Ban on Downtown Food Trucks Imminent?

David Fransen|

The City of Turlock may soon ban food trucks from operating in the heart of downtown, putting an end to the fast-growing trend of mobile food vendors.

The ban would bar any new food trucks from opening in Turlock's downtown core and surrounding districts. The two existing food trucks in the area – Vida Vital, a smoothie and wrap truck, and Saucy Girls, specializing in sliders and hot dogs – would be forced to move by Jan. 1, 2015.

Both of the new food trucks opened on West Main Street in the past year.

But those openings weren't without controversy. The Turlock Downtown Property Owners Association voiced their concern with the food trucks and lobbied the Turlock City Council to temporarily halt any new food trucks from opening.

“They do a substantial impact to the local restaurant business, and that is obvious, I do believe,” said Joel Carter, a retired City of Turlock Building Inspector.

Now, the City of Turlock is set to permanently ban food trucks from Downtown Turlock as part of a massive zoning ordinance update, which would effectively replace Turlock's existing zoning ordinance wholesale. The zoning ordinance update will also include long-awaited revisions to sign and noise ordinances, as well as new rules governing cargo containers, accessory structures, water efficient landscaping, and electrified fences.

The food truck change, though, has taken center stage in a battle between longstanding downtown businesses and a new era of entrepreneurs.

“It's a hot topic, so someone's talking about it,” said Turlock Planning Commissioner Nick Hackler.

The trucks hurt downtown businesses in several ways, detractors say.

Food truck vendors don't have to meet the same stringent – and costly – building codes and laws that brick-and-mortar businesses do, putting restaurants at a competitive advantage. That lets food trucks offer lower prices, stealing business from restaurants.

“There are very, very few requirements to be a mobile food vendor,” Carter said. “… We have the least requirements of maybe any city in the valley.”

And food trucks don't pay the Turlock Downtown Property Owners Association tax assessment. All brick-and-mortar businesses pay 42 cents per square foot to fund downtown programs. As the food trucks operate on vacant lots without permanent buildings, the food trucks can enjoy the benefits of being in downtown without paying the costs.

The aesthetics of food trucks can also be undesirable to some business owners, and not in keeping with Downtown Turlock's style. That may discourage some from visiting Downtown Turlock, but others are attracted to food trucks which have become hip landmarks of major U.S. cities.

Food truck owners admit they enjoy some competitive advantages, but note disadvantages as well. Food trucks must move daily, visit a commissary for cleaning and food prep, and incur costs related to fuel and off-site food storage that brick-and-mortar restaurants do not. And food trucks have neither a permanent physical location nor indoor dining, making it more difficult to attract customers – especially on a rainy day.

Supporters note that the food trucks create local jobs, from those on the truck to commissary employees and even truck maintenance personnel. And it's better to put the vacant lots where food trucks are parking to some business use, supporters say.

“I'd rather have the spirit of commerce than empty lots,” Peterson said.

The new ban wouldn't affect so-called “itinerant vendors,” like the Cupcake Lady truck. Food trucks would still be allowed to move from place to place, but could spend no more than 30 minutes in any one location before moving.

The zoning ordinance overhaul will return to the Turlock Planning Commission for an expected vote on Feb. 6. The ordinance change would then advance to the Turlock City Council for a final vote.

Comments 20

  1. X says:

    It constantly seems like the city does everything in its power to prevent businesses from growing and why is downtown the only place that they can’t be. Heaven forbid there is more options or reasons to go downtown.

  2. Swansong says:

    Hey X, could it be the council, first Vanderweide, Howze, Spycher, Bublak, now Nascimento, is bought & sold by too many good ole’ boys, (Swanson, Macedo, Santos, Tate, (MR. Hilmar Cheese, etc) and the real reason why they don’t want mobile food trucks, is they are afraid their overpriced meals won’t be able to compete. Give me Saucy Girls anytime. The person who mentioned empty buildings and parking lots, let’s run her for council. Like they say in Sacramento, follow the money and see where it goes. Same goes for the high school drop-out who runs this website.

  3. Joe Brain says:

    This is one of the dumbest things for the city to ban. I don’t see how having food trucks in the downtown area would deter people from visiting the downtown areas. As it is right now there is nothing to offer anyone to even go downtown on a regular basis. The shops close early daily and aren’t even open on the weekends. Visitor’s can’t be drawn to a downtown area that is deserted after 5pm daily and on the weekends. I know that there are great restaurants in the downtown area but a person can only eat so much food.

  4. Liz says:

    I love the food trucks in downtown Turlock! It is a fast and convenient way to get food, plus the food is great! 😮

  5. Turlock Hates Business says:

    Turlock city council and planning commission is a joke. The downtown core is an even bigger joke because….it doesn’t exist. Go get their little handy packet that reads about their downtown core and see if anything they preach applies to any of the businesses operating. Also, you must know someone on the council or planning commission to open a business. Also Rose and Adrienne are liars and are terrible at their jobs. Talk with Katie if you need honest help.

  6. Y says:

    Would it be fair to say, the business’s that are complaining about the food trucks are lazy??? I though business competition/commerce competition is health for a community? Besides food trucks are technically “fast food” what are our fast food options downtown(Jack in the box)? Bottom line any time you bring in new business, it brings in people, people bring money, after those people grab a quick bite to eat they stay, and go into one of the naighboring establishments for a drink or buy a shirt. I think the city of Turlock is missing a trend and an opportunity!

  7. t says:

    Inquiring minds want to know what these vendors are using for restroom facilities???

  8. Jami says:

    Too bad. I’m from Turlock and it’s a pretty quiet place. But here in sac town we have vendors that get together in one place occasionally and it’s a nice big family party environment. There’s music and familes come to eat and play outside together. Maybe Turlock should try putting together events surrounding the idea of food trucks and some local bands for a night once a month when the weather is nice. I think it would be a good thing for the community.

  9. CONCERNED CITIZEN says:

    aww is one of those overpriced downtown resturants crying the blues because there overpriced and not getting everybody’s filthy money? that’s what it sure looks like!a food truck starts making a lil money, or more than that overpriced downtown cry baby resturant and first thing THEY CRY TO THE CITY, WAAAAAAAAA THERE MAKING MORE MONEY THAN OUR BUISNESS! let’s get them out of turlock so i can take all the money from people!my self i like food trucks, and taco trucks!, ONE GRIPE!, they do need more fda,inspections!, but let the low class, and middle class buisness person make a dollar! JESUS CHRIST! DON’T BE SUCH A FREAKIN SCROUGE!;)

  10. Final decision? says:

    The article says that the final decision is coming up soon, and looking at the comments on Facebook shows us that there are a lot of people against the ban who want their voices heard. Has this been going on in discussions for awhile? I thought these types of things with the city take several meetings and as someone who is against it, I would have liked to know about this before it’s already come to a final decision.so that we could have gotten a group together to go to the meeting to share our opinion before it came to be final. Oh well 🙁 bye bye food trucks.

  11. Guest says:

    Why are we banning food trucks when the city should be banning the real fast food restaurants! I mean come on turlock, do we really need 3 mcdonalds(4 if u wanna count walmart), 3 jack n the boxes, 2 taco bells, 2 carls jrs, 2 burger kings, 2 wendys and god knows how many PIZZA parlors!! Oh and lets not forget starbucks, good lord 5 of them – oh wait 6 if u wanna count inside safeway! (I believe its starbucks) anyhoot theres 3 coffee shops there within walking distance of each other. Seriously, there is one in and out and its always packed! If people really wanna eat something they will wait for it.

    Im sorry but id choose a food truck over those processed food joints, every time. Maybe they should ban those joints and see how much more business it will generate at these “dowtown” restaurants, and lets not forget the most important factor, see how healthier turlock will become!

  12. jmitchell says:

    All excellent comments here so ill try not to repeat what others have already said…What I find most hillariou/sad is that the downtown property owners association is once again behind something that discourages both business and visitors making our downtown a true destination. There are hardly any events and the ones that remain are so diminished that its become running joke. The Farmers Market has several food trucks and stalls and that doesn’t take away from brick and mortar businesses. The food trucks,BTW, have to be certified through the Stanislaus Co Dept of Environmental Resources. Also, there is another article on TCN about adding more stores to Monte Vista crossings and you don’t hear all those nearby stores complaining…and might add that the city council and the downtown association might actually WANT to do something to keep the dollars downtown and not have it all spent at big box stores and fast food joints. they should be embracing this growing trend, not driving business away from the one area that makes our little town unique! Way to go TDPOA- any other brilliant ideas in store for 2014?

  13. the real deal says:

    the article points out why food trucks will be banned: taxes! unless you pay up you can’t be in turlock. the turlock downtown association is nothing but a glad handing group for cronyism that seeks out to kill business. this is why turlock is a (*edited by tcn)..

  14. What a bunch of podunk idiots! says:

    Way to prove you are a town full of scared-of-improvement, podunk, hillbillies, Turlock! Ban entrepreneurship in general while you are at it. But don’t do anything about the obvious homeless tweaker and crime problem your churches and government programs are attracting. Turlock is ANTI-BUSINESS, ask anyone who has opened a small business in this dusty, hay-covered town. The anti-small business attitude of City Council and the (*edited by tcn) mayor that needs to be replaced explain why it sucks so much here. Everything that is novel and cool goes away because of sore losers like the Turlock Downtown Property Owners Mafia. I will be sure to boycott ALL downtown businesses (except the food trucks) and campaign for others to do so as well. There’s nothing good down there anyway.

  15. Katelynn Delao says:

    Maybe if restrants lowerd there prices people would eat at them but u can’t ban food trucks there awthentic and people passing threw turlock would like to have a quick meal not sit at a table forever waiting for there food and pay a rediculous price for a small ammont of food ….

  16. Mrs. X says:

    I wish everyone would stop lumping together “all downtown businesses” for making this decision. I can guarantee you most business owners have zero say in this. The property owners do, but the proprietors, for the most part, have no say. Given that Latif’s allows the Cupcake Lady to park in their lot, I’d say their perspective is pretty clear on this. As in all other towns, there are a few who have their personal fortunes invested and they are pulling the strings. The rest of the business owners are like you and me, middle class citizens trying to eek out a living. Boycott “downtown” and you boycott the few small businesses left in town and across this country and destroy the lives of people who have taken the chance on a small business. That’s just not fair.

  17. jmitchell says:

    It seems as if most of the posters here on this thread agree on one thing: that the Downtown Association is negligent in promoting business and opportunity. and since they don’t do anything to promote market and advertise the downtown businesses on any kind of regular or consistent basis other than sharing a few posts on the Facebook page- and out of the 70,000 residents here, just how many do you even think look at that thing on a regular basis to get all the “latest happenings”?. Why would anyone think that the downtown assoc is remotely interested in facilitating new opportunities? also, as Turlock Hates Business noted that Rose and Adrienne are liars, etc. But did you know that they have a special connection to the TDPOA?

  18. What a bunch of podunk idiots! says:

    Hey Mrs. X, if the downtown businesses don’t approve of what the downtown association is doing to the food trucks, then they should speak up and defend fellow small business people. Their silence on this is compliance with the downtown association and city council’s out-of-line decisions. Why should people who have no dog in the fight have to do all the work? Why should anyone continue to support businesses that just idly sit by while some non-government organization gets to decide who gets to open businesses in Turlock? Why should we shop at all in Turlock when the sales tax we end up spending will line the pockets of the slimy people who are trying to stifle our growth?

  19. Turlockian says:

    Turlock doesn’t want businesses like taco trucks. Open a legitimate business if you want to sell clean healthy prepared food.

  20. DJ's Guest says:

    The reason why “mobile food trucks” aren’t being allowed in downtown is because Matt Swanson bought three downtown properties in foreclosure and wants to make sure his tenants with restaurants don’t have cheaper competition. Swanson tells Nascimento/Bublak what to say, do and vote and then Wasden okays all kinds of behind the scenes deals. Sorta like the TID situation where board members get free power set up and don’t have to pay for knocking over a power pole unless their neighbor sees them do it. Or like a small animal vet in town who has problems disposing of hazardous waste; is that why there’s a “pet” crematorium in downtown Turlock? Isn’t that interesting, we can have a pet burn center but not mobile food trucks?

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