What started as a required public noticing on their web site regarding proposed mobile food truck vendor regulations ended up being one of the fiercest social media-driven waves of opposition to a single piece of regulation I’ve encountered in years.
Within a single day, it got ugly fast, with food truckers, food truckees and RGJ all scrambling to find out who was influencing the city to suddenly pursue proposed regulations that were on the back burner for over two years. Some commenters on my Facebook page theorized perhaps the city council had read the recent article posted by the San Francisco Gate regarding the battle between mobile and fixed food vendors in the Bay Area. Others theorized that it was the casinos influencing the new regulations, citing that they would be the only benefactors to some of the proposed rules.
However it seems the root of the problem is not Calvin’s Sausages hanging out at St. James Infirmary at 1 am when all other restaurants within 3 blocks are closed. The core of this movements stems from the food trucks based on Wells Avenue.
But first, the proposed rules.  The  four rules attracting the most attention are;

1. Mobile Food Trucks cannot operate after 10 pm

2. Mobile food trucks cannot stay at one location for more than two hours, and then must move at least four blocks away or 2 miles, whatever is closest, and cannot return to that location within 24 hours .

3. Mobile food trucks cannot have outdoor cooking equipment such as BBQs, grills etc and;

4. Mobile food trucks cannot operate within 300 feet of a similar restaurant, or a church, school, park or city owned property.

Everyone discussing the subject online agrees that health inspections are a good thing. Possessing a valid business license is a good thing. Opinions start to fray when referencing one or all of the above regulations however.
The crux of the issue is Wells Avenue, and the taco trucks that set up shop there. Approximately five taco trucks set up shop every day at the same location, located across the street from more well-known Mexican food establishments like Speedy Burritos and Taco Johns. This brings up the argument, is that fair, valid,  and legal? A couple of the taco trucks on Wells are known for setting up shades structures, tables, chairs, and even an ‘80’s-era TV to watch while you eat. Does that constitute a ‘mobile’ food truck? I decided to check out what other cities do. Upon doing some Googling I stumbled across a report from http://www.nplanonline.org/, an institution to prevent childhood obesity. I then found direct links to NYC and La County's mobile food vendor laws.

Check out the grid below, and you will see mobile food vendor rules for 10 cities. There's a common set of rules running across the top, including restriction to schools, churches etc.

Perhaps most shocking is that mobile food trucks on both private and public property is banned outright in Los Angeles, both for carts and for trucks. Though there's a rogue food movement, they are all actually breaking city law. I'm assuming the cops down there have better things to do than to bust food trucks. So for Los Angeles and surrounding cities, I compiled a list of County and State Laws for California that affect food carts. Some of them are really good, and our city might consider incorporating them into their proposed ordinance.

The rules range from pretty lax to severely over-regulated. I'm sure out of these examples we can formulate an ordinance/rules that are right for Reno. What are my thoughts?

1. Nix the proposed time limit of 10 pm
2. Overturn the Nevada statute dictating that food trucks aren't allowed to park on streets and let cities legislate that, and then; Allow food trucks to be on private lots during day and public lots after sunset.
3. I like NYC's concept of a 'Mobile Food Vendor Food Protection Course' that all mobile food vendors must take ($56.00 one time fee)
4. There should not be any laws restricting a food truck from being near any restaurant, even if that restaurant serves the same type of food.
5. If we have to put a time limit on stops, then increase it from two hours to five hours. Five hours seems like a fair alternative...it allows Gourmelt to be in one spot from 11 am until 4 pm (usually they run out of product before then), and allows Calvin's to be in one location from say 9 pm until 2 am. It also solves the issue with the taco trucks on Wells Avenue who stay parked in their locations full time, even overnight. I do feel that a food truck parked in the same location, even overnight whether open or not, and also puts picnic tables, chairs, and a tv is abusing the concept of a food truck. Perhaps if they choose to stay parked more than five hours they have to get the 'bathroom letter' from a surrounding business. (see Los Angeles County tab below)
6. I want to reiterate that I think it's ridiculous that food trucks cannot park on public streets. No city below restricts parking to private property citywide full-time. Los Angeles requires mobile food vendors to be within a 'mobile food zone' of which none are created because it requires the signatures of at least 65% of businesses within that zone among other outrageous requirements.

So, what are you thoughts? I'm relatively sure we can come to a happy medium using a variety of the rules below, yeah?


Mobile Food Vendor Rules In the 10 Most Populous Cities


City Nutrition Incentives Restrictions on Vendor Proximity to Schools, Churches Restriction on Duration of Vendor Stops Hours When Vendors are Allowed to Operate Are Vendors Subject to Inspection? Are Vendors Required to Operate from a Commissary? Other Special Regulations Fees for Mobile Vendor Permits or License
Chicago Vendors selling only fruits and vegetables are separately classified as “peddlers” and pay a reduced permit fee.1 No regulation. No regulation, though a new proposed regulation would prevent parking within 200 feet of restaurant. 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. for peddlers of fruits and vegetables.2 Otherwise, there is no restriction on hours. Yes. Vendors must pass inspection before license will be issued.3 Vendors must operate from a commissary or other licensed fixed food service establishment.4 n/a $165 payable every two years for “peddlers” of fruits and vegetables;5 otherwise $275, payable every two years.6
Dallas No nutrition-based incentives. No regulation. Vendors may not stop longer than one hour in one place per day, or operate for a total of three hours in one location within a 24-hour period.7 No regulation. Yes.8 Yes. Vendors are required to operate from a commissary.9 Vendors must provide a monthly itinerary indicating where they intend to stop and operate.10 Vendors also must be able to provide proof of liability insurance.11 $100 for most vendors, but $465 for a mobile food preparation vehicle such as a “hot truck.”12
Houston No nutrition-based incentives. No regulation. No regulation. Vendors may designate a site for 24-hour use.13 Yes. Vendors must pass inspection before receiving a permit to operate. Thereafter vendors may be subject to inspection without notice.14 Yes. Vendors are required to operate from a commissary, and commissaries are required to keep servicing records for each mobile vendor. 15 Vendors in the downtown theater/entertainment district must obtain permission from any abutting fee owner for use of the site.16 At least one person who has obtained a safe food handling certification from the Houston Health Department must be on duty at all times. Certification requires one to take a food management class at a cost of $45.17 $200 for a permit,18 $310 for a “medallion” to be placed on the vending vehicle plus a $200 electronic monitoring systems fee and a $50 pre-opening inspections fee for “unrestricted mobile food units.”19
Los Angeles n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a In the City of Los Angeles, mobile vending is currently illegal. Los Angeles Municipal Code Section 42(b) prohibits sale of any products, including food, on sidewalks. “No person, except as otherwise permitted by this section, shall on any sidewalk or street offer for sale, solicit the sale of, announce by any means the availability of, or have in his or her possession, control or custody, whether upon his or her person or upon some other animate or inanimate object, any goods, wares or merchandise which the public may purchase at any time.”
To operate legally, a vendor must follow the complex process of establishing a “special sidewalk vending district” and at present, no such district exists in Los Angeles.20
New York “Green Carts” legislation amended New York law to set aside 1,000 permits to vendors selling whole fruit and vegetables in underserved communities.21 Green cart vendors also have preference on the city’s permit waiting list.22 No regulation. No regulation. Varies by location. There is an exhaustive 8 page list of restricted streets and time, click here. 23 Yes. Vendors are not allowed to operate until they have passed inspection.24 Yes. All vendors must operate from a commissary, depot, or other licensed facility.25 New York City’s Green Cart Initiative includes a public education campaign. For example, the City published an “Eat Street Smart” brochure to accompany each green cart, discussing the importance of eating fruits and vegetables and ways to do so.26 Permits are valid for two years.27 $200.00: Full-term (2 year) or Restricted Area permit fee (check or money order) for units in which food is prepared or processed on-site. (Permit Code H06)
$75.00: Full-term (2 year) or Restricted Area permit fee (check or money order) for units in which food is pre-packaged or does not involve preparation or processing on-site. (Permit Code H06)
$35.00: Seasonal (April 1 - October 31) permit fee (check or money order) for units in which food is prepared or processed on-site. (Permit Code H03)
$15.00: Seasonal (April 1 - October 31) permit fee (check or money order) for units in which food is pre-packaged or does not involve preparation or processing on-site. (Permit Code H03)
No fee for an honorably discharged veteran of the U.S. Armed Services or the surviving spouse or domestic partner of such veteran, regardless of the type of food sold. (Permit Code H03 or H06)
$56.00: Fee for Mobile Food Vendor Food Protection Course (certified check, government check or money order only). Payment for the course must be submitted separately from the payment for the permit application or any violations of the Health Code or Administrative Code. .29
Philadelphia No nutrition-based incentives. No regulation. No regulation. 7 a.m. to 12 a.m.30 Yes. Vendors must submit to an official inspection.31 Vendors also must perform one self- inspection every three months.32 Yes.33 n/a $125 annually for vendors on foot; otherwise $300 annually for all other vehicles.34
Phoenix No nutrition-based incentives. Vendors located on private property may not operate within 300 feet of any school between 6 a.m. and 5 p.m.,35 or within 600 feet of any school, or between 7 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. when located on public property.36 Vendors may not stop for more than one hour within an eight-hour period on any public street or alley.37 6 a.m. to 2 a.m. on private property;38 the later of 7 p.m. or sunset and before sunrise on public property.39 Yes. Vendors must be inspected at least every six months under the Arizona Food Code.40 Yes. Vendors must report daily to a commissary.41 Vendors may not operate on any street abutting a public park within 150 feet of a lawfully established park concession.42 $250 first-time license application fee and $30 per year for a vendor license thereafter.43 There is also a onetime fee for criminal investigation fingerprints.44
San Antonio Vendors selling whole fruits or vegetables, fresh fish, or shrimp do not have to operate from a commissary.45 Vendors may not sell within 300 feet of any school one hour before, one hour after, and during school hours.46 No regulation. 7 a.m. to 30 minutes after sunset in residential areas. 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. in June, July, and August.47 Yes. Vendors are subject to routine unannounced inspections.48 Yes. Vendors must operate from a commissary, unless they sell food that exempts them from this provision.49 Vendors may not sell within 300 feet of any food establishment unless the vendor obtains written notarized permission from the owner.50 $48 to $350 annually depending on the type of vehicle used and the type of food sold.51
San Diego Vendors may sell farm produce from the farm property without paying a permit fee.52 Yes. Vendors may not operate within 500 feet of any public school between 7 a.m. and 4 p.m. on regular school days.53 Restrictions on duration of time vendors are allowed to stop varies by location.54 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.55 Yes.56 Yes.57 Generally, mobile vending units propelled by hand, handcart, pushcart, bicycle cart or by “muscular power either human or animal” cannot be used to sell perishable food.58 $164 to $427 annually depending on the type of vehicle used and the type of food sold.59
San Jose No nutrition-based incentives. Vendors may not operate within 500 feet of any school property.60 Except for “approved location” (stationary) vendors may not stop in one place for longer than 15 minutes in a two-hour period.61 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. or sunset; vendors at construction or industrial sites are exempt from this regulation.62 Approved location vendors may operate from 6 a.m. until 7 p.m. or sunset.63 Yes.64 Yes. Vendors must operate from a commissary or other approved facility.65 Stationary vendors operating from a designated “approved location” must have liability insurance.66 $418 for an “approved location” permit, but $149 for all other vendors, plus $45 for an ID card.67

1 Chicago, IL. Code §§ 4-244-020, 4-5-010(66) (2010).
2 Id. § 4-244-120 (2008).
3 Id. § 4-8-030(b).
4 IL. Admin. Code tit. 77, § 750.1550 (2010).
5 Chicago, IL. Code § 4-5-010(66).
6 Id. § 4-5-010(31).
7 Dallas, TX Code § 17-8.2(h)(2)(F)(iv) (2008).
8 Id. § 17-8.2(c)(1)(B).
9 Id. § 17-8.2(g)(1).
10 Id. § 17-8.2(h)(2)(B).
11 City of Dallas. Requirements for Mobile Food Vendors. Available at: www.dallascityhall.com/pdf/ehs/MobileFoodVendorRequirements.pdf.
12 Id.
13 Houston, TX Code, art. XI, div. 2, § 40-263(2) (2010).
14 Id. § 40-269(b); See also City of Houston. Mobile Food Service Units. § VIII. Available at: www.houstontx.gov/health/Food/MOBILEREQ.html.
15 Houston, TX Code art II, div. 1, § 20-22(e)(1), (4) (2011).
16 Id. art X, div. 2, § 40-263(3).
17 Mobile Food Service Units, supra note 14, at § XIV.
18 Houston, TX Code, art II, div. 1, § 20-38(b)(1)(2010).
19 Id. § 20-38(b)(2) & (5)(2009)
20 City of Los Angeles, Community Development Department, Sidewalk Vending Program. Available at: www.lacity.org/cdd/bus_side.html.
21 New York City, N.Y., Code § 17-307(b)(4) (2011).
22 Id. § 17-307(b)(4)(e).
23 Id. § 17-315 (l).
24 New York City, N.Y., Tit. 24, Health Code § 89.5(a) (2011).
25 Id. § 89.05(a)(2).
26 New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Eat Street Smart. 2008. Available at: www.nyc.gov/html/doh/downloads/pdf/cdp/greencarts-brochure-online.pdf.
27 New York City, N.Y., Code § 17-307(e) (2011).
28 Id. §17-308(c)(1).
29 Id. §17-308(c)(2).
30 Philadelphia, PA Code § 9-205(8)(l) (2009).
31 Philadelphia, PA Health Code § 6-301(3)(a) (2009).
32 Id. § 6-301(8)(b).
33 Philadelphia Dept. of Pub. Health. Food Safety for Mobile Food Vendors: Preparing and Servicing Safe Food from Mobile Food Vending Units in Philadelphia. Available at: www.fsis.usda.gov/OPPDE/fslgrs/Retail/FY01/Philadelphia/VendorBrochure.pdf.
34 Philadelphia, PA Code § 9-203(3)(b) (2011).
35 Phoenix, AZ Code art. XIV, § 10-166(B)(3) (2011).
36 Id. art. II, § 31-24(2).
37 Id. § 31-24(1).
38 Id. art. XIV, § 10-166(B)(2).
39 Id. § 31-24.1(c).
40 Ariz. Food Code § 8-401.10 (2000). Available at: www.azdhs.gov/phs/oeh/rs/pdf/fc2000.pdf.
41 Maricopa County Envtl. Health Code ch. VIII, § 3, regulation (5)(e) (2007).
42 Phoenix, AZ Code art. II, § 31-24(5).
43 Id. art. XIV, § 10-162(A) to (B).
44 Id. § 10-162(F).
45 San Antonio, TX Code art. IV, § 13-64(2) (2009). This exception also applies to prepackaged novelty ice cream, individual portion size non perishable foods, and snow cones or shaved ice.
46 Id. § 13-63(9).
47 Id. § 13-63(12).
48 Id. § 13-62(j).
49 Id. § 13-64(2).
50 Id. § 13-63(a)(10).
51 Id. § 13-62(d).
52 San Diego, Cal. Code § 42.0126.
53 Id. at §54.0122(g).
54 County of San Diego, Dept. of Envtl. Health. Construction and Operational Guide for Mobile Food Facilities and Mobile Support Units. Available at: www.sdcounty.ca.gov/deh/food/pdf/publications_plancheckmff.pdf.
55 San Diego, Cal. Code § 33.1410.
56 Id. at § 42.0103.
57 Id. at § § 42.0130 & 42.0161(m).
58 Id. at § §42.0101.2.
59 San Diego County Code §8 65.104 & 65.106(a)(7)-(9).
60 San Jose, Cal. Code § 6.54.240 (2).
61 Id. at § 6.54.240(1).
62 Id. at § 6.54.205.
63 Id. at § 6.54.260(R)
64 Cal. Health & Safety Code §§ 113715 & 113725 (West 2011).
65 Id. § 114295 (West 2009).
66 San Jose, Cal Code § 6.54.270.
67 San Jose, Cal Resolution No. 74981 (2009).

Source of Grid: http://www.nplanonline.org/

Specific Rules in Los Angeles County

Because Los Angeles bans all food trucks and sidewalk vendors, I am including county and state codes that food trucks within the Los Angeles area follow. Even though they are illegal, there are still 50+ food trucks in the Los Angeles area that go 'rogue'

County and State Rules Include:

• You must obey the posted parking restrictions, including, but not limited to, restrictions on stopping, loading, and parking from either posted signs or painted curbs. Beyond this there are no restrictions on exactly where food trucks can be located.
• You must dispense food from the sidewalk side of the street. No truck may dispense food street side
• You must have a CONSPICUOUS litter receptacle which is clearly marked with a sign requesting its use by patrons In-truck hatch receptacles are NOT sufficient.
• Trash shall be removed from all areas VISIBLE around the truck. The truck shall take all bags with them when vacating an area. Trash is to include all materials originally dispensed from the truck as well as any other items left by patrons, such as cigarette butts.
• The “hatch” of a truck shall be at least 7 feet above the sidewalk in order to avoid patron collisions.
• Trucks must be parked at a Commissary every night.
• Trucks must have a ‘bathroom letter’ from an accessible bathroom with hot water (103-108 degrees), single serving soap, paper towels, kept in clean working order, if vending for over an hour (Cal Code: 114315). In order to operate anywhere for over an hour, you must have permission to use a bathroom within 200ft travel distance of where you’ll be doing business.
• Trucks must have current and valid registration clearly marked on their plates while vending on the street.
• Trucks should have all their permits readily accessible while doing business.
• You must have a business license for the municipality you are doing business in (even if it’s a private catering event). (In Los Angeles this license is free)
• You must have a health permit for the municipality you are doing business in.
Santa Monica Specific Codes:
• SMMC: 6.36.010
• SM: You must be 35 feet from the closest truck
• SM: On a sidewalk of less than 8 feet you must keep 4 feet of the sidewalk clear
• SM: You must be more than 10 feet from the entrance to the front door of a business or 4 feet from a building
• SM: You must be more than 10 feet from any street corner
• Every employee must have a seat with a working seatbelt while moving [Cal Code 27315]
• Trucks shall be cleaned and serviced at least once per day [Cal Code: 114297]
• Employee entrance doors to food preparation areas shall be self-closing and kept closed when not in use [Cal Code: 114303]
• The exterior of a mobile food facility and the surrounding area, as relating to the operation of food service, shall be maintained in a sanitary condition. [Cal code 114317]
• Preparation kitchens must be approved by the Health Department.
• A properly charged and maintained minimum 10 BC-rated fire extinguisher to combat grease fires shall be properly mounted and readily accessible on the interior of any mobile food facility that is equiped with heating elements or cooking equipment [114323(e)]

New York City Rules in More Detail

New York City is restrictive in other ways. Not only do they ban food trucks from metered spots, but they have an exhaustive list of streets and times that food trucks can operate and where. http://www.nyc.gov/html/doh/downloads/pdf/permit/mfv-restricted-streets.pdf
There is a food truck inspection conducted by the city, not the county health dept, http://www.nyc.gov/html/doh/downloads/pdf/permit/mfv_cart_truck_inspection.pdf
And finally the fees for setting up shop are as follows:
  $200.00: Full-term (2 year) or Restricted Area permit fee (check or money order) for units in which food is prepared or processed on-site. (Permit Code H06)
  $75.00: Full-term (2 year) or Restricted Area permit fee (check or money order) for units in which food is pre-packaged or does not involve preparation or processing on-site. (Permit Code H06)
  $35.00: Seasonal (April 1 - October 31) permit fee (check or money order) for units in which food is prepared or processed on-site. (Permit Code H03)
  $15.00: Seasonal (April 1 - October 31) permit fee (check or money order) for units in which food is pre-packaged or does not involve preparation or processing on-site. (Permit Code H03)
  No fee for an honorably discharged veteran of the U.S. Armed Services or the surviving spouse or domestic partner of such veteran, regardless of the type of food sold. (Permit Code H03 or H06)
  $56.00: Fee for Mobile Food Vendor Food Protection Course (certified check, government check or money order only). Payment for the course must be submitted separately from the payment for the permit application or any violations of the Health Code or Administrative Code.
So while NYC is restrictive in terms of locations and times, it’s quite easy in terms of permit fees to get a food truck going in NYC.

Seattle's Neutral Approach

In July of 2011, Seattle dramatically relaxed mobile food vendor rules to be more like Portland's approach to the issue. Prior to this decision, only popcorn, coffee and hot dog vendors were allowed to use public streets.

In Summary:

Curbside trucks pay $2.25 per hour for a four-hour time slot per day to park in the street. Otherwise they can park in private parking lots. They have to stay away from residential neighborhoods, high schools and keep at least 50 feet from restaurants. Food trucks must be parked within 200 feet of a restroom; employees must have access to a  restroom and if a vendor offers seating for customers, there must also be restroom access for patrons.