The Lodi City Council passed an ordinance Wednesday designed to regulate mobile food vendors without shutting them down.
The ordinance, which took a year to craft with the input of the city's 12 lunch wagon owners and their lawyer, puts limits on vending from public property as well as private land that is next to houses.
Lunch trucks that are 200 feet from residential areas now need a city-issued conditional permit to operate. The city agreed that the conditions of the permit would not be so restrictive as to force the vendors to close. Conditions include limits on hours of operation and the use of tables and shade structures.
David LeBeouf, the Stockton lawyer who represents the vendors, said the conditions of the special permit were a major sticking point.
"My clients' concerns are that they are able to operate enough hours to keep their business open," he said. "As long as the conditions are reasonable, we can live with that."
The ordinance also requires vendors on public streets and sidewalks to move every three hours in a commercial zone and every 10 minutes in a residential zone. All of the lunch trucks in Lodi currently operate on private property.
About 75 people packed Carnegie Forum to show support for the vendors at the meeting, which was partially translated in Spanish. The majority of lunch wagon owners are Hispanic and serve Mexican cuisine.
Maria Lopez, owner of Tacos Ochoa at Lodi Avenue and Main Street, said most of the ordinance was fair.
"I agree with most of the stuff," she said. "We were worried that you guys were going to put us out of business."
Besides the conditional permit for vendors near residences, the ordinance requires all vendors to obtain a city-issued permit, which will cost between $70 and $100, City Manager Blair King said.
The council voted 4-0 to approve the new ordinance. Councilwoman Susan Hitchcock was absent. Councilman Larry Hansen apologized to the vendors for making them think the city was trying to shut them down.
"There has been a lot of confusion about how this will affect mobile food vendors," he said. "I'm sorry for that."
If the provisions of the ordinance are not met, vendors face citations. Three citations in one year would equal a misdemeanor, Community Improvement Manager Joseph Wood said.
The conditional permit to operate gives the city the tools to deal with problematic vendors who are near residential zones, Wood said.
"If the conditions do not address the nuisance, we have the ability to pull the permit back," he said.