Planning panel: Keep mobile food trucks out of Downtown, Old Town Auburn

By: Gus Thomson, Journal
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AUBURN CA - Prohibiting mobile food trucks from setting up temporary shop in Old Town and Downtown historic districts will be part of a new ordinance being recommended by the Auburn Planning Commission to regulate eateries on wheels. Two of three members present at Tuesday’s Auburn Planning Commission meeting recommended the limitation, part of a package of new food-truck rules that are slated to go to the Auburn City Council on Sept. 24 for potential adoption. Commission Chairman Matt Spokely and Commissioner Alan Young voted in favor of keeping mobile food vendors out of the two oldest business districts in the city, citing narrow streets and safety concerns. Commissioner Bob Snyder said he’d be in favor of recommending prohibiting the food trucks in Old Town but was in favor of allowing them in Downtown Auburn. Spokely said that he wanted to retain what he described as a “fair playing field” for brick-and-mortar businesses in the two historic districts. Young said he felt established restaurants have several costs built into their operations, including property taxes, that mobile vendors aren’t obliged to pay. The mobile food truck issue has simmered in recent months with the issuing of two business licenses to vendors that allow them a 30-minute stop at a privately held property. Maria’s restaurant – a so-called brick-and-mortar Mexican restaurant in Bowman – has been the lone survivor, serving food out of a truck in Downtown Auburn. Daniella Moreno of Maria’s said that the eatery and its food-truck business want to work cohesively with the community to build a better Auburn. “She (owner Maria Moreno) has a vested interest in this community and is 100 percent vested in Auburn,” Moreno said. But Dion Isaacson, co-owner of Downtown Auburn’s Depoe Bay coffee house, expressed his concerns about having mobile food trucks locate too close to his business and take away customers. The Maria’s truck has been parking 50 feet away from the Lincoln Way business in the parking lot of the business next door, he said. Tuesday’s discussion on food truck rules dealt with private properties. Staff is also drawing up new rules pertaining to regulating food trucks on public property. “There must be a way for brick and mortar restaurants and food trucks to get along,” Isaacson said. The Auburn city Community Development Department planning staff had initially recommended a time-limit on opening of 12 hours in a day. Spokely and Young voted to recommend a two-hour limit. Isaacson said he would favor a three or four-hour limit – “but not 50 feet from my business.” Gary Moffat, owner of Old Town Auburn’s Carpe Vino and a City Council candidate, said that Old Town has 14 “brick and mortar” eateries and doesn’t need food trucks. “There is a whole seven square miles in Auburn for trucks to go in and they don’t need to focus on where they can really skim the cream,” Moffat said. John Dunlap, an Auburn resident and former CEO of the California Restaurant Association, spoke in favor of regulating food trucks in a spirit of permissiveness that recognized culinary innovation. “When I was younger, they called them roach coaches but today, they’re quite different,” Dunlap said. Citing a sushi business in Truckee, Dunlap said that food trucks are sparking innovation and creating a new market. “They have lines there as far as the eye can see,” Dunlap said.