Long Beach could beef up food truck regulations after City Council vote

Long Beach may soon adopt additional rules for food trucks after the City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to have staff explore what other controls the city could put in place over mobile food businesses.

The item was introduced by Councilwoman Mary Zendejas who said she appreciates food trucks’ contributions to the local culinary scene but her office has received a number of complaints about how they impact local brick-and-mortar businesses.

“They feel that it is unfair for food trucks to operate under a different set of rules and regulations than more traditional restaurants and storefronts while still courting the same customers at the same times and locations as they are along certain business corridors,” Zendejas said.

The city does have some guidelines in place for food trucks such as certain requirements for the interiors of the vehicles when it comes to cleanliness and safety. The municipal code requires mobile food vehicles to be inspected at least six times a year.

A special permit is required to operate at events, and there are strict limits on what types of foods can be prepared and how they are cooked. Both a permit from the city and the county are required to legally operate in Long Beach.

However, some City Council members want to go further in crafting an ordinance that could establish more detailed rules for food trucks. Some members voiced support for limiting food trucks’ presence near business improvement districts while another asked if the ordinance could provide for areas to opt out of allowing food trucks altogether.

“I think we do have areas where food trucks can thrive and hours in which they can thrive as well. I love going to them after hours when all restaurants are closed but there’s a food truck available and you can get some of the best food in the city,” said Councilman Al Austin. He agreed that food trucks were a positive part of the city’s food scene but concurred with his colleagues that more could be done to limit their impact on existing businesses.

What’s expected to return to the City Council is an ordinance that could codify changes requested by council members if they vote it into law.

Those changes could rein in the kinds of lighting and displays that some food trucks use to attract customers curbside, some of which are out of step with existing city law regarding outdoor displays for businesses. Other changes could govern where the food trucks are allowed to operate and whether they have to allow restroom access.

“We have, in some occasions, some trucks that are literally parking in front of businesses and really damaging that business without really having the same set of rules to follow, so I am very interested in that,” said Mayor Robert Garcia.

Garcia added that, in crafting the ordinance, the city should consider the relationships that some brick-and-mortar stores, like some local breweries, have with food trucks, which provide food to their customers who could otherwise be without options.

A report back on the council’s options is expected within the next 90 days.

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Jason Ruiz covers City Hall and politics for the Long Beach Post.