Locals discuss possibility of new mobile food ordinance in Hollister – SanBenito.com

Locals discuss possibility of new mobile food ordinance in Hollister – SanBenito.com

The ongoing battle for a mobile food scene in Hollister continues as more than 30 people attended an informal meeting to discuss a new ordinance in the works that would allow vendors to sell food throughout the city.

A good cross-section of established brick-and-mortar restaurant owners and the mobile vendors — who are limited to finding a stationary home of their own — voiced their opinions at City Hall Monday night.

Hollister Mayor Mia Casey along with the executive directors of Hollister Downtown Association were also in attendance.

“We wanted to hear all sides,” said City of Hollister Development Services Director Christy Hopper. “Last night was, I would say, a very successful meeting.”

Over the past year, public comments have made their way to Hollister City Council, mostly from mobile food vendors who wish the city would ease the restrictions.

The current ordinance allows limited locations for mobile food vendors, such as the industrial areas north of the McCloskey and San Felipe Road intersection and north of Fallon and San Felipe Road intersection, along with the Hollister Municipal Airport.

Hopper said that vendors are also limited in parking because they are only allowed 10 minutes at a time. She mentioned that several people were operating in the city, but they were not doing so legally.

The Hollister City Council heard what the public had to say and directed staff to draft a mobile food vending ordinance to outline what the regulations would be.

Hopper is familiar with the process after working for the city of Monterey to prepare its mobile food ordinance, which allows for different types of permits.

The permits depend on what kind of food is served, when they operate and options about where they would like to work.

The ordinance would offer three types of permits starting with short-term, which is parking for one hour at a time per block and not returning to the same block for four hours. Vendors will be allowed to set up throughout the city with certain restrictions based on health and safety, as well as certain restrictions in the residential areas.

The second permit will be for four hours and serve what Hopper calls the “underserved areas” of the city that lack the brick-and-mortar restaurants. She said it would be similar to the current ordinance that allowed mobile vending in general commercial areas, industries and airports.

A third option is a permit to operate on undeveloped private property such as a parking lot upon agreement with that property owner, and within the hours of business or a proposed alternate schedule.

“It speaks to what you can do in the public right of way and developed private property with an agreement,” she said.

Some questions raised during the meeting included how many vendors could be in one location and the possibility of undeveloped private property being turned into what Hopper called a mobile food truck court.

The food court idea requires more thought because there are requirements, including toilet facilities and an improved parking lot.

“It’s something the city will hopefully tackle in the near future,” Hopper said. “It’s a desire that especially the mobile food vendors, they really liked it. They like to go as a pack.”

Hopper said the brick-and-mortar community is all for having the food trucks in town, but their biggest concern is the competition aspect of it.

Hopper assured they will address that concern at the next City Council meeting on June 5. She also mentioned that City Attorney Mary Lerner will look into whether it is legal for the city to possibly put regulations on parking in front of a restaurant.

“[Restaurant owners] support the mobile providers because they believe they are mutually beneficial for everyone,” she said. “But [they] obviously expressed that concern about the competition because of the money you put into a brick-and-mortar restaurant versus a food truck.”

Hopper’s goal as the director of development services, and as a former planner, is always to get as much consensus as possible.

“It’s essential to make sure the word gets out to a large cross-section of people,” she said.

Hopper was with the planning department in the city of Monterey from 2008-2016 and was part of the team that prepared the new ordinance.

Since her departure in Monterey, they have updated the ordinance several times because there are always adjustments that need to be made.

It’s something Hopper hopes the Hollister City Council will consider.

“We’ll roll it out and we’ll find out what works, what doesn’t work,” she said. “And then we can always go back and amend the ordinance.”

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