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City residents are missing out on food trucks

On any given weekday, how often do you see a food truck in downtown or midtown? Think about it.

While it’s true that there will be about 27 street food vendors under the freeway on Saturday for SactoMoFo 6, the question must be asked: Why do we rarely see food trucks in the city? Two years to the day after SactoMoFo 1, nothing has changed with city ordinances and this has, in fact, caused most of the regions food trucks to give up on the city altogether

Ordinances have been at an absolute stand still since last September when the City of Sacramento’s Law and Legislation Committee put a kibosh on those pertaining to food trucks on the street. Nevermind that a group of food truck owners, restaurant owners, and City staff had worked all summer long to come to an agreement that they were willing to abide.

That agreement had been to split the city into zones. There would be a long swath through the Grid of J, K, and L streets. In that zone the trucks could stay 1.5 hours and be 400 feet from another restaurant. The rest of the Grid and City would be 2.5 hours on the street, with distance differences per zone. Regarding private property, they could go (with owners permission) for 5 hours total and no truck could return to that location for 72 hours. If there was a special event, there could be waivers.

The reason for the stand still? A rumor that the State was going to make changes to food truck regulations. Why should the City change their ordinances if any (supposed) new State laws could just superceed them? Why not wait and see so that they aren’t wasting their time changing ordinances only to have them overturned in the future?

The problem with that is that is 1) it’s a rumor, and 2) even if true, wheels of government turn slowly and those new State regulations could take forever or never happen at all.

Another set of ordinances is supposedly still going through. These have to do with having mobile food pods. Food pods are the mobile equivalent of a food court and the City had proposed a trial of up to five food pods that would be run by an associaton. City staff say these ordinances are still in the works and soon to come to that same Law and Legislation Committee. But they haven’t yet.

The weather is warm. The people are out. The time for food pods is now. But at the rate these ordinances are going, the summer season will be lost before these ordinances get to a possible City Council vote.

What is a truck owner to do? Quite frankly, many of the trucks have decided not to bother with getting City permits at all and just avoid the City altogether. Those same permit fees that could have gone to the City of Sacramento are now going to Yolo and Placer counties. The only safe haven in the City has been the daily lunch rotation at CalPERS because the trucks are sitting on State property and free of City ordinances.

When this was mentioned to a City staff member, he shrugged it off. If the trucks don’t want to come downtown, that’s their perogative. It’s not like the truck fees are generating huge amounts for the City anyway.

In other cities there’s been another argument. Increase the City permit fees so that they do generate a nice amount of cash for the coffers. If the ordinances are relaxed and the fees raised, the trucks would come into the City and many would be able to afford the fees and survive off the higher concentration of customers found in an urban setting.

Many City residents and workers are interested in having the food trucks. Until there are changes in the ordinances to make it more inviting, a majority of the food trucks will be staying on the outskirts and sticking to the Counties instead.

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