Stakeholders make progress on South Lake Tahoe food truck regulations | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Stakeholders make progress on South Lake Tahoe food truck regulations

The city hosted a two-session Mobile Vending Workshop Thursday, Aug. 2, and about 20 people showed up at each discussion.

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — Stakeholders have made progress on potential changes to the city's food truck policies, but more work is needed.

That is according to an update presented to City Council by staff Aug. 18. Food truck policies have been a topic of conversation during the past year.

The city's current policy does not license the longterm operation of food trucks. Instead, vendors are forced to get a special, one-time use permit even if the vendor is on private property and has the consent of the property owner.

The policy, food truck proponents argue, make it overly burdensome to regularly operate a food truck in South Lake Tahoe.

Since making its way on to council's radar, individual councilors have stated a desire to see both sides reach consensus on a policy that removes some of the barriers while also not angering brick-and-mortar restaurants, which fear being undercut by mobile vendors.

On several issues there has been consensus, according to Hilary Roverud, deputy director of development services.

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In particular, there is general support for events that feature food trucks. That process would allow vendors to operate in one centralized location that is compatible with the community. That system would operate under the current permitting process.

An previous attempt to organize such an event ran into too many roadblocks.

Local promotion company On Course Events tried to organize a three-day food truck event in 2017. The event was scrapped due to limited support combined with overwhelming costs related to the infrastructure needed, the Tribune previously reported.

City staff is looking at how similar events are executed in other communities, with the hope of creating conditions that could attract a food truck promoter.

The other area where there seems to be broad consensus pertains to mobile vendors on city streets. Given that many city streets are not pedestrian friendly, stakeholders agree that it's best to not allow mobile vending on city streets, according to Roverud.

There is less agreement when it comes to regulating food trucks on private property. Beyond the primary question on whether it should be allowed, it is unclear how the city would address related impacts of noise, trash, emissions and food safety. The city wants to create regulations that are compatible with other regulatory agencies' — such as the El Dorado County Department of Environmental Management — policies while also not creating duplicative regulations.

Other questions deal with providing adequate parking and restroom facilities.

And there is concern from brick-and-mortar restaurant owners about being undercut by mobile vendors. Those feelings were shared during a public meeting on the topic back in August.

Speaking during the Sept. 18 City Council meeting, Tahoe Chamber CEO Steve Teshara said the process has been educational. In particular, Teshara has gained insight about the large financial investment required to properly operate a food truck.

The original concerns that food trucks would flood South Lake Tahoe if council eases regulations likely won't happen, he added. Existing food trucks in the region tend to cover a large amount of land, rather than stay put in one location.

"The idea in the beginning many people were afraid … we'd be awash in food trucks, and that was a big concern," he told council. "I don't really see that happening."

Still, there are concerns among brick-and-mortar restaurant owners who have made investments in their facilities, Teshara added.

In commending city staff for their work on the issue to date, some individual members of council said they wanted to see consensus among stakeholders before considering concrete policy changes.

Roverud told council she hoped to have the issue resolved by next summer, presumably the season when food truck activity would be greatest.