The Tempe City Council expressed concern over updating food truck regulations allowing vendors to operate on public streets and public property throughout the city during its meeting on June 30.
Council members discussed the public safety concerns associated with allowing food trucks to operate in downtown Tempe, as well as the impact food trucks could have on local businesses in the area.
“The city wants to establish a new process that would make it easier for food truck vendors to operate on public streets and public property, including city parks, Tempe Public Library and around Tempe City Hall, while maintaining public safety,” according to a statement released by Tempe media spokesperson Amanda Nelson.
Community Services Director Shelley Hearn presented a revised ordinance to the council before hearing the committees’ concerns.
Based on feedback from the Phoenix Street Food Coalition, the Tempe Chamber of Commerce, the Arizona Restaurant Association and the downtown Tempe community, the revised ordinance included adjusted business hours and a good neighbor policy for food truck operators throughout Tempe, Hearn said.
“The intent is to bring it [the ordinance] back to COW [the City Council
Committee of the Whole] with the finalized ordinance revisions for food trucks in August,” she added.
Council members addressed the revised ordinance shortly after reviewing the material. Though few residents have expressed public safety concerns about food trucks operating in downtown Tempe, Councilmember Shana Ellis said public safety is an issue that needs to be addressed, noting,
“My concern is that food trucks are a lot wider than regular cars, so if they’re parked sideways they could block the bike lanes. When we have a streetcar going down there, there’s no way for the streetcar to maneuver around something like a food truck,” she said.
She added food trucks should not be allowed on streets like Mill Avenue where they may threaten the safety of bike commuters in the area.
Councilmember Kolby Granville disagreed.
“In my mind, there’s not a public safety issue related to [a food truck] taking a spot on the street … anymore than there’s a public safety issue with a regular car being in that spot,” he said.
However, public safety issues weren’t the only concerns that some council members had with allowing food trucks to operate on streets like Mill Avenue. Vice Mayor Onnie Shekerjian said restaurant owners would be at a disadvantage if food trucks were allowed to operate in front of local businesses, noting,
“I don’t believe that we should be putting them [food trucks] in front of other restaurants. It’s unfair for a number of reasons,” she said. “We need to be respective of people who have invested a lot of money in the infrastructure of their restaurant.”
Councilmember Joel Navarro suggested Tempe be more strategic in its placement of food trucks throughout the city, noting, “There are perfect locations to have something like that [food trucks].”
Places like the Public Library and other less traveled areas could particularly benefit from food trucks, Navarro added.