By Bianca Kaplanek | The Coast News
DEL MAR — If food trucks operators ever decide to return to Del Mar, it could be almost a year before any new ones can join the weekly gatherings.
At the Feb. 19 meeting, City Council extended a temporary moratorium on the mobile businesses for another 10 months and 15 days, giving staff ample time to create regulations to address public safety concerns that have been raised.
The trucks rolled into town Oct. 10, 2012, setting up shop Wednesday nights in the privately owned Seagrove parking lot at 1601 Coast Blvd., across from Powerhouse Community Center.
Almost immediately concerns were raised about noise, traffic, smells, lighting, restroom availability and impacts to established restaurants, although state law precludes cities from banning the trucks because they may add competition to brick-and-mortar establishments.
In November, Council adopted an interim urgency ordinance that prohibited the issuance of any new business licenses for the mobile businesses. Nine had been granted at that point.
That ordinance expired Jan. 4 and a new one was adopted Jan. 14. Since then staff has been looking into what other cities have done to regulate the popular events but has yet to create an ordinance for Del Mar.
According to the staff report, other cities have struggled with regulations.
The current goal is to present a draft ordinance to the Planning Commission March 12 and return to council April 1 for the first reading of a new law. If adopted, the ordinance could take effect as early as May 15, at which time the moratorium would be lifted.
Proposed standards for mobile food trucks operating on private commercial property, such as the Seagrove parking lot, include a requirement to obtain an operations permit that would allow a maximum of eight trucks — one for every 1,500 square feet of level, paved, open area on the site — in the central, beach and north commercial zones.
Two vehicle and two fixed bicycle parking spaces per truck would be required. Hours of operation would be 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., and one restroom with hand-washing facilities must be onsite for employees.
Different but similar standards would be required for food trucks operating on the public right of way, catering on private property or during a fundraising event for nonprofit organizations.
Council members also suggested the proposed ordinance prohibit alcohol sales, address pedestrian safety getting to and from the trucks, especially when crossing Coast Boulevard, and include provisions to encourage recycling and the use of recyclable containers.
As proposed the ordinance requires operators to pick up trash within 25 feet of the truck before leaving. Councilman Don Mosier recommended increasing the distance because wind is a factor at the beach. He said there should also be idling restrictions and a provision that addresses allowable smoke generation.
Councilman Al Corti said the regulations should be at least as stringent as those applied to sidewalk cafes. Mayor Terry Sinnott said the trucks should be required to demonstrate mobility.
There were concerns about traffic and parking in the summer, especially during the Monday concerts at Powerhouse Park.
Christian Murcia, who organized the gatherings, said he was approached by officials from Seagrove parking to create business in the underutilized lot during the offseason.
He said he didn’t expect to be there in the summer months. “We were specifically approached to extract money for the parking lot owners during the offseason,” he said.
All business licenses in Del Mar expire at the end of each calendar year. Although new food truck operators couldn’t be issued a license after the original moratorium was adopted, the nine operators who received them last year had until Jan. 31 to renew. Less than half did so.
Murcia said the Wednesday night gatherings weren’t very profitable. The trucks haven’t returned to the city since November.