County Further Liberalizes Food Truck Regulations

(July 29) Food truck vendors made an even further inroad into the once-hostile territory of San Bernardino County this week, with the board of supervisors liberalizing existing regulations to allow licensed operators of the vehicles to temporarily set up at virtually any location in the county’s unincorporated areas.
Until 2012, the county and a number of cities in the county refused to give food trucks operation permits altogether, the ostensible reason being that they were deemed a potential health threat. More pointedly, however, the ban was aimed at preserving the livelihoods of traditional restaurateurs operating out of brick and mortar establishments. This was in stark contrast to neighboring Los Angeles County, where mobile food operations have flourished since the turn of the millennium
In 2012, the board of supervisors approved an ordinance allowing food trucks to ply their owners’ trade at special events, conditional upon the operators obtaining temporary special use permits.
Last fall, the board revisited the issue, hearing from Tom Hudson, the director of San Bernardino County’s Land Use Services Department. Hudson said at that time, “Chapter 85.19 Food Truck Event Permits allows food trucks to operate only at designated, organized events at pre-approved fixed locations, subject to the operator obtaining an approved food truck event permit.”
In October, the board did away with the need for operators to obtain a temporary permit if there were fewer than 100 people in attendance at the event, based on employers, contractors and persons hosting private parties with a small number of attendees having expressed concerns that the food truck event permits process was too restrictive and costly. An amendment created two levels of events – minor ones involving 100 to 499 people and major events involving 500 or more. The requirement that the trucks serve an event remained.
The action taken by the board of supervisors this week dispensed with the requirement that the trucks could only operate in connection with an “event” and freed the food trucks to go beyond an area near some pre-scheduled public gathering and essentially park and sell their goods anywhere within unincorporated areas of the county. The county has 24 incorporated cities.
In the words of Corwin Porter, a division chief of the county’s department of environmental services, the action by the board “amend[s] San Bernardino County Code sections 33.0402 and 33.0408 to remove the definition of a food truck event and the remaining prohibitions related to food trucks.” Thus food trucks are able to sell their wares at any location in the unincorporated area whether or not any special public events are being held.
On July 2, the county planning commission recommended allowing food trucks full autonomy within the unincorporated county areas. On Tuesday, with supervisor Robert Lovingood absent, the board voted 4-0 to revise the ordinance.
The trucks are still prohibited or substantially restricted within many incorporated county cities. These incorporated sectors, with their significantly greater populations and population densities than unincorporated county areas, represent what are potentially the most lucrative trade locations in the county for the food trucks.

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