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Mobile Vending and The Cities Proposed Land Use Code

For your Boulder mobile vending ordinance edification and reading pleasure I am copying portions of the proposed Land Use Code that was presented to the Boulder Planning Board this last Thursday evening. It is actually quite an interesting read and is the blueprint for all future Mobile Vending in the city limits of our quaint little town.  After spending the last 10 months owning and operating  Tina (the little pink taco truck that could), the creation of this code is important to me.  I sat in more than a few meetings with others who are also passionate about street food along with city employees and city attorneys who were charged to create a code for something that has been up until this point been prohibited. (see the below paragraph on a code created in 1981.) These individuals worked hard and I would like to take this opportunity to thank them for doing so.  I have no doubt that they have been called at least once a day by someone who wants to open a food truck in Boulder. And I get it…. it’s not like this is all they have to do.  But it is time for Boulder to have a code that allows for Mobile Vending. After all, we were voted one of America’s Foodiest Towns in Bon Appetite magazine this last year. (  And food truck are for foodies as well as the people who just happen upon them.

The main reason I post this is that while I think much of it is really great, there are a few things I would like to see changed. Once it goes before City Council and is voted on what they say yes to is what will stand. And since changing code (I have learned) is a lot like herding cats in a wind tunnel, I say lets make it everything it needs to be this first time around.  I will follow this entry with another containing my thoughts (and those of the only other food truck operator in town).

Happy reading…

What follows is what will be presented to the Boulder City Council at the next meeting on April 5, 2011. The planning board is recommending it with an amendment to hours of operation.

Paragraph 9-6-5(c)(2) B.R.C. 1981, generally prohibits mobile vending activities on public and privateproperty within the city. The proposed changes would specifically define mobile food trucks as a recognized use under the city’s Land Use Code, establish a formal licensing process, and identify appropriate locations and operation requirements on public and private properties. A Mobile Food Vehicle is defined as a readily movable, motorized-wheeled vehicle or a towed vehicle designed and equipped to prepare, or serve, and sell food. This ordinance does not apply to human-powered vending carts on the Pearl Street Mall or University Hill nor ice cream trucks.

Private Property

The proposed ordinance would allow mobile food trucks to operate on private property with the permission of the property owner in the city’s industrial (I), business (B), mixed use (MU), and downtown zoning (DT) districts. However, mobile food vehicles operating on private property in the above zone districts would be required to maintain a minimum separation of 100 feet from any existing brick and mortar restaurants, and 150 feet from residential zone districts (see map in Attachment C). These changes are reflected in subsections 9-6-5(d) and 9-6-1(d), B.R.C. 1981.

Public Property

The proposed ordinance would only permit mobile food vehicles to operate in the city’s right-of-way in the Industrial zone districts or as part of an organized special event (i.e., Creek Fest, Harvest Fest, Green Streets, block parties, etc.). Mobile food vehicles would have less restrictions in the city’s Industrial (I) zones where brick and mortar restaurants are much less prevalent and rights-of-way are typically much larger to accommodate larger vehicle and truck traffic. However, mobile food vehicles would still be required to maintain a minimum separation of 100 feet from any existing brick and mortar restaurants, and 150 feet from residential zone districts. In addition, such vehicles would also be required to maintain a minimum separation of 200 feet from any other mobile food vehicle operating in the public right-of-way.

Operation in residential zones and city parks are prohibited unless permitted as a part of an organized special event.

These changes are reflected in paragraph 9-6-5(d)(2) and section 4-18-2, B.R.C. 1981. Distances for separation were determined by studying zoning maps of several different neighborhood typologies, the location of existing restaurants and the zone districts that support such uses and private property available for the operation of mobile food trucks. For example, a typical block in the downtown area is 300 feet by 150 feet. Standard blocks on University Hill and in North Boulder are slightly larger. Given the urban context of downtown, the Hill and North Boulder (alleys, little available private surface parking) staff determined that available private property for mobile food vehicle operations in the downtown, the Hill, and North Boulder is for the most part limited. Further consideration was given to discussions with brick and mortar restaurant owners and mobile food truck operators in an effort to strike an appropriate balance that prevented unfair competition with established restaurants and impacts on transitional residential areas that abut commercially zoned properties. Additional consideration was given to the hours of operation and the overall operational characteristics of mobile food vehicles in determining impacts and appropriate distances for separation. Distances shall be measured by the City on official maps as the radius from the closest points on the perimeter of the applicant’s mobile food vehicle to the closest point of the designated residential zone or property of the restaurant. With regard to measurement between two or more mobile food vehicles in the public right-of way, measurement shall be in the form of standard measuring devices including and not limited to a tape measure.

Operational Requirements

The proposed ordinance establishes a number of operational requirements for mobile food vehicle sales on private property and public locations. No person who operates any mobile food vehicle on public property or private property shall:

• obstruct the pedestrian or bicycle access, the visibility of motorists, nor obstruct parking lot

circulation or block access to a public street, alley or sidewalk;

• locate any vehicle, structure, or device upon a public sidewalk within the extended boundaries

of a crosswalk or within ten feet of the extension of any building entranceway, doorway or


• fail to maintain and provide proof when requested of written consent from the private property

owner authorizing the property to be used for the proposed use with regard to mobile food

vehicle sales on private property;

Agenda Item 5B Page 3 of 22

• fail to park legally;

• operate before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. and for more than a maximum of 4 hours at any one

approved location;

• set up any structures, canopies, tables or chairs;

• sell anything other than food and non-alcoholic beverages;

• provide amplified music;

• place signs/banners in or alongside the public-right-of-way or across roadways. Signs must be

permanently affixed to or painted on the mobile food vehicle;

• fail to have the vehicle attend at all times;

• fail to permanently display to the public in the food handling area of the mobile food vehicle

the permit authorizing such use;

• fail to provide trash receptacles and properly dispose of all trash, refuse, compost and garbage

that is generated by the use;

• cause any liquid wastes used in the operation to be discharged from the mobile food vehicle;

• fail to abide by all other ordinances of the city.

Eat Comida