San Bernadino, CA: Food Trucks on Table

2nd District County Supervisor Janice Rutherford is on a mission near and dear to Dine 909's heart -- legalizing food trucks.

By Joe Nelson | Daily Bulletin

2nd District County Supervisor Janice Rutherford is on a mission near and dear to Dine 909's heart -- legalizing food trucks.

The San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday will discuss whether the county should ease its restrictions on food trucks.

San Bernardino and Riverside counties are believed to be the only two counties in the state that prohibit food trucks from operating other than at special events such as fairs, carnivals and circuses.

The board will consider three options Tuesday: maintain the status quo, amend the county’s ordinance to establish a new category of food-truck events, or amend the ordinance to permit food trucks to operate throughout the county.

Under the second option, the county would establish the category of “hot food truck events” and a system for allowing food trucks to congregate, subject to the approval of the cities where the food trucks plan to operate. The county would work with the cities to develop the definition and operational framework for the new category of event, according to a staff report prepared for the Board of Supervisors.

The third option would allow food trucks to operate countywide and lift restrictions. If restrictions are lifted, the county and all the cities in it would need to decide how to regulate food trucks.

Supervisor Janice Rutherford said she began pushing for changes when a constituent who wanted to start a food- truck business contacted her asking why that wasn’t allowed.

At first, Rutherford pushed for the lifting of the ban but was met with resistance from some cities that wanted more local control.

Rutherford now thinks the second option is more feasible.

“I’m leaning toward the middle ground because I don’t want to force anything on cities they may not be ready for,” she said.

Food trucks are now allowed to operate in San Bernardino County on condition that they are operating at community events and have a permit by the county’s Environmental Health Services Division.

Environmental Health Services approved more than 200 community events in 2010 and is expected to approve and equivalent number this year, according to the staff report.

Although most of the feedback Rutherford received has been positive, she said some people have expressed concern about potential negative impacts, such as litter and trucks being parked in residential areas for prolonged periods of time.

“And some business owners just don’t want the competition,” Rutherford said. “They feel they’ve invested a lot in capital, pay more taxes and shouldn’t have the competition.”

The board is expected to hear a presentation by county staff members on a recent evaluation by Environmental Health Services assessing the health and safety risks associated with stationary restaurants, temporary food facilities and food trucks.

That assessment showed that restaurants had 0.42 violations per inspection, temporary food facilities had 0.65 violations per inspection and food trucks had 0.98 violations per inspection, according to the staff report.

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