By Claire Harlin
The Del Mar City Council on Nov. 19 approved an emergency ordinance proposed last month that will suspend the issuance of licensees to food trucks for 45 days, or until the council can put in place regulations specific to that type of food establishment. The six trucks that already obtained licenses and have been operating on Wednesdays from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. in the parking lot at 1601 Coast Blvd. are safe from the ordinance, which went into effect immediately
The city will be looking into concerns raised, such as noise, odor, restroom availability and recycling enforcement, and will return to the council with a draft ordinance and permitting processes for the regulation of this new food retail phenomenon. As it stands, there are not city regulations for issues such as outdoor lighting and food smells, and the ordinance will cover all methods of outdoor vending — not exclusive to food trucks.
Councilman Don Mosier said he has heard response from residents that there is not proper signage at the parking lot indicating that parking is free, and he has also heard complaints that people get their food to-go and don’t dispose of litter properly.
Christian Murcia organizes the Del Mar food trucks, which operate under the company Curbside Bites. He said the winter months are already a slow period for food trucks, and asked the council to consider waiting to enact the moratorium so they can get a better idea of what the food truck gathering will be like. He also said several new vendors are seeking permits to operate in Del Mar, and he expressed concern that with only six trucks, the gathering may not make it through the winter if the ordinance is passed.
Councilman-elect Al Corti said he doesn’t think food trucks are a good idea in Del Mar, not only because it harms existing brick-and-mortar businesses that pay rent and taxes, but also because of possible repercussions such as trash and noise.
“Why wouldn’t you put a moratorium on it now as quickly as you can? … We can then determine over time what impacts it may have in the community,” he said. “It won’t hurt those trucks that are already there … and if you don’t do it, in the summer there may be 20 trucks down there and that may not be what we want to see.”
Murcia said the California Vehicle Code allows cities to regulate food trucks in the interest of public safety, whereas a prominent reason that prompted the city to seek a moratorium — competition with existing businesses — does not threaten public safety and therefore does not constitute a moratorium.
He said if the moratorium goes through for that reason, the Southern California Mobile Food Vendors Association, which he is a member of, would see it as a ban that violates state law.
“We’ll immediately take legal action with that,” Murcia said.
City Attorney Leslie Devaney said the city can only do an urgency ordinance if there is a threat to public welfare, and the reason for the ban would have to be issues such as lighting, trash and noise. If brought to court, the city would have to show that those concerns are potentially dangerous to the community.
The city may have to extend the ordinance depending on if it can draft a permanent ordinance within 45 days (which falls during the holiday season). Devaney said the city can extend the temporary ban up to a year, but said she does not encourage that.
In regard to competition, Filanc said it’s an opportunity for local restaurants to also set up a food truck on the lot.
“I think the big issue is going to be trash,” he said.
For more information about the food trucks operating in Del Mar, visit www.curbsidebites.com.