Vibrant crowds stream into cities that nurture change rather than obstructing it. That’s why Riverside City Council members, if they want to project a hip image and attract people to the downtown, should not block hot-food trucks from city streets.
The council voted last week to follow county guidelines for vending trucks, declining to establish rules unique to Riverside. That means food truck vendors can still sell ice cream and other pre-packaged foods on a daily basis. But they can only sell hot, fresh food during special events.
Council members wrinkled their noses at a good thing. More than 4,000 of these grills-on-wheels cruise Los Angeles and Orange counties, part of a craze sweeping U.S. cities large and small. The hot-food trucks attract a growing clientele drawn to tasty, nontraditional, gourmet food-truck fare — everything from sushi and Korean-Mexican fusion dishes to Cantonese dim sum and pastrami sandwiches.
Plus, the trucks help create the fresh, young vibe that tempts the type of crowds that will nourish the city’s fledgling arts and entertainment scene.
But council members approved a roadblock for no sensible reason. The ordinance that aligns the city law with county regulations claimed that the trucks pose a traffic hazard. Inattentive food-truck drivers could cause accidents while scanning the street for customers, and children could dart across the street into traffic when the trucks are pulled to the curb. But those same conditions exist for ice cream trucks, which are still permitted in Riverside.
Why then, when trying to draw crowds to downtown Riverside, is the city rebuffing a drawing card like hot-food trucks?
In this case, city officials seem to be saying one thing and doing another. Instead, they should revisit their decision to ban the trucks. Why not align official actions with Riverside’s slogan — “city of arts and innovation” — and embrace a creative, innovative craze?