Food truck reform an all-or-nothing proposition

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Local,DC,Food and Drink,Eric P. Newcomer

When it comes to the mayor's proposed food truck regulations, D.C. Council members are in a bind: They can only vote yes or no.

"The council can only act to approve or disapprove the regulations before us in their entirety," said Vincent Orange, the chair of the Committee on Business, Consumer & Regulatory Affairs, during a hearing Friday. "I can tell you my current thought is that we the council should have an opportunity to seize control of this issue."

Orange, joined by Councilmen David Grosso and Jim Graham, mulled changing District law to give the council the power to change the regulations.

This is the fourth version of the city's proposed food truck regulations. It has been met with howls of disapproval from food truck owners who staged a protest in Farragut Square last Monday.

Graham said the debate over food truck regulations reminded him of a previous city-wide food feud.

"I've been around Washington long enough to remember the debate around sidewalk cafes," Graham said. Ultimately, the District welcomed sidewalk cafes and they have been accepted as part of life in the District.

Food trucks have focused their opposition on two features of the District's proposed regulations. For one, the regulations do not specify how many spaces will be provided in regulated food truck zones. These regulated zones are scattered throughout the city in areas known to attract food trucks, like Farragut Square and L'Enfant Promenade.

In an attempt to address that concern, the District released a map with the number of spaces that they would place in each zone, totalling more than 180 spaces for food trucks and other mobile roadway vendors.

The second line of attack against the regulations has focused on the District's sidewalk size requirements. The regulations mandate that food trucks only park in spaces with at least 10 feet of unobstructed sidewalk space.

City officials say that many spaces in the District meet that requirement, dismissing the concern. Orange said the requirement doesn't "add up" since the regulations only mandate it in regulated areas, not in all cases.

While council members likely face a simple up or down vote on the bill, Nicholas Majett, director of the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, said the administration could begin cracking down on food trucks if regulations are not passed.

"Most of those vendors would not be in compliance with the current law," Majett said. "There may be a time where we have to enforce the law."

enewcomer@washingtonexaminer.com

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