The ongoing fight for a mobile food scene in Hollister continues after more than 30 people attended an informal meeting to discuss a new ordinance in the works that will allow vendors to sell food throughout the city.
A good number of brick-and-mortar restaurant owners and mobile vendors — who have been limited in finding a permanent home — voiced their opinions at City Hall Monday night.
Hollister Mayor Mia Casey along with the executive directors of the Hollister Downtown Association were also in attendance.
“We wanted to hear all sides,” said Hollister City Development Services Director Christy Hopper. “Last night was, I would say, a very successful meeting.”
Over the past year, public comments have poured in to the Hollister City Council, mostly from mobile food vendors who want the city to ease the restrictions.
The current ordinance allows limited locations for mobile food vendors, such as industrial areas north of the intersection of McCloskey and San Felipe streets and north of the intersection of Fallon and San Felipe streets, along with the Hollister Municipal Airport.
Hopper said vendors are also limited in parking because they are only allowed 10 minutes at a time. She mentioned that some people have operated within the city, but they have not done so legally.
The Hollister City Council listened to 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 as he worked for the city of Monterey to prepare its mobile food ordinance, allowing for different types of permits.
Permits depend on the type of food served, when they operate and the options of where they would like to operate.
The ordinance will offer three types of permits starting with a short term, which is parking one hour in each block and not returning to the same block for four hours. Vendors will be allowed to set up throughout the city with some restrictions based on health and safety, as well as some restrictions on residential areas.
The second pass would be for four hours and serve what Hopper calls “underserved areas” of the city that don’t have brick-and-mortar restaurants. She said it would be similar to the current ordinance that allows mobile vending in general commercial, industrial and airport areas.
A third option is a permit to operate on undeveloped private property, such as a parking lot in an agreement with that property owner, and within business hours or a proposed alternative schedule.
“It addresses what you can do in public right and develop private property with an agreement,” she said.
Some questions raised during the meeting included how many vendors can 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 restroom facilities and an improved parking lot.
“This is something the city will hopefully address in the near future,” Hopper said. “It’s a wish that especially the mobile food vendors, they really liked it. They like to go in packs.”
Hopper said the brick-and-mortar community is all for having food trucks in town, but their main concern is the competition aspect.
Hopper assured that they will address this concern during the next city council meeting on June 5th. She also mentioned that City Attorney Mary Lerner will look into whether it is legal for the city to impose potential rules on parking in front of a restaurant.
“[Restaurant owners] are supporters of mobile vendors because they believe they are mutually beneficial for everyone,” she said. “But [they] certainly expressed that concern about competition because of the money you put into a brick-and-mortar restaurant versus a food truck.”
Hopper’s goal as director of development services and as a former planner is always to gain as much consensus as possible.
“Making sure the word gets out to a large number of people is imperative,” she said.
Hopper was with the city of Monterey’s planning division from 2008-2016 and was part of the team that drafted the new ordinance.
Since her departure to Monterey, they have updated the ordinance several times because there are always changes that need to be made.
It’s something Hopper hopes the Hollister City Council will consider.
“We’re going to roll this out and figure out what works, what doesn’t,” she said. “And then we can always go back and change the ordinance.”