County to make food trucks ‘legit’

Daniel Mintz
Mad River Union

HUMBOLDT – Food-serving trucks and trailers technically violate Humboldt County code but they’re in the process of being made compliant.

At its June 13 meeting, the county’s Board of Supervisors directed the development of rules and regulations for food trucks.

Board Chair Virginia Bass sponsored the agenda item and said food truck owners who operate in unincorporated areas of her district are “very confused” about their level of code compliance.

Planning Director John Ford said that county code requires that restaurants – which food trucks technically are – be located within buildings. He said that either “an exemption or allowance for food trucks to operate” needs to be created.

When that’s done, food trucks will be defined as a specific use type in the county’s zoning ordinance. Other aspects would include determining where they would be located and the process for reviewing them.

“It has caused heartburn in some areas that have restaurants that are operating, because they feel that it’s not fair to have food trucks in the same area,” Bass said. “But there are areas in the county where there are no existing restaurants.”

According to a written staff report, “Food trucks are a growing trend in many places, as evidenced by the fact that both the City of Arcata and City of Eureka have provisions which allow food trucks to occupy permanent locations in their commercial districts.”

The staff report also states that food trucks provide “an alternative source of food to consumers and encourages business development” in addition to generating sales tax revenue and providing jobs.

Supervisors agreed. Supervisor Rex Bohn said regulations would clarify the “grey areas that are causing the most angst” regarding where food trucks can operate.

Supervisor Estelle Fennell said location issues are relevant to rural areas but there are already models of regulation the county can look to.

“Generally speaking, I think we’re going to be looking at what Eureka and Arcata have done,” she said, adding that “I’m assuming that there would be the opportunity for people who see it as taking away their clientele to weight in.”

Earlier, the issue of food trucks operating without property owners’ knowledge was discussed and Fennell supported having a permission requirement.

Ford also used the term “grey area” to describe the zoning of food truck operation, but said compliance issues haven’t arisen because there haven’t been any complaints.

Supervisor Ryan Sundberg said he’s in favor of “making them legit,” especially since one in McKinleyville is popular and “serves really good food.”

Supervisor Mike Wilson said food trucks actually complement restaurants.

“In many places, they’re finding that co-locating with brick and mortar has brought in more business because it creates a culture of food and hubs of dining in places that were kind of deserts in regard to variety,” he continued. “I’m all about the diversity in the ability to eat good food in Humboldt County.”

Supervisors unanimously directed the creation of food truck regulations. They’ll be written as an amendment to the county’s zoning ordinance and will return for board consideration after being reviewed by the Planning Commission.


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