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D.C. Council works out ingredients of food truck compromise

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The D.C. Council on Tuesday approved emergency legislation to address regulations for the city's food trucks, bringing a peaceful compromise to a three-year battle between brick-and-mortar restaurants and the popular mobile vendors.

The finer details about where and which food trucks will be allowed to park in designated parking spots in the city's center will be hashed out at a later hearing, but even food truck owners agreed that Tuesday's decision was a welcome one.

"It's a great thing for food trucks and a great thing for the District," said Che Ruddell-Tabisola, owner of BBQ Bus and spokesman for the Food Truck Association of Metropolitan Washington. "The D.C. Council moved forward on something they've been trying to close for years."

At the heart of the legislation is the "mobile roadway vending" system, a collection of 180 designated parking spots in the downtown area of the District where a majority of food trucks set up shop.

The original proposal required any truck that had not won a designated spot to not serve within 500 feet of a mobile vending location. Tuesday's decision lessened that distance to 200 feet and reduced the amount of sidewalk space that must be kept clear from 10 feet to 6 feet. That's the same requirement for sidewalk cafes to ensure pedestrians can walk down an unobstructed sidewalk, explained D.C. Council member Vincent B. Orange, at-large Democrat and chairman of the Committee on Business, Consumer and Regulatory Affairs.

"This represents a fair compromise," said Mr. Orange, who also proposed the emergency legislation. "Hopefully we can put this to bed after many years of working on this."

The legislation still must be signed by D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray.

Since food trucks first began to appear on city streets in 2009, the District has welcomed close to 200 of them. City leaders and the District's restaurant association, however, took issue with the trucks, citing unfair advantages such as taking up valuable parking spots and choking business from restaurants that cannot simply drive to a new location.

The council also approved an amendment that lowers parking fines for food trucks to $50 if they are parked at an expired meter. But the penalty is $2,000 for parking in a designated spot belonging to another truck.

"I'm entitled to that spot," Mr. Orange said, from the perspective of a food truck driver. "I don't want to pull up prepared and ready to do business for four hours and somebody has my spot."

Food truck vendors will be allowed to do business from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the designated spots.

D.C. Council member Tommy Wells, Ward 6 Democrat, said he would be proposing legislation at a future hearing to hash out specifics on the designated parking spaces.

"I think we've made some great progress," Mr. Wells said, "but I think there may be some more work to be done."

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