New Restrictions For Main Street Food Trucks In Santa Monica

Tuesday, 16 Apr 2013, 9:11:00 AM

Parimal M. Rohit

Food trucks patrolling Main Street in the Ocean Park neighborhood will have to be mindful of their time, as the Santa Monica City Council approved at its last Tuesday night meeting an expanded prohibition of late night street vending during certain holidays.

Already prohibited from operating on a small stretch of Main Street between 1 am and 3 am on Saturdays and Sundays, the expanded ordinance now prohibits food trucks from maintaining a presence during those same hours on certain popular holidays.

Specifically, the expanded ordinance – which was approved by Council Members in a 6 to 1 vote – prohibits food trucks from a stretch of Main Street during holidays commonly associated with alcoholic consumption but do not occur on a Saturday or Sunday. Those holidays include Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Cinco de Mayo, Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, Labor Day, Halloween, and New Year’s Day in the event any of those days landed on a weekday.

According to City staff, the Santa Monica Police Department (SMPD) requested the Council to consider an expanded ordinance due to safety concerns.

“In recent years, commercial vending activities from vehicles, particularly food trucks, have grown exponentially within the City,” a City staff report stated. “The impact of this increase in vending activities has been most acute on Main Street during late night hours, when food trucks operating near alcohol serving establishments attract large crowds of persons.”

The report stated that large crowds created extreme congestion of the narrow sidewalks along Main Street, forced pedestrians onto the road, and posed significant safety hazards to the public.

The council addressed SMPD’s concerns about the safety hazards posed by the crowding at and near food trucks by adopting a “narrow ordinance” in November 2011. That ordinance prohibited food trucks from operating along Main Street between Ocean Park Boulevard and Marine Street between 1 am and 3 am on Saturdays and Sundays.

“As patrons, including intoxicated patrons, depart the alcohol serving establishments, they are attracted to the mobile vendors. This often creates huge crowds of persons, standing or sitting on the sidewalks and socializing while they eat, that spread throughout the streets and sidewalks along Main Street. This causes Main Street sidewalks to be virtually impassable and driveways to be blocked,” City staff stated.

Another concern rose at Tuesday’s council meeting: trash. An SMPD officer who spoke to the council said some food truck patrons fail to dispose of food wrappings in the trash after eating their respective meals.

There was also a concern of whether people eat once purchasing items from food trucks.

“Persons who purchase eatables from such mobile vendors often consume them immediately afterwards. Due to the significant crowds and the narrow sidewalks on Main Street, persons often choose to sit on street curbs or even parking spaces to consume foods,” City staff stated. “Such persons, while sitting, are not easily seen by drivers of vehicles attempting to enter or exit their parking spaces and may be struck by such vehicles.”

According to the SMPD, the previously approved ordinance was an effective tool in protecting public safety along Main Street.

“However, the same safety concerns that precipitated [the ordinance] remain apparent during certain holidays popularly associated with alcohol consumption that may fall on a week day,” the City staff report stated.

With the approval of the expanded ordinance, food trucks are prohibited from operating between 1 am and 3 pm during weekends and proscribed holidays along Main Street from south of Marine Street to the City’s southernmost border where Santa Monica meets Venice.

City staff reported there are 213 food trucks licensed to operate within Santa Monica.

Mayor Pro Tem Terry O’Day was the sole “no” vote.

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