Starting early next month, there will now be a 500-foot rule (that’s about 1.5 city blocks) on vending by taco trucks, ice cream trucks and any other form of catering or vending in unincorporated areas of Sonoma County.
That’s thanks to a new rule passed last week by the county Board of Supervisors adds a new section to the Sonoma County Code.
The county’s own Summary Report states:
On March 19, 2009, at a meeting of the Joint City and County Roseland Subcommittee, during the public comment period, representatives of the Roseland School District and parents of children attending schools in the District, asked for assistance in regulating mobile vendors around school sites. A number of concerns related to the mobile vendors were expressed. They include:
– Sale of unhealthy and unregulated food products raising concerns about health and food safety;
– Potential sale of other products not legal for sale to minors (cigarettes, alcohol and other drugs, etc.);
– Unsafe conditions resulting from children darting in and out of cars and crossing streets to reach mobile
– Conduct of some of the mobile vendors raising concerns that school children might be subject to
inappropriate verbal comments and other forms of harassment.
The City of Santa Rosa has an ordinance restricting mobile vending. The County does not have such an
ordinance thus has no way to regulate mobile vendors around school sites in the unincorporated area.
Now I’m not really sure of any instances of “inappropriate verbal comments” given by any taquero to myself or anyone I’ve ever been with at any taco truck, but ok, fine.
This new ordinance is not unlike a measure earlier this summer that forced El Tonayense in San Francisco’s Potrero Hill neighborhood to move to at least 1,500 feet from schools.
LA taco truck attorney Phil Greenwald also reminds me in an email:
Los Angeles has a 1,000 foot restriction regarding how close to a school a catering truck may be lawfully parked.
Since no one wants to jeopardize the health or safety of school children and since kids have been known to forget that crossing a street (when they are focused on getting to a food vehicle) is a dangerous thing, I personally am in favor of such a restriction. 500 feet is (on average) about 1.5 blocks. That seems reasonable to me, don’t you think so?
Meanwhile, Erin Glenn, CEO of the new Asociación de Loncheros, says that there may be other factors at play here:
This type of problem was allegedly one of the reasons the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors wanted there to be more stringent regulation of catering food trucks. In terms of operating near a school during school hours– this type of regulation actually makes sense, if a proper assessment of the situation i.e., traffic studies, etc. has occurred; hopefully, the Sonoma County regulation is motivated by the need for greater child safety, not by the need to “protect” brick and mortar establishments that may be near the schools in question. After all, let’s not forget that children need to cross the street to go into a convenience store as well.
About the food that may be sold from catering food trucks near schools: I would bet pound for pound, unless there are extraneous circumstances proving otherwise, the food one would get at a traditional taco truck is much healthier than typical fast food.
If taco trucks don’t comply, the ordinance also states the penalty:
Any person violating or causing the violation of the provisions of this section shall be guilty of a misdemeanor. Except where other penalties are specified, each offense may be punished by a fine of not less than one hundred dollars ($100.00) nor more than five hundred dollars ($500.00), or by imprisonment in the county jail for a term not to exceed sixty (60) days, or by both such fine and imprisonment.