DOWNTOWN — There could be restrictions on the way for those popular specialty-food trucks that have popped up around the Third Street Promenade in the past year.
Concerned about the recent mobile food influx into Santa Monica, the Bayside District Corp., a private-public management company for Downtown, will ask the City Council to consider new regulations, limiting the number and location of where the trucks will be allowed.
“While we understand that these mobile food vendors can be a very good thing for Downtown and any area, we are concerned that if we have a proliferation of those trucks they could have a negative impact on businesses,” Kathleen Rawson, the CEO of Bayside, said.
The increased presence of the reinvented food truck has recently been the subject of concern in Downtown where restaurant owners complain about customers lost to a mobile entity that neither has to pay rent nor the high assessment fees to conduct business in a coveted location near the beach.
So-called roach coaches have long been a fixture at construction sites but the food trucks became a phenomenon recently, seeing the arrival of organic-minded Green Truck, Kogi, which sells Korean-inspired barbecue beef tacos, and the rival Calbi Korean BBQ.
During a meeting on Nov. 19, the Bayside board decided that it would request the council to consider strengthening existing regulations that require food trucks to have a vendor permit through the Santa Monica Police Department and a business license through City Hall, Currently, trucks can conduct business in any legal parking spot but are limited to 30 minutes after which they must move at least 100 feet away. Food truck owners have said that it takes longer than 20 to 30 minutes to fill the orders.
The trucks must also be located at least 10 feet away from the entrance of doors, vestibules, driveways and outdoor dining areas of any business.
Bayside is suggesting that the number of trucks be limited between Ocean Avenue and Fifth Street where there is a higher concentration of restaurants.
“The board is not interested in limiting where there is not a problem but really it’s more of a response to the merchants in the immediate Downtown area,” Rawson said.
Rob Rader, a member of the Bayside board, said he believes the food trucks should be managed similarly to the carts on the promenade, which is handled by a third party. The carts also pay a rent-like fee.
“We should use them as a way to enhance the Downtown experience overall,” he said.
Rader has eaten at both the Kogi and Dosa trucks, the latter of which serves Indian fare.
“They are not downscale at all,” he said. “They add something to the district and we would be crazy not to take advantage of this new phenomenon.”
The newest vendor planning to make its way to Santa Monica is the Sweets Truck, which will sell popular picks from bakeries and candy shops in the L.A. area. The business is expected to launch early next month.
Greg Rogers, spokesman for Sweets Truck, said locations will be picked so that there is no direct competition with area businesses.
“We are trying to avoid the typical locations that all the other trucks go to,” he said.
Rogers said he finds it ironic that a request for more stringent regulations will come from Bayside when just last month a dineLA food truck was allowed on the promenade.
“They were kind of giving a nod that they were wanting to be a part of the whole truck scene,” Rogers said.
<i>Council to consider changing rules for windscreens</i>
A set of guidelines that regulates patio wind guards for restaurants on Ocean Avenue could see some revisions after several businesses were warned for alleged illegal use earlier this year.
The council is expected to consider changes next month to the Outdoor Dinning Standards for Ocean Avenue, a city planning document that establishes rules for restaurants along the beach-facing corridor.
The policy states that outdoor dining areas are to be designated by semi-permanent barriers that are removable and stand no taller than 3 feet, 6 inches from the sidewalk level. Windscreen attachments from the barrier are permitted but must be transparent and no taller than 2 feet, bringing the combined height to 5 feet 6 inches.
Both BOA Steakhouse and Ma’Kai Lounge received warnings earlier this year, the latter because the weather screens created an enclosed patio.
The screens are seen as necessary to protect patrons from the elements, making the outdoor dining area usable in windy or rainy conditions.
The restaurants have committed to keeping the wind screens rolled up except in inclement weather pending the council’s consideration of the outdoor dining policy, Yibin Shen, the deputy city attorney for City Hall, said.
While the restaurants never filed a lawsuit against City Hall, the council for several meetings had on its closed session agenda an item that pertained to “anticipated significant exposure to litigation” involving BOA and Ma’Kai.
Bayside is planning on asking the council to support limited use of the windscreens pending approval by the Architectural Review Board.
“The board supports limited use of the screens so that those outdoor dining patios are viable in inclement weather,” Rawson said.