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Time for tacos? Its 10 minutes in Manteca & Ripon; 3 hours in Lathrop
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LATHROP – Time is on the side of taco truck vendors in Lathrop.

Especially when you compare the time they’re allowed to set-up shop in Manteca, Ripon and Tracy.

Brick-and-mortar restaurant owners want to see something done about the mobile stands that they believe are unfairly taking away business by vendors not being held to the same standards that they are. One of those items is reducing the time a taco truck - or similar vendor - can stay in one spot.

Taco trucks can linger in one spot in a commercial district in Lathrop for up to three hours but in Manteca and Ripon they can’t stay longer than 10 minutes.

The Lathrop City Council voted 4-1 Monday night to give both the mobile vendors and the restaurant owners 30 days to sit down with the Lathrop Chamber of Commerce to come up with a plan that appeases both sides. Mayor Joseph “Chaka” Santos was the lone dissenting vote.

“We don’t need to send a message that we don’t care about our businesses – they pay fees and they’re a part of this city,” said councilman Sonny Dhaliwal. “At the same time we don’t want to send a message that we’re picking on the little guy. Let’s have both sides try and work something out.

“If it doesn’t work out, we can bring it back to the council for action.”

Back in December a mobile vendor approached the council and inquired about possibly extending the time allotted for the units to set-up and serve their wares – which currently stands at 30 minutes in residential areas, three hours in commercial areas, and 23 hours in industrial areas.

A 500-foot buffer is in place for both residential and commercial zones.

Lathrop’s ordinance is similar to ones adopted in Stockton and Lodi, while Manteca, Tracy and Ripon only allow the trucks to remain parked in any one area for 10 minutes.

While the plight of the vendors was felt by the council, both Fire Chief Gene Neely and Lathrop Police Services Chief Eric Holman had some very specific points they wanted to share with the council.

Neely was concerned that mobile units that run their grills off of propane pose a significant fire hazard because of the properties that propane takes on when it converts from its liquid form into gas. Being heavier than air, it can build-up on the ground of an enclosed area and cause a massive explosion if it comes in contact with an ignition source.

Holman said that since residents are most concerned about public safety he’d like to see a full police background check required for all mobile vendors – a step above-and-beyond the current Live Scan fingerprint requirement that vendors must submit to be licensed.

Councilman Omar Ornelas first proposed the idea of having both sides meet with a mediator like the chamber after discussing it at length with Dhaliwal.

“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,” Ornelas said.

Santos countered the ideas proposed by Ornelas and Dhaliwal with concerns that legitimate businesses that invested large sums of money weren’t being adequately represented.

“These are men that put tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars up as a gamble for their businesses,” he said. “They should have the right to operate their business without fear of losing their customers.”

The matter will be back before the council on Monday, April 4.