The development zones are among many proposals in the latest vending regulations, which the department is set to publish Friday in the D.C. Register after spending the past 19 months wading through 2,500 public comments and talking to those involved in the turf war over selling food to the public. Current regulations, on the books for 30 years, often do not account for the new era of mobile vending. The proposed regulations would require the D.C. Council’s approval to become law.
The proposals include one other notable addition: a change to the “ice cream truck” rules that now require mobile vendors to leave their location when no one is waiting in line, a condition that has led police to force food trucks to move. The proposed rules would allow food trucks to pay the parking meter and remain in that spot until the meter expires. That change, however, wouldn’t apply to ice cream and other dessert-oriented trucks, which would be allowed to stay in their location for only 10 minutes if there are no waiting customers.
The new parking rule would be “a huge improvement in the regulations,” said Kristi Whitfield, co-owner of Curbside Cupcakes and executive director of the D.C. Food Truck Association. “That alone is going to make it a lot more reasonable for food trucks to operate their businesses. . . . I think that is a tremendous step forward for the city.”
As an owner of a truck that sells cupcakes, however, Whitfield said she doesn’t like the separate rules for savory and sweet vendors.
The DCRA’s Gil says different rules are necessary to allow savory food trucks to prepare for service at a parking spot, a somewhat lengthy process that ice cream and dessert trucks don’t require.
Of all the proposed rules, the vending development zones could be the ones that bring the warring sides together. Under the regulation, business associations, community organizations or District governmental agencies could submit proposals to create such a zone, in which the number of sidewalk vendors, food trucks and even farmers markets would be capped. The idea is to reduce the over-saturation of venders in certain areas.
“It’s not a good idea to have 18 to 20 trucks on Farragut Square on Fridays,” Gil said. “There’s just too much there.”
Initial responses to the vending development zone concept were lukewarm. Andrew J. Kline, spokesman for the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington, said he wasn’t sure how the zones would solve the conflicts involved in managing the District’s public spaces for both in-line restaurants and mobile food trucks. For starters, he noted, the zones still would not address the food trucks’ need for parking spots that stretch beyond the two-hour limits.