DEL MAR — It will be at least another 45 days — and likely longer — before any new food trucks can get cooking in Del Mar. City Council unanimously agreed at the Jan. 14 meeting to again temporarily disallow the issuance of any new permits for the mobile businesses while staff continues to study potential regulations.
Food truck operators who already have business licenses have until Jan. 31 to renew them. As of Jan. 16, three of the nine had done so, Planning Director Kathy Garcia said.
The original moratorium was adopted Nov. 19 following resident concerns about public safety after the Wednesday night food truck gatherings began in October in the parking lot at 1601 Coast Blvd., across from Powerhouse Community Center.
While area restaurant owners also said they didn’t support the event because they feared a drop in business, state law precludes cities from banning the trucks because they may add competition to brick-and-mortar establishments.
“You can’t outright ban it but you can regulate it to ensure the public safety issues are addressed,” City Attorney Lesley Devaney said.
Staff researched laws governing the trucks in other cities but was unable to craft one for Del Mar within 45 days.
The initial ordinance expired Jan. 4. Council didn’t have a meeting scheduled until Jan. 14 so it could not be extended and a new one had to be adopted.
Staff is working to create an ordinance that will address hours of operation, noise, the number of trucks allowed at each event, parking requirements, restroom availability, lighting, signage, traffic, neighborhood impacts and trash collection and recycling.
Council previously directed staff to develop regulations for all outdoor mobile vending services, including those that sell clothing or offer games for birthday parties, because it is a growing business trend nationwide.
Garcia said that list could also potentially include push carts such as those that sell coffee and ice cream and mobile barbers and knife sharpening.
“I would encourage you to stick with the food trucks,” resident Bill Michalsky said. “I would hope that we really don’t encourage more of these uses.”
Council members agreed, but directed staff to do so being mindful a more comprehensive ordinance may eventually need to be created.
“We’ve got to move on with the food truck ordinance … but I would do it in a way that you know the mobile industry is coming,” Mayor Terry Sinnott said. “Don’t do it just to solve the immediate problem, but do it with the foresight that you know that mobile vending may be a problem so that we create the matrix that we can, later on, add the same perspective that the community concerns are to other mobile vending businesses.”
“It’s more important to move forward on the food trucks,” Councilman Don Mosier said.
“The extent to which this may, in the future, need regulation is sort of daunting,” he added, noting there is a pole-dancing truck in Chicago.
“There are future challenges to regulation of this kind of trucks, but let’s start simple and leave the adult entertainment trucks until down the line,” Mosier said.
By law, an interim urgency ordinance is only valid for 45 days unless extended by council at a public hearing. Garcia said it could take about two months to craft a new law.
All business licenses in Del Mar expire at the end of the calendar year. Fees are based on gross receipts earned in Del Mar on a sliding scale.
“Each of the food trucks has stated that they will earn less than $15,000 annually in Del Mar, which equates to a $30 annual license,” Garcia said.
Christian Murcia, who started the Del Mar event and owns two of the trucks that currently hold business licenses to operate in the city, said last year the Wednesday night gatherings were “very, very slow,” and some operators opted not to return.
“The trucks aren’t making a lot of money,” Murcia said, adding that he had reached out to other truck owners to join the midweek event.
The trucks haven’t been there since November and according to some food truck websites, none are scheduled in the near future.
At press time he did not return a phone call requesting a status update.