Food trucks permitted at three on-street locations

Food trucks permitted at three on-street locations

By Chris Teale (File photo)

City council unanimously approved allowing food trucks at three on-street locations in Alexandria, with a progress report set to be delivered to the traffic and parking board in six months.

Locations will be established on the 800 block of N. West St., the 2200 block of Eisenhower Ave. and at the King Street Gardens at 1700 King St. The former location will have three parking spaces available for two trucks, while the latter two will have four spaces available for three food trucks.

City staff developed five possible sites for on-street food trucks, having established a criteria to analyze a site’s feasibility including the availability of parking spaces, traffic congestion and space among other factors.

Initially, a stretch of North West Street, North Fairfax Street, the 2200 block of Eisenhower Ave., a site on Madison Street near Alexandria House, and King Street Gardens on the 1700 block of King St. were suggested by staff.

The traffic and parking board debated those five locations at a meeting on April 25, and recommended three of the five, rejecting the North Fairfax Street and Madison Street sites in North Old Town. According to a summary of the meeting posted on the city’s website, the board members were concerned about limited on-street parking and congestion in those locations, and recommended more study.

In addition, the board requested a follow-up report after six months of the program documenting the number of food trucks using each space; the duration that food trucks utilize the space; and the overall utilization of each space. The board also asked that the small area planning process consider any potential additional food truck vending locations.

Assistant City Attorney Joanna Anderson said staff agreed with the board’s recommendations, and that the revamping of the North Old Town small area plan might be a good opportunity to examine new locations in that area. She said council is able to change the map to remove or add new locations as it chooses, and that no truck is entitled to a certain spot.

“By allowing these locations, you’re not saying, ‘This food truck has a right to this location,’” she said.

Mayor Allison Silberberg asked if some flexibility can be possible in the times that spaces are reserved for food trucks. Under the plans approved by council, trucks can stay in a space for a maximum of four hours between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. Silberberg asked if it was possible to allow parking cars if no food truck is in place after a certain point in the day.

“7 a.m. to 8 p.m. is quite a swath of time to say that nobody can park there except a food truck,” she said.

In response, Anderson said that the six-month program would serve as a test for how well-used those spaces are by food trucks, and that after that period council could re-assess and maybe make changes to the terms of use.

Silberberg also argued in favor of re-establishing the food truck advisory group, but City Manager Mark Jinks said such a move was unnecessary at this time given the level of community engagement already.

The city used its online survey portal AlexEngage to gather feedback and received a total of 2,375 responses, although 500 were labeled as uncivil. There were also several other public forums including within the traffic and parking board to discuss possible locations. Anderson said that a dedicated food truck page on the city’s website will garner responses of various kinds, including violations.

“There’s a place for positive feedback and ideas going forward and a place to report problems,” she said.

The off-street food truck pilot program was extended indefinitely late last year, having had just eight off-street food trucks operate between July and December 2014, then seven in 2015. Those figures do not include special events like the West End Business Association’s annual Food Truck Rodeo or regularly scheduled markets with special use permits allowing the mobile eateries, like the Four Mile Run Farmers Market.

In response, council relaxed the ordinance governing off-street food trucks, including no longer charging vendors the $250 permit fee. For on-street food trucks, that fee will be waived this year but re-introduced in January.

The traffic and parking board will receive a report on the program’s progress after six months, with the report also set to be delivered orally to city council during a legislative meeting.