Turlock

City bans mobile food vendors downtown

Melanie Pippin, 5-year-old son Caleb and niece Mazie Kaminski, 6, wait for their order of Mexican food at Tacos Aviña on Center Street in Turlock on Wednesday.
Melanie Pippin, 5-year-old son Caleb and niece Mazie Kaminski, 6, wait for their order of Mexican food at Tacos Aviña on Center Street in Turlock on Wednesday. aalfaro@modbee.com

The city has banned food trucks in most of downtown most of the time, but fans can still get their fill nearby.

The City Council voted 5-0 Tuesday night to make a temporary ban from 2013 permanent. The vote came at the behest of brick-and-mortar business owners who objected that the trucks do not pay the extra property tax for downtown maintenance.

The ban covers the downtown core, which is generally Main Street, and the residential/commercial area on the district’s north side. No trucks operate on these blocks now, and future trucks can seek permits only for special events.

The vote allows food trucks on the south side of downtown, including four that have operated for several years under a permanent canopy on East Avenue. This area is part industrial and lacks the charm and pedestrian-friendliness of the core.

The vote ended a debate that started in 2013 with Christopher Shaun’s plan for a trailer selling smoothies, crepes and other foods at Main and Broadway. He did not address the council Tuesday.

It did hear from Ed Samo, a partner in a restaurant called On Broadway with Two Guys, in support of the rules.

“Food trucks, as much as I love them, really don’t seem to fit in the downtown,” he said. “There’s really no historical look to them. It’s a food truck.”

Samo said allowing these businesses throughout downtown would be unfair to building-based entrepreneurs who have helped revive the district.

Food trucks have become the rage around the nation, with TV shows and celebrity chefs singing their praises. Trucks that serve Mexican food long have been part of life in Turlock and nearby locales.

Jeani Ferrari, a Turlock resident and community leader, urged the council to give food trucks more space downtown.

“It brings in a wonderful element of ethnic and special foods,” said Ferrari, who served more than a decade ago on a committee tasked with reviving downtown.

She also read a letter from Hillary Smith, owner of La Mo Café, in support of the trucks. “We need more reasons for people to visit downtown Turlock, and food trucks should be one of them,” Smith wrote.

The ban involves mobile food vendors who set up shop on private property for more than 30 minutes, said Debra Whitmore, deputy director of development services and planning. It does not apply to people with permits to sell food while traveling on public streets.

Some of the food trucks in the southern part of downtown lie just one block from the no-truck zone. That fact helped convince Councilman Steven Nascimento to support the new rules.

“They may not be appropriate on Main Street,” he said, “but there is nothing that is going to stop me from walking a block to get good food-truck food.”

Bee staff writer John Holland can be reached at jholland@modbee.com or (209) 578-2385.

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