San Jacinto City Council seeks new street food vendor regulations

0
680

A new set of ordinances regulating the city’s food and other vendors is being drawn up by the San Jacinto city manager on the request of the city council, following discussion at the Oct. 20 regular city council meeting.

The direction to city manager Rob Johnson by the council was to design an ordinance, primarily to halt the unlicensed food vendors that are popping up in the city, especially in the evening hours.

The ordinances, clarified by the majority of the council, will encourage the increasing unlicensed food vendors to get their Riverside County Department of Environmental Health licenses, follow the required food handling safety regulations, clean up their leftover trash, dispose of cooking oils properly and stay off private property unless permitted by the owner and public properties posted with no trespassing signs.

Leading the discussion was Councilmember Alonso Ledezma who said he has been plagued by angry restaurant owners demanding the city stop the illegal vendors who are hurting their legitimate businesses. He requested the agendized discussion following an earlier workshop discussing homeless people in the city, Sept. 6.

Mayor Andrew Kotyuk said that since the workshop meeting, he and the city manager met with Riverside County 3rd District Supervisor Chuck Washington and county health department officials.

“During the meeting with Supervisor Washington, the Riverside County Department of Environmental Health, which is the lead enforcement agency over illegal food vendors, agreed to partner with the city of San Jacinto, its Code Enforcement Division and the San Jacinto Police Department’s Public Oriented Policing Team to create a task force to address the issue,” Johnson said. “The task force will be working to identify illegal vendors, meet them at locations inside the city limits during operations and provide enforcement under the Riverside County Health Department’s full ability and authority.”

Johnson pointed out the “illegal vendors are brazenly posting on Facebook where they are going and when they are going to be there and also using a wide variety of social media.”

He said some are setting up canopy areas with chairs at times for their customers. He said the officers tell them to leave.

“It’s like whack-a-ball. They just move to another area,” he said.

Johnson did suggest the city or local restaurant owners might set up some kind of special event inviting food trucks and vendors to them. The suggestion brought some favorable response from the council.

The council said they favored the task force idea but not without some dissension from Councilmember Joel Lopez.

“It’s the taste,” Lopez said, saying the food vendors or taco stands were like those in Mexico and highly favored by the public, but he agreed, however, that some “regulation” was needed.

He said there are many people in the community who are not against the food vendors and understand that “poor people need some way to make an income… They are just trying to make it. Just feed their families. I understand this.”

He urged the council in making their decision on the proposed ordinances: “Lead them. Do not just shut them down.”

At the conclusion of the discussion, the council requested Johnson and the staff come up with a set of regulations, prompting the illegal food vendors to obtain licenses from the health department and the city and find some way the street food vendors can obtain lower cost permits or created a community event where they are welcome.

Johnson said he will return with proposals at the next meeting, but the regular Nov. 3 meeting has been canceled until the Nov. 17 meeting.

The council discussed allocating funding for an outdoor fitness court at Rancho San Jacinto Park as part of the 2021 National Fitness Campaign that the city has joined. The proposed fitness court would include a seven-minute program any resident for free could use. The court would include simple mechanical apparatus at seven stations including one for strengthening a person’s core and offer squat, push, lunge, pull, agility and bend exercises during the exercise rotation.

A series of slides explaining how the court will work was shown to the council. The court will require the council to appropriate $220,000 for the Community Amenities Fund which would be reimbursed by community sponsorships, grants or both and would have no impact on the city’s general fund. The city already has secured $30,000 for the court from the National Fitness Campaign.

The vote was unanimous to approve the proposal through a resolution.

Tony Ault can be reached by email at tault@reedermedia.com.