The stage has been set for the creation of a food truck court at Library Park — either along Poplar Avenue west of the library next to a grassy promenade or along Manteca Avenue — on a trial basis of six months or so.
The City Council unanimously gave direction to Parks & Recreation Director Kevin Fant — who already has the authority to allow and regulate food trucks in municipal parks — to put in place a food truck court after they embraced the vision laid out by Councilman Gary Singh
And if it is successful, Singh can see it being not only a permanent feature at Library Park in the central part of the city but also as a template for food courts in Manteca’s four quadrants.
The food court is likely to operate within the hours that Library Park is open to the public. Singh asked that staff blackout dates that community events are scheduled at the park such as the Manteca Pumpkin Fair and the Crossroads Street Fair so the food truck court wouldn’t create a conflict.
In moving forward with a food court that Fant hopes to bring back by October to the council for final blessing if staff is able to work it in by then given other pressing projects now going forward, Singh believes it will help being new life into downtown, get more people to utilize Library Park that over a decade ago was expanded and upgraded at a cost of $1.4 million, and create a situation where homeless will be less inclined to linger around the park. Police have noted that most of the homeless will not gather in parks where or when there is active use. Lincoln Park is a prime example. When there is ongoing activity they stay away. They only use it to gather primarily under the picnic shelter or in the late evening after the park has closed for the night.
Library Park has permanent restrooms — something the food court in downtown Modesto doesn’t have — as well as benches and tables with plenty of shade already in place. If the food court turns out to be successful the city could possibly invest in canopies and more seating likely along the grassy promenade near a series of four murals. It is not only in the least used area of the park but it is immediately adjacent to Poplar Avenue that dead ends at the entrance to the library parking lot and has room for six to eight food trucks to park along the curb.
Charles Paz, an owner of Besitas Fine Cuisine located just a block away from Library Park at 216 West Yosemite Ave., spoke enthusiastically in support of the food court. The restaurant has been able to do well by only serving breakfast from 9 a.m. to noon Friday through Sunday. That’s when they can capture the bulk of Manteca’s largest group of consumers — commuters that head west over the Altamont Pass who work traditional five day or four day work week.
Not only does Paz believe the food truck court will help his business but it will help make downtown more attractive to younger generations that have bought significantly into the concept of food truck dining with its promise of unique takes on food and less expensive prices.
Paz said it is extremely hard to open a restaurant in downtown given there are few property owners willing to make the investment. He noted a hood for the kitchen alone can cost $80,000 to $100,000.
In embracing the food truck court concept, the council placed on hold a revised food truck ordinance that they instructed staff to work on in January. It had been brought before the council Tuesday. It served as the catalyst for Singh’s push for a food truck court.
“How are we even going to enforce it?” Singh asked after the staff had completed the presentation on the ordinance that would have allowed food trucks on private property for six hours at a time.
The ordinance as proposed has a long list of upkeep, appearance, and operating requirements that food trucks would have to meet. It also would require site plans and affidavits from property owners giving them permission to use their property.
Singh said he’d rather see the food trucks in one place than scattered about town. He also said that would allow the city to enforce the rules they adopt if all of the food trucks are in one locale.
By not adopting the ordinance, food trucks can only stay in one spot for 10 minutes but the city can allow them in city parks.
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