Carne asada crackdown? City looks to regulate pop-up food stands setting up on sidewalks, street corners

A state law protects sidewalk food vendors from prosecution, but doesn’t stop cities from regulating them and issuing fines. Palm Springs currently has no regulations in place.
Tacos Lex, which sets up in a vacant lot at the intersection of Indian Canyon and Racquet Club most evenings, would face strict regulations under rules being discussed by city officials at a Nov. 28 meeting.

Acting on concerns expressed by some in the business community, the Palm Springs City Council will consider moves to begin regulating street food vendors at its next meeting, scheduled for Monday, Nov. 28. A revised food truck ordinance could follow.

At issue: Deputy City Manager Flinn Fagg said Tuesday the concerns included vendors blocking on-street parking and access to businesses, setting up on private property without permission, and producing smoke and odor.

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  • Currently, there is no local ordinance related to street food vendors, including those who set up on sidewalks and private property adjacent to public rights of way.

A 2018 state law protects street vendors from being criminally charged if they have a vending violation, and it also stops cities from trying to ban them outright. However, as long as cities stay within the guidance of state law, they can make some restrictions.

  • In drafting the new regulations, Fagg explained, the city would make it easier to enforce restrictions and, “provide a reasonable regulatory scheme for street vendors while protecting public health, safety and welfare.”

Going forward: If passed as currently written, Fagg said the most significant changes for street vendors contained in the regulations would be the requirement of a business license and new restrictions on the time and place they can sell.

But wait: A closer inspection of the proposed regulations spells out exactly what type of behavior the city hopes to clamp down on. For example:

  • Street vendors would be allowed in public rights-of-way six feet away from the sidewalk, in public parks, and in commercial and industrial zones. They would not be allowed at intersections, near farmers’ markets, or near the entrances or windows of buildings.

  • They would not be allowed to use an open flame or charcoal fuel, attach or use electrical cords, gas lines, or water lines, or set up tables, chairs, shade structures, freestanding signs, or store merchandise.

Bottom line: Vendors who violate the rules could have their business license suspended or revoked after four or more violations. The ordinance also outlines the possibility of fines ranging from $100 to $1,000.

  • Food trucks, which are not protected under the state’s street vendor laws, would not be included in the new ordinance as they are regulated under a separate ordinance. However, city staff is prepared to draft a revised ordinance for food trucks if the city council requests it.

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