Palm Springs officials voice support for easing food truck restrictions during debate on sidewalk vendors

“I’m interested in how we can get away from this ‘Palm Springs doesn’t support food trucks’ attitude,” Mayor Grace Garner said. “I’d hate to see Palm Springs keep the limits that we have.”
While popular elsewhere in The Coachella Valley, food trucks — such as this one set up in Indio — are a fairly rare site in Palm Springs. On Thursday, a majority of the City Council indicated it would like to change that.

Acknowledging additional changes were needed to proposed sidewalk vendor regulations, the Palm Springs City Council elected to again postpone a vote on them Thursday evening. Councilmembers also hinted at news that will delight fans of food trucks.

“I’m interested in how we can get away from this ‘Palm Springs doesn’t support food trucks’ attitude,” Mayor Grace Garner said during the Council’s regular meeting. “I’d hate to see Palm Springs keep the limits that we have.”

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A 2018 state law prohibits banning sidewalk vendors, but cities are allowed to impose regulations. Garner’s comments came as councilmembers were providing direction to city staff about additional changes to proposed rules for sidewalk vendors here that were first introduced last November.

As currently proposed, those regulations would include requirements for county health permits and city business licenses and limits on the total space vendors could occupy in public rights of way.

A review of those regulations followed public comments by multiple representatives from The Inland Empire Coalition for Immigrant Justice, who appeared before the Council to help ease public and business community concerns.

Among those concerns were unfounded claims that corporations own many carts used by sidewalk vendors offering tacos, fruit, and other items throughout the city and that encouraging their operation here would hurt area restaurants.

“I applaud the city for the amendments that have been brought up, but ask that you include the street vendors in any future discussions. They can dispel any preconceived notions,” said Bryan Sanchez, an organizer for the Inland Empire group. “We have rarely, if ever, encountered such organizations before.”

Added Juan Espinoza Munoz, an Equal Justice Works fellow who worked with city staff to craft the amended regulations: “This is not just the right thing to do, but what the state intended. There’s a misconception that they’re competing with other businesses, but in reality (street vendors) create foot traffic, which helps promote business. This is something all businesses should want to support.”

Whether the city supports food trucks has long been a topic of debate. While they are not banned here, as some believe, they are prohibited downtown except for special events (including the weekly VillageFest) and not allowed on streets with a speed limit greater than 35 miles per hour. They are permitted on private land but must receive a conditional use permit first.

Councilmember Christy Holstege was first to voice support for easing those restrictions Thursday evening, pointing out that she had hoped to help clear the path for a food truck park in the city — similar to those elsewhere in the valley — but quickly learned that city regulations were too burdensome for food truck operators.

“More people going to food trucks helps our economy,” Holstege said.

Regardless of whether changes to city ordinances will benefit sidewalk vendors, food trucks, or both, most of the Council agreed it needs to be easier for people serving food to the city’s working class to do business in Palm Springs.

“People are confused at all levels about what they’re allowed to do,” said Garner. “We’re talking about businesses that make very little money, so we don’t want it to be overly burdensome to somebody who is just trying to sell a few things.

“I think about the paleteros. If the ice cream man suddenly disappeared from our parks, a lot of parents would be outraged. These are businesses that are part of our culture and part of our community. There are some misconceptions that have been thrown around, but this is overall a positive thing.”


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