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Free market for taco trucks while its socialism for Lathrop restaurants

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POSTED March 8, 2011 1:10 a.m.
Give Lathrop Mayor Chaka Santos points for being willing to do the politically incorrect thing and question the wisdom of giving “breaks” to those who are “only trying to make a living” selling food from vending trucks.

Yes, brick and mortar as well as mobile vendors have to pay for business licenses and pass health department inspections and such. But there is no reason to try and strike a compromise. And it has everything do with a severe double standards created by the City of Lathrop itself.

Let’s say Joe Six Pack wanted to open a restaurant. He couldn’t do it in a residential zone because Lathrop’s zoning ordinance prohibits it. Yet they allow a mobile vendor to park his truck in a residential zone for up to 30 minutes so he can sell food.

What about people who buy or rent homes in a residential neighborhood that have the expectation that intense commercial activities won’t take place on their streets? This isn’t the Fuller Brush man going door-to-door.  It’s a big truck that draws crowds and makes noise. It’s OK, though, because “they’re just trying to make a living” which is exactly what those who own restaurants are trying to do.

If Lathrop believes vendors should have this freedom to have a non-compatible use in a residential zone why not just drop all pretense of California zoning laws and do what Texas used to do. If an individual thinks he can make a go of it opening a taqueria or a hamburger joint in the middle of a Mossdale Landing neighborhood - or better yet next door to a council, member - then they should be able to go for it.

Allowing food vendors to park for three hours in a commercial zone for 23 hours in an industrial zone isn’t much better unless, of course, Lathrop would like to back off on some of their demands of restaurants.

Restaurants should be able to open anywhere they want in either zone without worrying about parking or the aesthetics of their building or signs. That way everything will be on even footing.

So what if a restaurant creates impacts on parking and may have customers that cram street spaces or park in private lots while they are visiting the restaurant? It isn’t much of a city concern when it comes to food vending trucks.

There should be no compromise. Average Joe should be able to open a brick and mortar restaurant with no parking spaces, as many signs as he wants, and so with no regard to aesthetics even if it is a new building. They also shouldn’t have to provide landscaping and other “extras” that the city requires such as growth-related fees. The city should also petition for restaurants to have relief from the state requirement that they have workable toilets for the public. After all, if the food vendors don’t why should the restaurant owners? It costs money to hook up to the city sewer system especially if you’re a commercial venture.

Lathrop could also go the extra step and make sure the playing field is even by prohibiting non-profits from soliciting brick-and-mortar restaurants for donations for charitable events unless they also get an equal amount from food vendors. Yes, that sounds like socialism but what a restaurant owner has to live by is socialist in comparison with the relatively free market treatment that mobile food vendors are getting.

Councilman Omar Ornelas eloquently notes, “In the end we’re all human, we’re all trying to survive and we’re all trying to do the best we can for the City of Lathrop.”

It’s true we are all trying to survive including restaurants.

So in the spirit of all people being human it is time to free restaurant owners from the burdensome details of off-street parking, commercial sewer bills, landscaping, compliance with a sign ordinance and even city property taxes since vendors don’t pay taxes on their trucks to Lathrop.

That way everyone will then be doing the best they can for the City of Lathrop by following the same low-standards that food vendors are held to by Lathrop.

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