evening of drinking before they drive.
ol'dude June 29, 2011 at 10:15 PM
what in the h**l is the city council using tax dollars to worrie about McDonalds as some food truck. Families my but thats why we have plants on pico street lights that dont light a thing but there worried about Food Trucks, you should all be ashamed of the job your doing an get to real problems.....
Stefanie Marquez July 05, 2011 at 10:22 PM
I agree with you Ron. I love the food trucks, but I'm the first to admit they are not exactly cheap. Not all of them serve healthy, wholesome meals either, so why Gleam Davis would prefer families to eat at the trucks instead of McDonalds and Taco Bell is beyond me. The food trucks can promote a "communal experience," but I for one, don't go to food trucks to meet people or network; I go to try to the food.

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