The Daily Chronicle recently ran a story on April 29, 2018, entitled “Food truck blockade: Mobile eateries might be out less this season, owner says.” This front page story has generated some interest and public comment on the topic of food trucks and their role in the community, as well as questions regarding the current food truck regulations.
1. The City had not been contacted by Ms. Veronica Garcia-Martinez, food truck owner quoted in the story, and thus did not have an opportunity to assist her in her ventures by advising her about a provision in the code that allows for a fee waiver.
The owner quoted in the story expresses concerns that the City’s food truck regulations are business unfriendly in that the fees associated with food truck licenses are believed to be too high. Unfortunately, she never contacted the City to discuss that concern. Had she done so, staff could have discussed with her specific sections of the City Code that authorize the Mayor to waive or reduce fees associated with food truck licensure where they present a hardship to a business owner or other interested licensee. Specifically, the existing code provides as follows:
Any person who feels that such cost of licensing and investigation would work a hardship may appeal such cost to the Mayor. The Mayor may make a determination upon examination of the appellant's financial records or on such other information as he feels necessary. Upon finding such a hardship exists, the Mayor may reduce or waive such licensing and investigative costs. Any waiving or reduction of costs, however, will not affect the obligation to register.
Click here for a link to Chapter 33 of the Municipal Code
City staff will reach out to this owner and work to address any concerns she may have with operating in the City, just as the City does with any similar issue.
2. The City was not contacted by the writer for any comment on the Daily Chronicle Story.
Had the City been contacted for comment, relevant information could have been provided to the newspaper to help ensure that the article included important facts (such as the fee waiver or reduction provisions in City Code). The City is available to local media for any inquiries on topics of interest to the public; no request for comment was made here.
3. The City’s Food Truck Code was adopted unanimously by the City Council in 2013 and has been in effect since that date without significant issue.
The City Council evaluated the need for food truck licensure in 2013 and determined that this ordinance (and the fee structure) was appropriate, by a unanimous vote. It has remained in effect for five years.
4. Staff is presently working on a number of ‘beta tests’ for updates to City Code, to evaluate different ways to reduce the scope of regulations while still protecting public safety.
In 2017, the Rotary Club conducted their Trucktober food truck event and expressed some concerns about the rigors of the event and food truck permitting for a temporary event of that nature. After that event, City staff has been working diligently with the Rotary to streamline the process for their anticipated 2018 event. Staff is also working on a number of other public events for 2018 that consider new approaches to public service of alcohol and related public regulations. Those events will be presented to the City Council for consideration of changes to the code. Based on lessons learned from these events, staff will recommend updates to City Code prior to the 2019 event season. These processes were all underway prior to the Chronicle story. This measured approach should provide the City Council with objective data from which it can direct changes to the City’s ordinances.
5. The City is always looking for ways to improve operations and be business friendly while doing so in a way that does not jeopardize public safety.
Certainly, it would be less expensive and simpler for food trucks to operate without any licensure or inspection. The same could be said of nearly every other form of licenses issued by the City or by other units of government. However, the reason that license and inspection requirements exist is to protect public safety.
Where a business owner or resident has a concern about a specific regulation, the City is always willing to listen to that concern and evaluate ways to update City Code—or, as described above, to advise of existing provisions in City Code that may address the concern.