The ongoing fight 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 will allow vendors to sell food throughout the city.
A good cross section of both established brick and mortar restaurant owners and the mobile vendors—who have been restricted to finding a stationary home of their own—expressed their opinions at City Hall on Monday evening.
Hollister Mayor Mia Casey along with the executive directors of Hollister Downtown Association were also in attendance.
“We wanted to hear all sides,” City of Hollister Development Services Director Christy Hopper said. “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 wishing the city would ease up the restrictions.
The current ordinance permits 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 vendors are also restricted to park because they’re allowed just 10 minutes at a time. She mentioned several people have been operating within the city but they haven’t been doing so legally.
The Hollister City Council heard what the public had to say and directed staff to put together a mobile food vending ordinance to outline what the regulations would be.
Hopper is familiar with the process after having worked for the City of Monterey to prepare its mobile food ordinance, allowing for different permitting types.
The permits depend upon what type of food is served, when they operate and options on where they would like to operate.
The ordinance will offer three types of permits starting with a short term, which is parking an hour at a time per block and not returning to the same block for four hours. Vendors would be allowed to set up throughout the city with some restrictions based on health and safety, as well as some restrictions in the residential areas.
The second permit would be for four hours and serve what Hopper calls the “underserved areas” of the city that don’t have the brick and mortar restaurants. She said it’ll be similar to the current ordinance that has mobile vending allowed in general commercial areas, industrial and airport.
A third option is a permit to operate on an undeveloped private property such as a parking lot on an agreement with that property owner, and within the hours of business or a proposed alternative schedule.
“It addresses 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 can be in one spot and the possibility of having undeveloped private property 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.
“That is something that the city will tackle hopefully in the near future,” Hopper said. “It is a desire that especially the mobile food vendors, they really liked that. They like kind of going as a pack”.
Hopper said the brick and mortar community is all for having the food trucks in town but their main concern is the competition aspect of it.
Hopper assured they would address that concern during the next city council meeting on June 5. She also mentioned that City Attorney Mary Lerner will look into whether or not it’s legal for the city to potentially put regulations on parking in front of a restaurant.
“[Restaurant owners] are supportive of the mobile vendors because they do believe they’re mutually beneficial to everybody,” she said. “But [they] did of course express that concern about the competition because of the money that you put into a brick and mortar restaurant versus into a food truck.”
Hopper’s goal as the director of development services, and as a former planner, is always to gain as much consensus as possible.
“Making sure to get the word out to a large cross section of people is imperative,” she said.
Hopper was with the planning division 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 updated the ordinance a couple of times because there are always tweaks that need to be made.
It’s something Hopper hopes the Hollister City Council will take into consideration.
“We’ll roll this out and we’ll figure out what’s working, what’s not working,” she said. “And then we can always go back and amend the ordinance.”