Food trucks need new rules, council says


A new crop of food trucks is apparently causing problems for Mountain View businesses, city officials say, and City Council members want to do something about it.

Council members voted 5-2, with Tom Means and John Inks opposed, to begin working on an ordinance that could tell food truck owners how, where and when they can operate within Mountain View. Several have apparently stepped on the toes of "brick-and-mortar" restaurants by coming to town on Friday and Saturday nights and parking downtown, among other places.

Code enforcement officers have cracked down.

"There's been a significant increase in complaints, questions and concerns from residents, neighboring businesses, business associations and food truck operators themselves," said code enforcement officer Chris Costanzo. "They have questions as to how, when and where they can operate in Mountain View."

City Attorney Jannie Quinn said food truck operators had to get temporary permits to be at Thursday Night Live events downtown last year.

"Mountain View hates us. They don't want us to be here," said Darrel Oribello, a marketer for food trucks.

City staff will soon propose an update to the city's 56-year old food truck ordinance, which only regulates food trucks that visit job sites. Public hearings could be scheduled in May and a final City Council vote could come in the fall.

The ordinance is aimed at the new trend of "specialty food trucks" that alert customers via Twitter or Facebook, and may be parked for long periods or come to events.

Resident Alison Hicks said she was also concerned about "over-regulating" the food trucks, which she and her friends seek out.

"I think they add to the food culture in Mountain View," Hicks said. She added that she wanted to "make sure Mountain View remains a vibrant place, food-wise."

Means noted that people used to call food trucks "roach coaches" but "now we see things that are pretty fancy and franchised," Means said. "They show up do their thing and they move on. It's kind of neat and kind of spontaneous."

Inks and Means said they didn't see evidence of a big problem, and did not want to regulate food trucks on private property. But Quinn said there was some question about how long it takes for a food truck to become a land use that the city should regulate. The city has run into at least one instance of a food truck parking for more than one day at Clyde's Liquors on El Camino Real.

"Until we understand exactly what the problem is, these complaints should be worked out on a case by case basis," Inks said.

Macias disagreed, echoing what appeared to be the majority opinion: "No one has any assurance they will be treated the same," without clear regulations, Macias said.

"Our hope is to make it as simple as possible so our code enforcement officers can answer questions they can't answer right now," Quinn said.

She added that the city would be looking at "best practices" in other cities where food trucks have also seen increased use, spurring new regulations.

Council member Jac Siegel said it made sense to look at the 56-year old regulations because "the best way to solve a problem is not to let it materialize to begin with."


Like this comment
Posted by Observer
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 26, 2012 at 1:35 pm

Ban them! The exhaust from these trucks is hazardous to our health!

Like this comment
Posted by SactoMoFo
a resident of another community
on Mar 26, 2012 at 3:17 pm

Why will the city do nothing about brick and mortar restaurants "stepping on the toes" of food trucks?

It is illegal for a municipality to override the State Vehicle Code, which says that in California a municipality may ONLY regular food trucks for purposes of public health and safety. Given that:

a) the trucks burn propane to cook with, and their exhaust is carbon dioxide and water, which unfortunately the other commenter here doesn't realize; and

b) county health inspectors say the kitchens at these usually owner-operated businesses are cleaner for the most part than restaurants (because they are cleaned out every night at licensed and inspected commissaries); and

c) they pay license fees, taxes, permit fees, enhanced VLF and other monies to the city, county and state,

I think that maybe the city council should try to enhance these small entrepreneurs, rather than choke them.

Like this comment
Posted by Boss
a resident of Monta Loma
on Mar 27, 2012 at 1:29 am

I bet it's the restaurant owners complaining. People just want to

Like this comment
Posted by sparty
a resident of Shoreline West
on Mar 27, 2012 at 12:15 pm

mmmmm. 5 speed breakfast burrito

Like this comment
Posted by Ron
a resident of Waverly Park
on Mar 27, 2012 at 2:23 pm

These trucks are a great way to have alternative food options and increase variety. Got hooked in Portland (where they are embraced) and wish they were handled the same way here.

Like this comment
Posted by Connie
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 27, 2012 at 2:47 pm

Nothing wrong if our restaurants face a little healthy competition from the food trucks. As a customer, I'm happy when restaurants which aren't good enough to survive get replaced by a better restaurant.

Like this comment
Posted by Bettina
a resident of Monta Loma
on Mar 27, 2012 at 4:11 pm

I think it would be nice for all to see in print what the 56 year old regulation is before we start messing with it.

Like this comment
Posted by Otto Maddox
a resident of Monta Loma
on Mar 28, 2012 at 11:33 am

The only problem the City Council has with the mobile vendors is money.

The restuarants have to pay a fee to the city for a permit to sell food.

Just picture the city council holding out their hands looking for money. I guarantee the changes to this law will require these vendors to pull out their wallets and pay up.

It's not about anything else no matter what they say.

Like this comment
Posted by lindaloo
a resident of The Crossings
on Mar 28, 2012 at 3:03 pm

I absolutely love the gourmet food trucks that come every week to Edgewood Plaza in Palo Alto; I make a pilgrimage from Mountain View(if you can call it that) on a weekly basis to get in on all the delectable goodies.

Food options in my part of town are limited (Mickie D's at WalMart? I don't think so); it'd be great if we could have a weekly food truck event here. Target parking lot? I'd be down for that.

Like this comment
Posted by Carol Hollingsworth
a resident of Jackson Park
on Mar 29, 2012 at 11:22 am

@Otto Maddux:

The trucks pay city and county for permits; they pay county health for inspections; they pay enhanced VLF for vending vehicles, and they pay for the required commissary as well (they are required by local regulation to be in commissaries overnight, where they must be completely cleaned out). The commissary, too, pays the county and state for license and permit fees, and also covers the cost of their inspections by the county.

Next time do a bit of research, please. Several local restaurateurs have very proudly told the world that they are responsible for the city's recent and proposed crackdown on mobile vendors ... I would be inclined to trust them, even if I think what they're doing is dirty and unethical.

Like this comment
Posted by Steve
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Mar 29, 2012 at 2:33 pm

Any Mtn. View restaurant owners care to comment on their overhead costs?

Like this comment
Posted by jupiterk
a resident of Gemello
on Mar 30, 2012 at 3:14 pm

I am surprised the city council is taking action on unlicensed businesses run by illegal immigrants. Wow, what about those vendors standing in street corners in Esquela and at the church on Rengstorff(near walgreens)? I understand these people are trying to make a living and not getting rich. But then we are a country of laws. Aren't we? Why then the laws are not enforced? MV openly supports law violating illegal immigrants and showers with goodies. waht a bunch of rogue town MV has become with all these rotten people running our city?

Like this comment
Posted by erika m
a resident of Shoreline West
on Mar 30, 2012 at 4:19 pm

mmmmm, gotta love those taacccos

Like this comment
Posted by Observer
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 30, 2012 at 5:37 pm

Careful jupiterk, you are actually using logic and that's not welcome on the Voice's Town Square.

The City council does whatever it likes without regard to fairness before the law. On that, you hit the nail on the head.

Like this comment
Posted by jupiterk
a resident of Gemello
on Mar 30, 2012 at 5:44 pm

if you care about hygiene and your quality of food, then stay away from food trucks. Not that you will die of eating the food from the trucks, but it doesn't meet the standard that you would expect from a developed country. I understand the food truck vendors are making a living. I visit the food trucks only in the fairs or some kind of festivals where they have to pay to sell their food there.

Like this comment
Posted by C
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 3, 2012 at 11:23 am

Actually the current code does not allow the new style of truck to operate . Council and staff are supportive of the trucks they just need an ordinance update so the trucks CAN legally operate. watch the meeting instead of relying on the VOICE and mr.debolt

Like this comment
Posted by Dave Saunders
a resident of Castro City
on Jul 20, 2012 at 12:25 pm

That's right. Businesses providing a service that people want disrupts the status quo. Can't have that. If the people didn't want the food trucks, there wouldn't be such long lines of people voting for them with their dollars.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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