Del Mar to consider temporary moratorium on food trucks

By Claire Harlin

The Del Mar City Council on Nov. 19 will bring a food truck moratorium to the table, which would put the breaks on any new food truck permits until the city conducts a thorough analysis of their impact on the community and has proper guidelines in place if needed.

“I think we need to take a reasonable amount of time to see how this service impacts us,” said Councilman Terry Sinnott during an Oct. 22 council discussion on the issue. “First, we need an analysis to identify if there are any problems, and then we can explore putting guidelines in place that will regulate this new and growing business phenomenon.”

On Oct. 10 and Oct. 17 from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m., a company called Curbside Bites brought a group of six various gourmet food trucks to the parking lot located at 1601 Coast Blvd., across from the beach and Powerhouse Park. The company, which has organized several other food truck events around Southern California, intends to continue and grow the Wednesday night offering in Del Mar, however, the city has heard concern from the community regarding issues from competition to noise to restroom availability.

“I would like staff to develop appropriate rules and regulations that address the particulars of this industry, because they are not addressed in the current code, which was developed before food trucks became prevalent,” Mayor Carl Hilliard said.

Kathy Garcia, Del Mar’s planning and community development director, said all six of the trucks got proper business permits to operate at that site, which is zoned as beach commercial use. The applicants had to demonstrate there was adequate parking, that the food is intended for take-away purposes and that their operation didn’t fall under the category of “large assemblance,” Garcia said.

“That means they’ve estimated there would be no more than 15 people at one time, and from what we’ve seen that’s somewhere in the same ballpark.”

The city approved an operating agreement on Oct. 8 that shares profit with the city in exchange for city enforcement of the lot, on which the developer also plans to put a self-service machine that assigns parking spaces. Parking during the food truck event is free for one hour.

Nearby restaurants, which pay much more for the roofs over their heads, expressed concern that the food trucks will take away their business in an unfair way.

Councilwoman Lee Haydu said there were also competition concerns when the Del Mar Plaza was built and “there are always hopefully going to be new restaurants going into Del Mar.” She said she was concerned that this year business was down for restaurants, even during the racing season.

Haydu also said the restrooms at Powerhouse Park, which close early in the evening, would need to be open longer to serve those who take their food to the park to eat and watch the sunset.

Councilman Don Mosier said it’s hard to regulate competition, but public safety issues such as packaging and recycling of waste need to be regulated.

He also said he didn’t like that the trucks were able to come in so abruptly without any public notice.

Councilman Mark Filanc agreed that it was sudden.

“I didn’t know about it until I got an email from the community,” he said. “There’s something wrong with our system for them to just turn the switch and it starts with no kind of public hearing.”

The Del Mar food truck gathering is the first of its kind to operate right at the beach, said organizer Christian Murcia, who also runs the truck Crepes Bonaparte with his wife, Danielle.

He said the truck event is a great way to bring more foot traffic from others areas to Del Mar, which would bring in tax revenue and boost business. The six trucks include Italian food, hot dogs, Mexican food, Crepes and barbecue.

“The food truck community is one of the fastest growing segments in the food industry,” he said, he said adding that the variety makes it a “one-stop shop” for families. “These are small business owners that are creating fresh gourmet food that’s locally farmed.”