Food truck moratorium lifted in Del Mar

Food truck moratorium lifted in Del Mar
Residents ponder their food truck options during Wednesday night gatherings of the mobile businesses in October. City Council approved food truck regulations at the April 1 meeting. Once the new law takes effect, a moratorium will be lifted and the mobile eateries can return to the city. Photo by Bianca Kaplanek

DEL MAR — Food trucks will soon be allowed to roll back into Del Mar. 

Council members approved ordinances at the April 1 meeting establishing rules for the mobile eateries that had some residents and business owners all fired up when they first appeared in town this past October.

The new law, which will take effect in about a month, provides regulatory standards for most mobile vending businesses, but especially food trucks on private property, as was the case for the previous Wednesday night gatherings, in the public right of way and for private catering and nonprofit fundraisers.

All mobile vending operators will be required to obtain a mobile operations permit and city business license. They must also comply with all state and county health code licensing and permitting requirements and report tax revenues generated in Del Mar.

Food trucks can operate on private property in the central, north and beach commercial zones between 10 a.m. and 9 p.m.

Only one truck per 1,500 square feet is allowed, with a maximum one event per week and eight trucks per event.

Operators must control smoke and odors to avoid public nuisances and can idle their engines for no more than five minutes per hour.

Food packaging must be biodegradable, compostable or recyclable. Waste and recycling bins will be required. Operators must clean up all areas within a 100-foot radius.

Amplified noise, temporary lighting and signage will not permitted. Alcohol cannot be sold or served. Overnight parking is prohibited.

Operators must also provide one onsite restroom, two off-street parking spaces and two fixed-location bike parking spaces per truck.

Slightly different regulations apply to food trucks in the public right of way and for private catering and nonprofit fundraisers.

Bill Michalsky, the only resident to offer public input, said most of his concerns were addressed in the ordinance, but he had a few issues.

“I get concerned about the restrooms,” he said. “Is there going to be code enforcement, or somebody at least in the beginning to kind of keep their eyes on this?

“I hope it’s not a resident kind of caused enforcement action that’s going on,” he said. “I am concerned about vending creeping out of the commercial zone. … The streets aren’t that big and a lot of these vehicles are not just little vans cruising up and down the street.”

Food trucks began setting up shop on Wednesday nights in October in the Seagrove parking lot at 1601 Coast Boulevard, across from Powerhouse Community Center.

Almost immediately concerns were raised about noise, traffic, smells, lighting, restroom availability and impacts to established restaurants, although state law precludes cities from banning the trucks because they may add competition to brick-and-mortar establishments.

Council adopted interim urgency ordinances that prohibited the issuance of any new business licenses for the trucks to allow staff to create regulations in Del Mar. Once the law takes effect, the current moratorium, which was valid until the end of the year, will be lifted.

Council members will set the permit fees during the second reading of the ordinance within the next month or so.

Nine food trucks had been issued business licenses before the moratorium was adopted in November. The trucks haven’t returned to town since then.

Christian Murcia, who organized the gatherings, said he was approached by officials from Seagrove parking to create business in the underutilized lot during the offseason.

He said he didn’t expect to be there in the summer months. He also said the Wednesday night gatherings weren’t very profitable for the operators.

Council members approved the new law 4-0, with Al Corti absent.

“I think it should go forward,” Councilman Don Mosier said. “We should get through a first season of implementation and then maybe revisit it in a year.

“But I think as a starting point this is a well-thought out, well-written document,” he said.

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