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Landrieu Dishes Food Truck Compromise
Updated 3:55 p.m.
After vetoing a proposed food truck ordinance, Mayor Mitch has released a revised proposal of a pilot program that expand mobile meal opportunities in the Crescent City. The changes come after a yearlong debate on the issue, and are designed to streamline business operations for street vendors, especially those on wheels. Food truck operators were involved in drafting the new legislation, and are onboard with the changes, according to a food truck operator who has been involved with the process since the beginning.
Council Vice President Stacy Head championed the movement to increase permitting, decrease regulations, and revise guidelines for food truck operators. Head and District B Councilmember LaToya Cantrell authored the new legislation on behalf of the city.
In keeping with her vote in favor of the initial food truck ordinance that was eventually vetoed, Cantrell seems to have come on board after expressing concerns over proximity to other restaurants, restroom and sanitation accommodations, and insurance issues in a previous City Council meeting.
Similar to the vetoed changes, the new proposal ups permit limits by 100, and retains the zoning map of approved locations for food trucks to hawk their goods. Under the legislation, four-wheeled fare will be able to set up in parts of the Biomedical District, the Treme, and the CBD. However, Frenchmen Street and the CBD between Poydras and Howard are still off limits.
In the initial legislation, there was substantial debate over the distance a food truck should be allowed to operate from a stationary restaurant. Originally, the Council proposed 100 feet. According to the City's release, that provision caused the veto, and has been eliminated because it is "unconstitutional."
Food truck operators opposed the requirement because it gave them less freedom to operate, and the move was primarily championed by brick-and-mortar restaurant owners. Rachel Billow, who runs La Cocinita Food Truck and has been working with officials on the legislation as a member of the New Orleans Food Truck Coalition, said the veto ended up beng a "blessing in disguise."
"It turned out to work in our favor because now they're eliminating that proximity restriction entirely," she said Friday.
With new protections in place, food trucks will be able to apply to operate in areas currently banned to mobile restos if such neighborhoods qualify as “food deserts.”
The new legislation also contains a provision where food truck operators will have the chance obtain a permit to set up in certain areas. The mobile restarauants can apply for permits to post up at locations like the soutbound side of N. Rampart between Esplanade and Canal Street, as well as on Elk/Loyola between Cleveland and Howard. In those spots, No Parking signs would be posted and the spots would be reserved for whichever food truck pays the City for the permit.
"Essentially you're renting the spot from the city," Billow said. "So a lot of those complaints about us not paying rent get addressed by the idea that we're paying for that parking spot."
Some areas would be subject to “franchise agreements,” essentially permission from the Department of Public Works. Food truck operators must apply for specific locations on specific days, and the DPW will authorize issue recommendations to City Council based on traffic analysis.
The latest proposal also eliminates a hastily-agreed upon requirement that sprang up during the marathon City Council meeting that produced the eventual vote on the first piece of food truck legislation. The legislation eliminates a requirement that says food trucks must park within 200 ft. of a bathroom. Billow called that provision "overkill" since the issue was over a proximity to sinks, and food trucks are required by the state to have wash stations onboard.
Landrieu ensures food truck advocates that the proposal will expand the mobile market. "Working with the Council and all stakeholders involved, I am confident that these new revisions will put current mobile food vendors on a level playing field and provide opportunities for more investment,” said Landrieu in a statement.
The ordinance expands to all mobile food vendors, not just the trucks. Stationary vendors, ice cream vendors, and foot, pushcart, and animal-drawn businesses are all included.
Despite the veto, Billow said the Landrieu administration worked with the food trucks on the revised legislation. The mayor's administration has also talked to City Council members ahead of time to assuage any potential concerns, Billow said. The food truck operator said she is glad that the process has been collaborative, even if messy. That will help New Orleans avoid restaurant-food truck battles that have taken place in other cities, she said.
"Instead of fighting the politicians we're working with them," she said.
The new proposal will go before the City Council next week.
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