Glendale City Council members said they want to impose new restrictions on vending trucks that bring sandwiches to construction workers and ice cream to children but backed off from a crackdown Tuesday after two operators said it would jeopardize their businesses.
After a heated debate, the council told city staff to meet with the mobile vendors and then bring a revised proposal back to the council.
City Manager David Ramsay proposed that Glendale's annual mobile vendor fee be raised from $36 to $300 and that vendors who repeatedly violate city rules face higher fines and possible jail terms. He also urged that vending hours be restricted and that trucks be kept away from schools and parks.
Julio Bello, who sells women's apparel from his Store on Wheels, complained that the new restrictions could put him out of business.
"I'm not out there selling illegal items," he said. "What am I going to do, line up in the welfare line? Is that what the city wants me to do?"
Councilwoman Ginger Bremberg argued that people who sell food and other goods from a truck are avoiding the property taxes, sewer charges and other expenses that storefront merchants must pay.
"I have absolutely no sympathy for you," she told Bello. "I feel you are taking unfair advantage of the public streets."
But Dorothy E. Heyne, co-owner of Ray's Rite Rate Lunch Service, told the council that her 50-truck Glendale-based industrial catering business spends $500,000 annually on goods and services and another $250,000 on its payroll.
"When you say we don't contribute, that's 100% wrong," Heyne said.
The city has issued 120 permits this year to mobile vendors who sell ice cream, sandwiches and other goods on Glendale streets. The city limits vendors to stops of 10 minutes at each location.
Storefront merchants have complained that vending trucks, with lower operating expenses, park nearby and sell similar goods at lower prices, according to a report prepared by Steven Adams, assistant to the city manager.
Adams said a second concern is that vending trucks may not be sanitary, particularly if the vendor is unlicensed and has not been inspected by health officials. He said some vendors ignore the 10-minute-per-site limit or get around it by moving just a short distance every 10 minutes.
At Tuesday's meeting, Bello repeated the vendors' complaint that 10 minutes is not enough time to serve customers at each location.
Vending trucks are defended by workers who say they do not have time for a restaurant meal and by elderly residents who cannot travel to a market, according to Adams' report.
City Manager Ramsay said mobile vendors cannot legally be outlawed from the city but can be kept out of particular areas, such as a business district or neighborhood.
"We believe a great deal of increased enforcement is needed," he told the council. "There is a role for vendors to play, but it must be carefully limited."
Because some vendors view city fines as simply another cost of doing business, he suggested that two or more violations be considered a misdemeanor crime, punishable by a heavy fine or jail term.
Councilman Carl W. Raggio urged the city to go a step further by revoking a vendor's operating permit after the third violation. "I'd like to see us put a short rein, rather than a long rein on these" businesses, he said.
Heyne said she is worried that her fleet operation could be penalized for the abuses committed by some single-truck vendors.
"I'm not afraid of reasonable limitations, but I don't want to get swept up in unreasonable rules," she said.
Heyne said the proposed $300 annual permit fee is more than $200 higher than the charge in any other city in which she operates, including Los Angeles and Beverly Hills. She also complained that a proposed ban on catering-truck sales before 7 a.m. would eliminate some of her morning business at construction sites.
Although the city has proposed keeping the vendors away from campuses, Heyne said she has had a longtime arrangement to provide break-time snacks to adult night-school students in Glendale.
She agreed to meet with city staff members to resolve these problems and find ways to distinguish her catering trucks from vendors who repeatedly break city rules.
"It's not going to be easy, but we're going to have to try," Heyne said.
Council members acknowledged that drafting new regulations for mobile vendors will be a thorny task, but they appeared unwilling to back away from the issue.
"It has gotten to be a bigger problem," Mayor Jerold F. Milner said. "We do need to do some things to bring it under control."