by Jesse Hirsch
Last week the city of Alameda quietly passed one of the Bay’s most permissive mobile food ordinances, opening up virtually every city street to food trucks. Almost the only restrictions are a ban on parking 25 feet from crosswalks, 50 feet from driveways, or on the same block as elementary or middle schools while in session. Five off-street locations are also approved: Alameda Point, the College of Alameda, South Shore Shopping Center, Harbor Bay Business Park, and Marina Village Business Park.
Previously, Alameda had virtually no mobile food regulations. The few trucks that sometimes parked in the city — like Oakland-based Jon’s Street Eats and Get Goes Mobile Café — operated in something of a legal gray area. Now these and any other vendors will need to obtain encroachment permits to park in public spaces, or conditional use permits for private areas. The ordinance also requires food trucks to obtain city business licenses, all appropriate health and safety inspections, and pay taxes like their brick and mortar counterparts.
Markedly absent are rules about parking near existing restaurants, or procedures that allow neighbors to lodge complaints and hold public hearings (unlike the painfully protracted notification procedures in San Francisco or the ones in Oakland’s new regulations). Alameda development manager Eric Fonstein said there was some business community pushback, but that restaurant owners were generally pretty reasonable.
Now that citywide mobile food is officially sanctioned, the question remains: will trucks come? There was already mobile food at big events like the Alameda Point Antiques Faire, but what about day-to-day operations? Alameda may not have the population or workforce density of other Bay locales, but underserved spots like the Harbor Bay Business Park may prove to have vendor allure. Time will tell.
The new ordinance goes into effect Monday (February 6). The city will review it in early 2013 to address any major issues that may have arisen.
Comments? Tips? Get in touch at Jesse.Hirsch@EastBayExpress.com.