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Santa Monica Bans Late-night Food Trucks on Main Street  

By Jason Islas
Lookout Staff

November 10, 2011 -- A bustling stretch of Main Street Santa Monica will see fewer food trucks after the City Council on Tuesday voted to ban them during the early morning hours on weekends.

The new ordinance will prevent food trucks from parking and serving crowds as they leave Main Street bars between Ocean Park Boulevard and Marine Street.

The limited ordinance only prevents food trucks from parking on the half-mile stretch of Main Street on Fridays and Saturdays after the bars close – between one and three in the morning – in order to prevent unsafe sidewalk crowding, according to staff.

“The crowds at one-thirty, two o'clock in the morning have become so great, we've had to staff additional officers” at an expense of $67,000 in “unfunded overtime,” Deputy Police Chief Alfonso Venegas told the council.

It isn't just the cost that should be a concern, city staff argued.

“The sidewalk becomes unusable,” said City Attorney Marsha Moutrie. “Pedestrians cross in the middle of the street and many of them are intoxicated,” she added.

Moutrie said the crowds create “a dangerous situation” can't be kept under control without staffing even more officers.

To drive the point home, Captain Carol Larson showed a two-minute video of Main Street just after the bars close.

The video showed people jaywalking and hailing cabs from the middle of the street. It also showed dozens of people sitting on curbs next to food trucks, their legs in parking spaces, while they ate their food.

Larson said that the presence of the food trucks creates “an attractive place to congregate” and “a party atmosphere.”

Council member Terry O'Day wasn't convinced that banning food trucks outright was the best solution, pointing out that banning them from the small stretch of Main Street could just move the problems caused by lingering crowds a few streets over.

“If the density is the problem, maybe spreading [the food trucks] one per block, for example, might help,” O'Day said. “I'm not convinced we are taking as limited an approach as I'd like to see.

“The last thing I'd want to do would be to sterilize the street,” O'Day added. “We have more people on Main Street these days, and I see the food trucks as an amenity to that.”

Moutrie said the council could always revisit the issue.

“If once we get this dangerous situation under control and more safe, we can always go back and... find new opportunities for food trucks in this area,” Moutrie said.

She reminded the council that the ordinance is limited to address the most serious safety concern posed by the presence of food trucks in Santa Monica.

Council member Kevin McKeown was also concerned that banning the trucks on Main Street could cause them to move into the nearby residential areas, creating problems with noise and safety.

He amended the proposed ordinance with a direction to staff to come back in 90 days to report on what the impact has been.

The ordinance passed with a five to one vote, with O'Day casting the sole dissenting vote. Council member Pam O'Connor was absent.


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