Hungry Elk Grove foodies will have to wait another month to chase their favorite food trucks.
The City Council Wednesday delayed its decision on easing food truck rules to give city staff more time to consider new concerns and allow vendors to discuss the issue with the Chamber of Commerce.
“We want to do it, and we want to do it right,” Mayor Jim Cooper said.
The proposed changes to Elk Grove’s mobile food vendor regulations include:
- Expanding parking time limits for food trucks from 15 minutes to two hours
- Extending hours of operation to 10 p.m., instead of shutting down at 2 p.m.
City staff recommended against a restriction proposed by the Planning Commission that would prohibit food trucks from opening within 350 feet of a brick and mortar restaurant.
Similar regulations in other California communities were struck down after court rulings found they restrained free trade and protected brick and mortar restaurants from competition, a staff report to the council stated.
Instead, traditional sit-down restaurant owners could use an existing state law requiring all mobile food vendors to operate within 200 feet of a restroom for its employees to block trucks from opening nearby, staff told councilmembers.
“It may be a more conservative approach, but it will reduce the city’s exposure to future litigation,” city planner Sarah Kirchgessner said.
Franco Cassella, owner of the Brick House Restaurant & Lounge, objected to extending the parking time to two hours.
“It puts the burden on current restaurant owners to provide (restroom) facilities for food truck customers and I think it’s unfair to ask that of local business owners,” Cassella said.
The local restaurateur pointed out that he had to pay $21,000 in fees to open his brick and mortar eatery – fees mobile food vendors are not charged.
Cassella suggested establishing “pods”, established areas with restroom facilities and ample parking such as Elk Grove Regional Park, where food trucks could congregate.
Food truck proponents, however, said outdoor food courts aren’t a solution to changing the city’s regulations.
“A lot of people only have a half-hour lunch break,” Drewski's food truck owner Andrew Blaskovich said. “If they have to get in their car and drive to Elk Grove Park, that will eat up most of their lunch break. It completely cuts out the convenience factor of what we’re doing.”
Councilmembers expressed interest in the pod idea, and Councilman Pat Hume suggested restricting food trucks to private property rather than parking on public roads.
“Our brick and mortar restaurants have an investment in our community, so I think we owe them some allegiance,” Cooper said.
Councilmembers will reconsider the food truck issue at its Aug. 22 meeting.