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Santa Monica to ban early-morning food trucks in nightspot area

November 16, 2011 | 11:09 am

The ubiquitous food truck has hit a speed bump in Santa Monica, where city leaders have agreed to ban the rolling eateries during the early morning hours along a bar-filled, half-mile stretch of Main Street.

The council voted 5-1 to tentatively prohibit food trucks between 1 and 3 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday, a popular feasting time after nightspots begin closing.

A city staff report said  the presence of the mobile vendors attracts large crowds, creating “extreme congestion” that forces people to walk in the street and poses “significant safety hazards to the public” as patrons leave local bars.     

Since July, the city has spent about $67,000 in unfunded overtime costs to patrol the area, Deputy Police Chief Alfonso Venegas told the council.

Venegas  said people jaywalk around the trucks and litter the street with trash and food scraps.

Councilman Terry O'Day cast the lone dissenting vote, saying he saw the food trucks as an amenity that cater to hungry patrons during early morning hours.  

“The last thing that I would want to do is sterilize the street at Main Street,” O'Day said. “The city ought to have a social life. That’s why you live in a city.”

Matt Geller with the Southern California Mobile Food Vendors Assn. said Wednesday that there have been regulations on the books concerning food trucks for four decades. He added that people have raised their eyebrows recently because of the trucks’ increased popularity.

Geller said Santa Monica officials took care to locate verifiable public safety issues before passing their ordinance. He said he remains concerned that any Santa Monica ban is enforced equitably across the city. Geller said his organization is fighting a Monrovia ordinance banning food trucks in certain areas.   

“I’m not against any restrictions that have public safety benefits,” Geller said. “But if they’re really concerned about public safety and their concern is that people mill around, then you also have to look at the vendors in brick and mortar that are staying open and serving people.”

The ordinance is tentatively scheduled to come up for a second reading at the council’s Nov. 22 meeting. If approved, it would take effect 30 days later.


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-- Matt Stevens 

Photo: Food trucks have become a popular across Southern California, in this case lined up outside a high school in Cerritos. Credit: Lawrence K. Ho/ Los Angeles Times