Riverside County supervisors unanimously voted today to lift most restrictions that prevent food truck operators in the county from selling foods that are fried, barbecued, broiled and grilled, though operators will still be prohibited from parking in some locations.
Supervisor Kevin Jeffries in June proposed eliminating provisions in
Ordinance No. 580 that limit food trucks to selling only packaged foods, ice
cream, roasted nuts and steam-cooked hot dogs. Jeffries called the restrictions
anti-business and anti-competitive, noting that no such prohibitions exist in
neighboring Los Angeles and Orange counties.
Jeffries represents the cities of Lake Elsinore and Wildomar, among other local jurisdictions.
The county Department of Environmental Health, in cooperation with the Office of County Counsel, drew up amendments to 580 that free mobile food operators to dramatically expand their menus, offering chicken, burgers, steaks and other meaty treats.
The revised ordinance states that operators will be permitted to engage in "full service food preparation and sales on a daily basis."
Some business interests expressed opposition to the proposal during today's public hearing.
"Food trucks should only operate as part of a special event," said Janice Penner, executive director of the Riverside Downtown Partnership. "We will be advocating that they stay at least 150 feet away from restaurants (in downtown Riverside)."
A man who identified himself as the owner of Chuy's Market in Jurupa Valley doubted that the revised ordinance would be properly enforced.
"Who's going to monitor these operators and where they park?" he asked. "How are you going to make sure they're licensed? I don't see how this is going to help me or any other brick-and-mortar business."
Under the amended ordinance, mobile food vendors will be classified according to what they sell. The key change in the law is the addition of a designation for "mobile food preparation unit."
The full-service trucks will be required to undergo inspections by county health officials and obtain annual permits. Operators will have to ensure staff have food handler certification specified under the California Health & Safety Code.
All food trucks willhave to be supplied by a central "commissary," where supplies and products are stored. Commissaries will have to meet sanitation standards defined by the state and obtain annual permits, according to documents.
Trucks will be letter-graded, same as brick-and-mortar restaurants. Any facility that fails to achieve an "A" -- 90 percent or better -- during a routine inspection will be given five business days to correct deficiencies. If issues aren't resolved by the time of the second inspection, an operator will be subject to penalties ranging from $50 to $1,000, depending on the number of offenses.
Operator permits could also be revoked. Any non-permitted food truck operator caught doing business in the county could face misdemeanor charges.
Supervisors Jeff Stone and John Benoit both expressed concerns about food trucks stripping business away from fixed establishments. Stone was especially worried about mobile vendors setting up near wineries, particularly in the Temecula Valley Wine Country.
He also worried that vendors could eat into the business of restaurants
in downtown Idyllwild, noting that the mountain community is suffering
economically and entirely dependent on tourist dollars.
Stone represents the cities of Murrieta and Temecula, among other local jurisdictions.
The board directed county staff to draft additional provisions that will be voted on and likely folded into the amended ordinance over the next 90 days. Proposed ongoing restrictions include disallowing food trucks from operating in the wine country, in historic districts or near schools -- except during special events or when expressly invited by merchants.
Individual cities will further retain discretion over "time, place,
manner" and zoning restrictions that block mobile vendors from selling in
other locations. --City News Service