Aug. 26–SANTA ANA — City officials — and even some food truck vendors — are optimistic new, stricter regulations on the mobile operations may roll forward after months of delay.
The issue has appeared on many city council agendas since March, when council members placed the new ordinance on first reading. But the final approval was repeatedly tabled, with council members requesting that staff engage in more meetings with vendors.
On Aug. 1, the city council repealed existing regulations — adopted in 1994, 2004 and 2005 — that a federal court judge deemed in violation, finding that a California Vehicle Code section supersedes the ordinances because the city regulations were not limited to protecting public safety.
Besides the legal matter, council members sought to establish new rules due to quality-of-life complaints and concerns ranging from pedestrian safety near schools to reports that food trucks attract gangs, drug sales and illegal activity.
When initially proposed, the new regulations drew pushback from many vendors who feared they would stifle their livelihood.
“I was scared — no tables, no chairs allowed, no vending near an intersection,” Angel Romo, 45, who operates the Tacos mi Origen truck at Third and French streets, said in Spanish about some of the new rules.
To get their voice heard, about 45 hot food truck vendors formed the Santa Ana Food on Wheels Association several months ago to collectively meet with city staff and try to reach a compromise on the ordinance details.
The association succeeded in softening some of the rules that were sticking points to operators.
They include reducing the vending distance from 500 feet to 250 feet away from schools and parks, reducing the distance from 200 feet to 50 feet away from intersections, and removing a requirement that vehicles that do not move every hour in residential and other areas obtain written permission for employees to use a health inspector-approved restroom within 200 feet.
The latter remains a county requirement, but would not be enforced by the city.
“I’m more at ease now that it won’t affect us too much,” said Romo, who is a member of the association.
On Wednesday, Aug. 23, Romo had plastic tables and chairs set up by the sidewalk where he stationed his truck, which would be in violation if the new ordinance passes.
“I don’t have a problem if this gets banned,” he said, “because people can get used to not having them.”
The majority of operators also would not be opposed to the city raising their business license fee if they could reserve specially striped spots for vending, said Angel Orea, 57, president of the association.
“It’s going to benefit a lot of us and it’s going to benefit the city, too,” Orea said. “And the best thing is with the organization we formed, we’re going to have more communication with the city.”
Attorney Federico Sayre, who is representing produce truck vendors who would also be subject to the new ordinance, could not be reached for comment.
Councilman Jose Solorio said he’s hopeful the city council will approve the new ordinance at its Sept. 5 meeting, to go into effect in 30 days, “because then we have more things we need to do to make the mobile vending truck industry more successful and stronger.” Those additional efforts include creating a food truck island.
Councilman Sal Tinajero, who has pulled consideration of the new regulations several times including on Aug. 1, said he intends to push the matter forward at the next council meeting.
“I don’t think I’ve ever exercised my weight on an issue as I have on this one, and it was just because I didn’t believe that (city staff) had spoken to every single person,” he said.
Tinajero said he plans on asking staff to bring back proposals for increasing the business license fee with more benefits to vendors and offering electrical sockets so vendors don’t use generators, in the future.
The council meeting on Sept. 5 begins 5:45 p.m. at 22 Civic Center Plaza.
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