MAIN STREET — Food trucks are poised to become a regular thing in Santa Monica.
Regulations modeled off those applied to a popular weekly food truck event at the California Heritage Museum will be included in the Draft Zoning Ordinance after a unanimous City Council vote this week.
The Planning Commission will start debating the ordinance, which regulates the uses of the various parts of the city for various types of businesses, next month.
They’ll discuss it six times before passing it off to council for finalization. The commission has restricted food trucks in the past.
The regulations would allow private properties to host food truck events one night a week, on Mondays, Tuesday, or Wednesdays.
The Heritage Museum event has been held on Tuesday nights since 2010, when council issued a temporary use permit. The new proposed zoning language is more permanent, allowing events for at least three more years. About 10 food trucks show up each week for 400 to 500 patrons. Vendors’ fees help support Heritage Museum programs.
“I think it’s extending what we’ve already had,” said Matt Geller, CEO of the Southern California Mobile Food Vendor’s Association. “They went in front of council asking for a more permanent thing. I think it’s great. The city of Santa Monica has worked with the food trucks better than almost any other city so they always ask for our input on things.”
Tobi Smith, executive director at the Heritage Museum, came out in support of the trucks.
Planning officials surveyed Main Street businesses and food truck patrons, ultimately determining that the events do not “appear to have a significant negative impact to Main Street business activity.”
Gary Gordon, executive director of the Main Street Business Improvement Association, asked council to move forward with caution. City officials should compare Tuesday night restaurant revenues from before the events took place with current Tuesday night revenues, he said.
“I think staff has solved the regulatory issue that was before you and previously before the Planning Commission,” he said to the council. “But the economic survey, I think, requires a little bit more scrutiny… . I think if you look at the numbers that are presented you will see that there is a negative impact on a number of restaurants.”
A Wednesday food truck event called Hump Day popped up last year on 14th Street and Santa Monica Boulevard. It ended earlier this year when the group lost its lease.
Eventually, there could be several events in the city.
“I do see it expanding,” Geller said. “The good thing about food trucks being mobile is that they can go where they’re wanted. So do I think it’s going to happen? If the demand is there: yes. If not: no.”
If the popularity of the Heritage Museum event is any indication, the demand is there.
“They are always slower in the winter,” Geller said. “It’s always been that way for the past three years. We’re probably going to work on making it a little more event-oriented as we come into the spring. But people still love their food trucks.”