Tuesday, October 16 , 2018, 12:17 am | Fair 56º


Food Truck Owners Wary of New Santa Barbara Rules For Mobile Vending Operations

Food truck owners are not happy with new rules the city of Santa Barbara is proposing for their business, claiming officials are trying to regulate a problem that doesn’t exist.

Namely, that food trucks are causing or could cause public safety issues in the downtown corridor and Milpas Street on the Eastside, where restrictions could be in place.

“It seems like we’re inventing safety concerns to have this all-out ban,” Burger Bus co-owner Michael Gardner said last week. “These issues haven’t happened.”

Gardner and other concerned food truck vendors turned out to a city-sponsored workshop last Thursday, organized ahead of Santa Barbara City Council voting to amend an outdated city peddling and soliciting ordinance that bans all street vending.

Because a recent court ruling says California cities can’t impose blanket bans on such vending, the city’s ordinance committee directed staff in September to gather public opinion on a draft ordinance that could limit when and where food trucks operate.

The city is also looking to update its private vending rules, which will be folded into larger zoning code updates next fall.

City officials say food trucks were singled out because they’ve received complaints, but mobile vending owners question whether complaints were coming from miffed brick-and-mortar restaurants.   

Street vending would be limited to operating between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m., according to the draft ordinance, which Deputy City Attorney John Doimas said was intentionally written stricter so the city could consider community suggestions and find middle ground.

“It’s really important that we have everyone’s viewpoint,” Doimas said to more than 20 attendees.

Food truck owners met ahead of the workshop to lay out their suggestions, which take particular beef with not being able to park on streets for more than an hour at a time.

The draft ordinance prohibits vendors from working within 500 feet of K-12 schools (from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.), limits operating on certain streets in the business district due to parking or traffic flow, and would require owners to provide trash receptacles and refrain from playing loud music.

New vending rules on private property prohibit food trucks from operating in residential zones, limit visits to three hours, require a certain number of parking spots at pop-up locations and require owners to sign an affidavit acknowledging they know they rules and listing locations where they plan to operate.

Brian Parks, who owns two Georgia’s Smokehouse BBQ food trucks, requested the affidavit be part of the annual business license renewal process.

He also noted that most events and food trucks operations go well past 7 p.m., suggesting midnight or 1 a.m. and staying in the same place no more than six hours.

“As entrepreneurs and as business owners, some restrictions seem so restrictive even though there isn’t evidence to show this is needed,” said Nancy Weiss, director of food services for Santa Barbara Unified School District, which has food-vending vehicles.

“We are all reasonable. Sixty minutes is unreasonable.”

Doimas conceded with a suggestion that food trucks be allowed to operate at schools with permission from schools officials.

The owner of Neighbor Tim’s BBQ said he put $80,000 into a catering and food truck business and spends 12 hours a day making food.

“It kind of has us shaking in our boots,” he said of proposed regulations.

“This isn’t us versus them. We all have good intentions. With these terms, I couldn’t operate here and no one else would come here. We look forward to more cooperation.”

Food truck owners also made a case for providing more options when restaurants close.

Nimita Dhirajlal of Nimita’s Cuisine said she was considering buying a new food truck for her catering business, thinking of costs like getting proper licensing from the city, Santa Barbara County and the County Public Health Department.

“I’m here wondering, am I about to go broke because of your laws?” she said. “Should I close up shop? Should I invest? These laws impact us. Ultimately, I like to cook and I want to serve people.”

HEAT Culinary owner Chef Nikki Dailey said she was already invested, using her food truck and cooking classes to give back to the community.

City Councilwoman Cathy Murillo, who was present and sits on the ordinance committee, encouraged business owners to come speak at public comment on the issue when it’s taken up in the coming weeks.

Owners wanted to be informed when officials would consider the rules, with some questioning whether Councilman Randy Rowse should be allowed to vote on the issue at ordinance committee, since he owns Paradise Café.

No meeting date has yet been set. 

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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