Castro Valley, CA: Food Trucks Are People Too

By Zoneil Maharaj | Castrovalley.Patch.com

CA-california-grill-truck

The community wide hand-wringing over whether to bring food trucks to town boggles my mind.

Let’s step back for a moment. Do I have this right?

  • Business A has been invited to sell their wares in Castro Valley
  • Business B which sells similar wares in Castro Valley doesn’t want Business A to sell their wares in Castro Valley

Makes sense. If a factoring company opened up shop next door to me I’d get a little territorial. I’d be worried too if a daycare popped up across the street from my wife’s daycare business. But would I get a specially designated public input meeting asking the town if it’s OK for these businesses to open up shop, even if they’re only temporary shops? I suspect not – and I guess that’s the biggest boggle of the mind.

I might speculate that the reason the food truck businesses are getting special public meetings are because the group that invited them is related to county government. And government has the tricky task of balancing the wants and wishes of all business in a fair and equitable manner.

What if it wasn’t a government agency inviting the food trucks? Would the brick & mortar’s still have a beef? Where would they lodge their complaint? What agency would hear their concern?

Food trucks have been around of years and years. But gourmet food trucks are a relatively new phenomenon.  According to a Smart Money article

“…many cities are setting restrictions on how close food trucks can park to competing restaurants or how long they can stay in one spot. In parts of Nevada, the trucks have to relocate every 30 minutes. In Washington D.C., food trucks are technically supposed to move out of a spot once the line of customers they’re serving clears. And in New York City police last year pushed many popular food trucks out of midtown Manhattan by enforcing a decades old rule banning vending from metered parking spaces.”

Is food truck regulation the answer for Castro Valley? If so, how would that work here? It would seem to me that it’d have to start at the county level, in which case wouldn’t other communities have to submit to the same law? Do you see that actually happening?

The concerns regarding food trucks isn’t just about brick and mortar’s loosing customers. It’s also about food safety, garbage & blight, seating, light, noise, parking and availability of restrooms (for customers to use and food preparers to wash up.) And those are public safety policy issues I’d love to see debated at our city council (oh, wait….)

It’s hard to open a business… with or without wheels. I respect the tenacity of an entrepreneur. Sometimes you gotta roll up your sleeves. If I had a brick n’ mortar restaurant I’d be at those public input meetings requesting that I be allowed to set up a food booth right next door to the food trucks. Compete on their turf. At the very least I’d be there handing out coupons or fliers inviting folks to stop by my shop after the trucks have gone away.

My final analysis? Make good food. Make it well. Treat your employees well, your customers with respect, and your business will whether any storm… whether you lease a building or lease a truck.

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