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Mammoth gives mobile food trucks a new look

January 25, 2013

A Thai food truck and a Polish food truck park in a parking lot in Portland, Ore. Mammoth's Planning Commission looked at a town code Wednesday, Jan. 22, that prohibits food trucks in Mammoth Lakes. This code, implemented years ago, now conflicts with a variety of updated California laws. The commission did not act on anything, other than to direct the town staff to work hard on a draft, and to move forward with putting the food truck issue on the road. Photo/Wikicommons

 

Current ordinances conflict with state law

When Mammoth became a town, the town founders were adamant in their opposition to having mobile food trucks in town.

Whoops.

Since Mammoth incorporated in the mid-1980s, both the nature of mobile food trucks—the infamous “roach coaches” of the day—and California state law have come a long way.

Members of the Mammoth Lakes Planning Commission got their first taste of the emerging issue on Wednesday, Jan. 23.

Before the commission was a staff report that presented new zoning code standards regarding the permitting and operations of various types of mobile vendors within the town limits.

The current code prohibits mobile vending on all town streets and roads.

The problem is that the regulation conflicts with a variety of updated California laws, and the staff report indicated Mammoth’s rules “are neither legal nor enforceable.”

“Due to the growing popularity of mobile businesses and, in particular, food trucks, many communities are currently revisiting and revising their regulations and permitting requirements for these types of businesses,” reported Ellen Clark, the town’s principal planner.

Members of the commission, which was recently renamed the Planning and Economic Development Commission, perked right up.

Elizabeth Tenney gave the general idea a thumbs-up.

She said she envisioned a “food court” of some kind, perhaps at the little-used parking lot along Old Mammoth Road, near the bus stop near Main Street.

Portland, Ore., she said, has such an area “and it was filled with people and the food there was just delicious.”

Colin Fernie used his time to enthusiastically endorse food trucks in town, and others on the commission also gave the idea kudos.

If there is a problem that emerged, it is that matching state law with municipal law will require some research.

On top of that, the commission must refine municipal regulations so that they are in tune with what Mammoth actually wants, particularly with an eye toward appearance.

In addition, there are different regulations that apply to moving trucks, such as an ice cream truck, than those that apply to trucks that find a spot and are stationary until they close.

There are health code issues that would have to be considered, along with trash and restroom issues.

Yet there may be a day, Fernie dreamed out loud, that Mammoth might have some late-night spots to grab a bite of this or that, and maybe there will be a little bump in employment possibilities.

Given the minutia of the task at hand, the commission did not act on anything, other than to direct the town staff to work hard on a draft, and to move forward with putting the food truck issue on the road.

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