Hollister council approves amending municipal code to allow more opportunities for mobile food trucks

After a unanimous decision on June 5 by Hollister city leaders, mobile food venders who have been asking local government to allow them to set up their trucks throughout the city will be able to do so after July 20 when the amended ordinance goes into effect.

Councilmember Dolores Morales was absent.

The revamped ordinance addresses terminology associated with the trucks and zoning areas where they will be permitted. It increases short-term permits from one hour to an hour and 59 minutes at Councilmember Tim Burns’ suggestion, will come back to council for a second reading June 20 and would then go into effect July 20. It defines mobile food trucks as any motorized vehicle designed primarily for dispensing food.

Venders will be required to obtain permits at $156.95 annually from the Planning Division.

Joseph Elmhorst wondered if he would need a separate business license for each of the three mobile food trucks he plans to set up around the city. He was told he would have to have a license for each truck. He told the council that it didn’t matter because he would be at the Planning Office the morning of July 20 to pay for three of them.

During a town hall meeting on May 22, Hollister Development Services Director Christine Hopper explained the revamped ordinances that would allow food trucks to operate almost anywhere in the city, subject to a new three-tier permit system.

“The City of Hollister has been noticing an influx of mobile vendors that wish to operate within the city,” Hopper told the council June 5. “Our existing code is very outdated. It severely limits zones where operations can occur and the timeframes where mobile food vending can occur.”

As an example, she said under the current ordinance a mobile vendor in the public right-of-way can only stop for a period of 10 minutes to provide service to a customer and severely limits where mobile vendors are allowed.

“The applicability of locations for the new ordinance is citywide,” she said. “The permit types are attempting to address all locations within the city and apply new rules and regulations.”          

According to Hopper, there will be three types of permits issued through the Planning Division:

  • Short-term Operations within the Public Right-of-Way that includes all zones. Before it was adopted, an amendment changed the one hour limitation that mobile food trucks could operate between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. to one hour and 59 minutes. This was because after two hours restroom facilities would have to be provided. Also, they cannot park in front of a private residence. They will maintain a 50-foot distance from a single-family residence, measuring from the property line to the food truck. They are prohibited from parking on Fourth Street between Westside Blvd. and Monterey Street because though streets are very busy. They will be required either to move to another location with the same requirements or they can return to the first location after four hours have passed.
  • Long-term within the Public Right-of-Way operations are permitted for four hours between 6 a.m. and midnight in the North Gateway commercial, industrial, and manufacturing zoning districts (airport area). Mobile Food Trucks can operate in the parking lots of public parks if it is safe for vehicle queueing.
  • Developed Private Property Operations are permitted in parking lots of businesses in commercial, industrial, manufacturing and mixed-use zoning districts between 6 a.m. and midnight. Food truck hours of operation may run concurrently with those of the established business on which they will be located; or the vendors may propose an alternative operation schedule which the vendor and developed private property owner or legal representative have agreed upon, not to exceed the hours of 6:00 a.m. to midnight.

None of the operation modes will allow food trucks to park vertically. They must park parallel to curbs for safety sake.

In addition to the three types of permits, Hopper said, “There are other instances within the city where mobile food vending can occur with a special event permit, which we see at the Farmers Market. That’s already permitted. If somebody wants to have a one-day special event, they can apply for a temporary-use permit through the Planning Office.”

She said permanent mobile food courts are not included in the chapter of the ordinance being discussed.

“A lot of people have been talking about land-use change,” she said, “and looking at where we would actually want to have those within the city. We definitely want to address [that] soon.”

Peter Lago, owner of Johnny’s Bar and Grill in downtown Hollister, said even though the main challenge to a permanent “food vendor collaborative park” is the lack of infrastructure, “there is an opportunity to establish a cultural center that would include mobile vendors, particularly if it were at the old KFC location on San Felipe Street.”

“You have a spot that cannot be developed because it’s setting on a fault line,” he said, “which makes it a perfect parking lot. The only thing it needs is power and some other little services and you’ve got a great spot that you could have a community center.”

According to the agenda document, the ordinance will follow state rules and regulations pertaining to mobile food vending. The purpose of the amended ordinance, according to the document, is to “protect the health, safety, and welfare of the community by providing regulations related to the operation of mobile food truck vendors on public or developed private property.”

The chapter of the ordinance does not enforce or regulate human-powered push carts, or other non-self-propelled vehicles, including trailers. Such vendors are regulated by other chapters of the city code or by other state or local laws.

Councilmember Rolan Resendiz said the four-hour, long-term permit was too limiting. He wanted the food trucks to be able to go anywhere in the city under the four-hour permit. Hopper said that would eliminate the need for the one-hour permit but it would be up to the council to extend the four-hour permits throughout the city. She said the long-term permits were designed primarily for underserved areas where people work but lack nearby food services.

Councilmember Rick Perez recommended adopting the resolution under consideration with only the amendment to increase the one-hour permit to one hour, 59 minutes, and to adjust it after six months. The motion was approved without Resendiz’s recommendation.

Related stories:

Hollister to consider easing food truck restrictions | BenitoLink

The Steak Stop Food Truck opens a permanent location | BenitoLink

John Chadwell

John Chadwell is a freelance photojournalist with additional experience as a copywriter, ghostwriter, scriptwriter, and novelist. He is a former U.S. Navy Combat Photojournalist and is an award-winning writer, having worked for magazine, newspapers, radio and television. He has a BA in Journalism and Mass Communications from Chapman University and graduate studies at USC Cinema School. John worked as a scriptwriting consultant, and his own script, “God’s Club,” was produced and released in 2016. He has also written eight novels, ranging from science fiction to true crime, which are sold on Amazon. To contact John Chadwell, send an email to: johnchadwell@benitolink.com.

John Chadwell worked as a feature, news and investigative reporter for BenitoLink on a freelance basis for seven years, leaving the role in Sept. 2023. Chadwell first entered the U.S. Navy right out of...