SLO sees mobile food coming

City Council wants to prepare ordinance governing vendors when they get here

acornejo@thetribunenews.comJanuary 19, 2011 

Mobile food vendors might be heading to San Luis Obispo, but the city wants to make sure that regulations are in place before they do.

To limit the risk to public safety, the City Council voted 4 to 1 Tuesday night to direct staff to prepare an ordinance that would dictate where such vendors may operate.

Two recent inquiries by mobile food vendors prompted the discussion. One of the vendors, in the process of applying for a business permit, told city staff that he may sell sliders.

Taco trucks and other mobile food vendors have already become popular in San Francisco and Los Angeles.

City Councilwoman Kathy Smith was the lone dissenting vote — expressing concern that an ordinance was being drafted when there was not a high demand.

“Right now this falls into a category of making work,” Smith said.

Regulations the city may consider include:

• Restricting sales activities in certain areas;

• Limiting hours or locations of operation;

• Ensuring that such vehicles do not interfere with traffic flow and pedestrian traffic; and

• Provisions governing queuing and crowd control, especially near the downtown bars and nightclubs during nighttime and early morning hours.

Another concern raised by the city, but challenged by Councilmen Dan Carpenter and Andrew Carter, is the possible requirement of background checks on mobile vendors.

San Luis Obispo Police Chief Deborah Linden said background checks should be required.

“I do believe criminal checks are warranted simply because of the mobility and ability of the operator to park the business in remote or obscured areas (including near school sites or where kids frequent), unlike a brick-and-mortar restaurant where we know where to find someone if there is a problem,” Linden said in an e-mail.

Cities are not able to ban vending food from vehicles parked on streets, according to city staff.

Existing state law and county Department of Health regulations would still apply, including the requirement of a current San Luis Obispo County health permit.

There are currently 11 business licenses issued for mobile food businesses in the unincorporated areas of the county.

Reach AnnMarie Cornejo at 781-7939. Stay updated by following @a_cornejo on Twitter.

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