By Joe Nelson | Inland Valley Daily Bulletin
A proposed ordinance that would expand food truck operations in San Bernardino County goes before the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.
The county Planning Commission approved the ordinance in April. County staff began researching and preparing the draft ordinance last year at the direction of the Board of Supervisors.
Supervisor Janice Rutherford said she brought the matter to the board’s attention after a constituent complained she was unable to get a permit to operate a food truck.
Rutherford and county staff began researching ordinances in other counties, including Los Angeles and Orange, where food trucks have long been operating with minimal restrictions.
The two-pronged proposal that goes before the supervisors Tuesday would require amendments to the development code that would create a new category for food truck events, identified as either major or minor events.
A major event would consist of 500 or more people in attendance. A minor event would consist of fewer than people.
The proposal also calls for public health provisions for employee restrooms, operating locations, commissary requirements and letter grades for food trucks just as restaurants are required to have.
Food truck operators would also be required to submit a site plan showing the layout of the food truck event.
The county Land Use Services Department would consider several things before approving the permit, such as the location of the event, vendor plans for trash disposal and if adequate restroom facilities are available.
Because the ordinance relates to both the inspection and rating of hot food trucks and when, where and how they can operate, the Land Use Services and Public Health departments have each drafted their own agenda items for the board to consider.
Both would need board approval in order for the ordinance to pass.
Food truck operators are anxious to do more business in San Bernardino County, where they say the market is ripe. In the last year, food truck festivals have been held at convention centers, airports, high schools and ballparks across the San Bernardino Valley. Guests flock to the events hungry for quirky meals and treats such as lobster tail corn dogs and designer cupcakes.
Though food truck proponents say they are happy that the county is taking a step forward, they feel it’s not a big enough step and that the proposed ordinance is too costly, complicated and toothless, not going much further than what is already allowed under the existing county ordinance, which historically allowed food trucks to operate only at special community events such as carnivals.
Under the proposed ordinance, food trucks would still not be allowed to roam and stop without a permit in the unincorporated areas of the county, which is essentially what food truck operators have been pushing for all along.
Rutherford acknowledges the proposed ordinance isn’t ideally what she had in mind, but it is a start. The crux of the problem, she said, is resistance – some cities do not want food trucks operating on a regular basis while others embrace them.
So far, Rutherford says she hasn’t received any negative feedback from opposing cities regarding the proposed ordinance.
“So I’m thinking the cities don’t have a problem with it,” she said.
One of the biggest complaints from food truck operators is the proposed $596 annual fee, per parcel, that would apply to both major and minor food truck events.
Keith Kahn, owner and CEO of I.E. Gourmet Food Trucks in Mira Loma, the Inland Empire’s only food truck commissary, said the proposed fee would mean that vendors would have to pay thousands of dollars annually if they wanted to do business at multiple locations.
That is one of the issues Rutherford said she plans to discuss at Tuesday’s meeting.
“I want to talk to county staff about some of the fees they’re suggesting,” Rutherford said. “I don’t think we need an annual fee. I’m not convinced I see a purpose in that.”