Interim mayor Todd Gloria has taken to the media to dispel some misconceptions swirling on the internet and in media reports on new food-truck regulations soon to be discussed, quite possibly adopted, at an upcoming council hearing.
In recent months, since assuming control of the mayor's office, Gloria has come under fire for resuming enforcement measures on food trucks that had been suspended by his predecessor Bob Filner.
Among the sticking points for Gloria were statements and reports in the media claiming the ordinance places a de facto "ban" on trucks in Gaslamp, Little Italy, Pacific Beach, Mission Beach, Ocean Beach, La Jolla, and in areas surrounding San Diego's universities.
"Correction: There is no ban of mobile food trucks included in the proposed ordinance," reads the statement. "Instead, the City has identified appropriate zones and locations to allow mobile food trucks by right; and locations where food trucks need minimal staff review in order to limit the time, place, and manner of operations to minimize potential conflicts between pedestrians and vehicles…. In locations mapped as high parking demand with limited on-street parking availability, food trucks would be limited to operating on private property in order to help preserve the much needed on-street parking."
Another misconception, according to the statement, is that operators need to obtain permits in order to open their trucks for business.
"Food truck operators are not required to get permits. No permits would be required for property owners in industrial areas where the food truck is providing a private catering service, or at schools, hospitals, religious facilities, or construction sites."
Those in the food-truck industry, however, feel Gloria was serving up some misinformation of his own, continuing what has been perceived as a rift between the interim mayor and food truck operators.
"As for the claim about not having to obtain permits; the reality is that we have been told by staff that we will be cited if the property owner does not get the permit, so the burden really does fall on the food truck," wrote Christian Murcia, owner of Curbside Bites.
Murcia also said it was disingenuous for Gloria to say that "no permit or limitations would apply to food-truck operations….[for] private catering."
"Reality: That is a blatant lie! The draft rules specifically state that there would be a 'maximum of one catering event per week...permitted in commercial zones, and a maximum of one catering event per month is permitted in residential zones. More frequent catering activities shall be subject to a Mobile Food Truck Permit and the limited use regulations.'"
Another item up for debate is the de facto ban on trucks at some of San Diego's most happening communities.
While the ordinance does not mention prohibiting trucks from the Gaslamp and other popular destinations, it does prohibit them from so-called “Parking Impact Overlay Zones,” areas with high pedestrian and vehicle traffic, also considered prime-time spots for food trucks.
"Typically, the beach/parking impact overlay zones are within the first two to three blocks adjacent to the beach," says Gloria's spokesperson, Katie Keach. "The city’s ordinance is not restricting entire communities from having food trucks. The use is limited only where there is metered or otherwise limited parking and a heavy flow of pedestrian and vehicular traffic."
But a quick glance at a map of parking overlay zones shows some of the busiest and most sought-after areas will be off limits to trucks. Doing so, says Keach, is needed in order to abide by current land-use designations.
"By applying a limit consistent with the existing parking impact overlay zone, the city can avoid creating a new land-use impact in these areas, meaning an allowance for new food-truck businesses to set up every day in the street, or beyond the scope of a permitted special event, within identified parking impact areas where existing on-street parking is to be preserved, would be considered a land-use impact."
Again, Murcia and other operators aren't having it.
"There seems to be a lot of issues the [interim] mayor talks about with regards to fairness and public safety," writes Murcia. "It is interesting that the mayor supports fair regulations. We too support fair regulations. But we think there is a big difference on who they are fair for. We are looking for fair regulations for the consumer. Is it fair to force consumers to eat the unhealthy food options late at night? Is it fair that consumers in Gaslamp, Little Italy, many of the beach areas and college area will not get to have food trucks? Is it fair that many of the food trucks do not get to serve food in the communities that they live in? Is it fair to reduce the number of food options available to the public?"
Gloria's press release says reports that the ordinance is out to decimate the food-truck industry are not true.
“Food trucks help add character to San Diego’s neighborhoods, and creating sensible and fair rules will help ensure their impacts are only positive," read Gloria's February 13 press release. "The regulations being proposed were developed with extensive input from food truck operators, customers, neighbors, and restaurants, and I hope they will be approved by the City Council when we consider them on March 3.”