gilroy city hall rosanna street
Gilroy City Hall. Photo: Erik Chalhoub

Gilroy officials are looking at updating a decades-old ordinance on food trucks, but some business owners are cautioning city leaders to not make it restrictive for those wanting to sell their wares downtown.

The current ordinance, which was enacted in 1997, requires mobile vendors to pay for an annual permit through the city, in addition to health permits through the county. It also prohibits food trucks from operating in one space for more than 10 minutes, but officials said that aspect of the ordinance is not being actively enforced.

According to Bryce Atkins, assistant to the city administrator, nothing in the city’s code prevents a food truck from parking in public street stalls. They would, however, have to relocate 100 feet every 10 minutes.

During a Dec. 4 meeting, Atkins said the Gilroy City Council should consider increasing the timeframe food trucks can stay in one spot, while also restricting the number of parking spaces they can take up, among other things.

Some members of the council suggested setting up a designated area within downtown and times that food trucks could operate. Mayor Marie Blankley said the city needed to set up a permitting process for food trucks to take over public parking spots, rather than the current “first come, first served” setup.

The discussion comes on the heels of an ordinance passed by the council in August, which regulates sidewalk vending in the city by requiring vendors to obtain a permit and follow a number of other rules.

That ordinance was brought up frequently among the more than 10 people who spoke during the public comment period, many fearing that an updated ordinance for food trucks would have a similar restrictive effect.

Matt Gallion, who owns Pour Me Taproom in downtown Gilroy with Raj Sharma, encouraged the council to take its time and determine the impacts of an updated ordinance, as its previous decision on sidewalk vendors hurt foot traffic in the area.

“Unfortunately with our sidewalk vendors, I feel that it was rushed,” said Gallion, whose business frequently brings in food trucks for its patrons. “With one fell swoop, we killed a majority of life downtown. We are seeing the impacts, and will see the impacts for a long time until the proper amount of food establishments are in downtown. We need these other businesses to supplement that and to attract people to downtown.”

Terri Hendrix-Hermann of Gilroy said that since the sidewalk vending ordinance went into effect recently, she’s noticed a significant drop in foot traffic downtown on the weekends.

“It’s taken away a lot of people coming to downtown,” she said. “It was thriving.”

Councilmember Rebeca Armendariz said she supported an ordinance with a streamlined permitting process that would be “welcoming” to the vendors, adding that she hoped the council would revisit its decision on sidewalk vendors.

“They add to the character of our community, they add to the foot traffic and the prosperity of our downtown businesses,” she said.

Councilmember Carol Marques said the city needs to look at similar ordinances surrounding food trucks in Hollister and Morgan Hill. One food truck owner from Hollister said that city’s recent approval to allow more food trucks on public streets has helped bring hundreds of people to its downtown.

Ideas for an updated ordinance will be brought back at a future meeting.

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Erik Chalhoub joined Weeklys as an editor in 2019. Prior to his current position, Chalhoub worked at The Pajaronian in Watsonville for seven years, serving as managing editor from 2014-2019.


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