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Auburn City Council bans food trucks around Placer High

Ordinance passes without issue
By: Jon Schultz, Journal Staff Writer
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Debate over food trucks in Auburn and where they should be allowed to operate ignited fervor in the council chambers from October to December between people who liked the idea of having them around town and those who thought they were a detriment to the city.

The food fight ended in a fizzle, however.

At Monday’s City Council meeting, the city tightened restrictions against mobile food vendors even further, yet for the first time in public hearings on the topic, not a soul peeped up against the stricter limitations being proposed.

After finalizing a prohibition of food trucks from Old Town and Downtown Auburn on private property, the Auburn City Council voted 5-0 on Monday to restrict them from the city streets in that area, as well as banning them from within 1,000 feet of Placer High School.

The initial proposal would have allowed them on streets adjacent to the high school, but after the Placer Union High School District said it had concerns about safety and health issues, the council unanimously agreed with the distance requirement.

“I think the distance separation makes a lot of sense because of the traffic around the high school,” Mayor Kevin Hanley said, citing narrow streets and congestion during drop-off and pick-up times. “I would be concerned if we had food trucks near the school having kids walking back and forth, cars coming forward. It presents a dangerous situation, so I think there are good health and safety reasons to adopt either the 750-foot or 1,000-foot radius.”

Maria’s Mexican Tacos had been Auburn’s lone food truck, regularly operating Downtown on private lots, but since the private property ordinance had been approved in October, it has found a new location in North Auburn on Atwood Road across from the Placer County government center.

Its owner, Maria Moreno, said in a past interview with the Journal that she would not have operated her food truck near the high school out of respect to Taco Tree – a popular destination among students for lunch.

Taco Tree owner Jim Anderson, the only speaker during public comment, voiced his support for a 1,000-foot buffer zone from the high school.

Anderson said food trucks shouldn’t be allowed to “take the cream off the top” by coming in during peak times and taking customers from businesses like his who grind it out all year long. Parking is already limited near his restaurant, he added.

The council briefly discussed food trucks in the public right of way at its Oct. 22 meeting, but postponed the public hearing, seeking more input from the city attorney and the school district.

“The Placer High School campus crosses numerous city streets,” wrote Dave Horsey, district superintendent, in an email to the city. “Having students in these streets during peak rush hour traffic before and after school and during lunch time presents a danger to students standing at these vehicles parked on city streets adjacent to Placer High School.”

Furthermore, the district is obliged to provide a nutritious lunch, and it is concerned about having mobile food vendors near the school that don’t meet federal standards, Horsey wrote.

City staff recommended if council wanted to restrict food trucks on public streets near the high school that it implement the 1,000-foot radius used by Grass Valley, Napa and Riverside.  That was also the distance requested by Placer High School, Councilman Dr. Bill Kirby said.

Although much of the discussion surrounding the ban on food trucks from private property in Old Town and Downtown centered around the effect on brick-and-mortar businesses, the city attorney said the basis for prohibiting them on public right of way must be related to safety.

Also included in the public right of way ordinance: A food truck can operate in the same location for up to one hour in a 24-hour period before it must relocate at least 500 feet; it must park parallel to the curb with its serving window facing the sidewalk; and it must display a sign telling customers to not use restrooms of a nearby business unless patronizing it.

On Dec. 3 the council held a second reading of the private property ordinance but made an amendment to the areas in which mobile food vendors would be banned.

Originally, council members voted to ban them from the Historic Design Review District encompassing Old Town and Downtown Auburn, but after learning the scope was larger than some had known, the boundaries of the restriction were scaled back and a new map identifying the prohibited areas has been created.

That zoning map is also the one being applied to determine the boundaries of the Old Town and Downtown ban in the public right of way. Councilwoman Bridget Powers said that she wanted to ensure Borland Avenue was not included in the ban, which it wasn’t.

The council also amended the ordinance to include having food trucks be subjected to Business Improvement District fees.

The rules on food trucks on private property will take effect in 30 days.

 

Jon Schultz can be reached at jons@goldcountrymedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @Jon_AJNews