Santa Monica Lookout
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Santa Monica's Early Morning Food Truck Ban on Main Street Making Dent    


By Jorge Casuso

April 2, 2012 -- A weekend ban on food trucks in the early morning hours along a bustling bar-lined stretch of Main Street has helped control the crowds swarming to the rolling eateries, Santa Monica police reported Friday.

Since the ordinance banning the trucks between 1 and 3 a.m. was approved in November, there are now fewer pedestrians in the roadways, less overcrowding of the sidewalks and fewer people are hazardously jaywalking to the trucks, police wrote in a memo to the City Council.

"The related public safety concerns have diminished considerably after 1:00 a.m.," Lieutenant Jay Trisler wrote in the memo.

However, Trisler added, "pedestrians in the roadway still occur, primarily near the alcohol establishments around closing time, requiring police to help disperse the crowds to open sidewalk passage."

The exodus of the food trucks after 1 a.m. from the half-mile stretch between Ocean Park Boulevard and Marine Street has lured crowds to Holy Guacamole, the only late-night food eatery in the area, which "draws many patrons to its walk-up window," Trisler said.

"After bar closing time, patrons line up at the window to order food," Trisler wrote. "The sidewalk quickly becomes full and passersby are forced to enter the roadway to walk around the crowd."

Trisler noted that there are other issues that have not been addressed by the ordinance, which prevents food trucks from parking and serving crowds as they leave Main Street bars.

The issues include "monitoring large numbers of people that continue to visit the concentration of alcohol-serving establishments, re-notification of vending trucks of the amended ordinance, and the clearing of patrons leaving the alcohol establishments," Trisler wrote.

Officers patrolling the area have noted that only some of the food trucks" are aware of the ordinance, and that several food truck operators "continue to vend, waiting to see if the restrictions will be enforced."

"As 1:00 a.m. approaches, it has been necessary for officers to notify vendor truck operators that they will be in violation of the Municipal Code if they do not move from the restricted area," Trisler wrote.

Since the ordinance was approved, the department has received only two calls from neighbors complaining about noisy patrons leaving the bar, Trisler wrote.

Police officers will continue to monitor the area, work with City staff and area businesses to address safety concerns and inform operators of the ordinance.

Before the ordinance was approved last November, police reported that the early morning crowds had become so large additional officers had to be deployed on overtime.

“The sidewalk becomes unusable,” City Attorney Marsha Moutrie told the council on November 8. “Pedestrians cross in the middle of the street and many of them are intoxicated."

Moutrie said the crowds create “a dangerous situation” can't be kept under control without staffing even more officers.

To drive the point home, Captain Carol Larson showed a two-minute video of Main Street.

The 2-minute video screened at the meeting showed people jaywalking and hailing cabs from the middle of the street just after the bars close. It also showed dozens of people sitting on curbs next to food trucks, their legs in parking spaces, while they ate their food.


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