The Los Altos City Council last week voted 4-1 in favor of an ordinance that would regulate food truck operations within city limits.
Councilwoman Jan Pepper cast the lone dissenting vote after asking her colleagues to forgo the ordinance in favor of a community workshop with the affected residents “to come up with something that’s workable for everyone.”
“Some people are happy and some people aren’t,” Pepper said. “If we get more input in a different kind of setting, perhaps we can come up with an ordinance that works better.”
The final vote followed a lengthy discussion of the original draft presented to the council at its Jan. 14 meeting. It called for banning mobile food vendors from parking within 300 feet of public schools, parks, playgrounds and recreational facilities.
The ordinance was introduced after a group of neighbors near Los Altos High School – a popular food-truck destination – submitted a petition asking for a food-truck ban in residential areas. The Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District also asked the city to intervene, citing childhood obesity concerns.
The council voted unanimously in favor of the ordinance without the 300-foot restriction at its Jan. 14 meeting, with some councilmembers commenting that the provision would simply move food-truck operations farther into residential areas. City Attorney Jolie Houston said California case law prevented an outright ban of mobile food vendors within the city.
The ordinance defines several restrictions on the operation of mobile food vendors within the city. It bans food trucks within 100 feet of intersections and 15 feet from private driveways and mandates litter receptacles and cleanup within 100 feet of the vending area. It also limits operations from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays.
Residents weigh in
Prior to the final vote, two neighbors offered differing opinions of the ordinance.
Los Altos resident John Wagner said the ordinance was inadequate and told the council that it “weakened it further” by eliminating the 300-foot ban.
“The community and the school district are united in wanting the vendors gone,” he said.
Rick Harker, another nearby neighbor, offered a different take and commended the council for eliminating the specific provision.
“I just want to say we’re all very pleased and thankful for what the council did last time in not pushing the (food) trucks back into the neighborhoods. … I know there are a lot of bad choices, but this is probably the best of the bad choices,” he said.
Prior to casting her final vote, Councilwoman Val Carpenter said that while she was sympathetic to the plight of some neighbors near the high school, she couldn’t support altering the new city ordinance. She noted that even a ban as far as 1,500 feet from the school – as suggested by some neighbors – would still be “easily walkable by high school students.”
“Putting (food trucks) any distance away from the high school, while it would solve the problems for Jardin (Avenue) neighbors, doesn’t solve the problem overall,” she said. “It merely moves it to another neighborhood, so I can’t support kicking this particular can down the road to appease one group of neighbors by alienating another (neighborhood).”