SANTA CRUZ, CA – Last week, the Santa Cruz City Council agreed to study changes in the vending rules to make it easier for food truck operators to thrive. In bringing the request to colleagues, Councilwomen Hilary Bryant and Pamela Comstock cited the popularity of high-quality food trucks.

“Mobile food businesses are a major player in the national culinary scene, and I’d like to see Santa Cruz capitalize on that,” Comstock said. “Modifying our existing ordinances will promote entrepreneurship and give our community convenient access to more food choices.”

Along with cosmopolitan cities such as San Francisco, Los Angeles and Washington, Business Insider reported in May that unlikely towns are sharing in the nearly 200 percent growth of food trucks in recent years, according to research by a tracking group called Roaming Hunger. Orlando, Cleveland and Indianapolis rank high for the number of food trucks per capita.

Comstock, Bryant and Mayor Lynn Robinson will examine the issue for three to four months and make recommendations. Bryant noted a burgeoning food truck scene at UC Santa Cruz and said she would like to see trucks serve the Harvey West area or, in the future, along the San Lorenzo Riverwalk.

But as they are keenly aware, by loosening the restrictions, the council members will have to consider times, locations and costs, as well as impacts on traditional restaurants downtown, near the beach and on the Eastside — some of which are still recovering from the Great Recession and struggle to stay viable during the offseason.

Zachary Davis, one half of a successful duo who opened the chic Penny Ice Creamery and Picnic Basket cafe before delivering the much buzzed-about Assembly restaurant, said there is room to support sit-down eateries and food trucks alike.

“I definitely understand concerns from brick-and-mortar businesses about having to pay parking deficiency fees and traffic impact fees that you might be able to avoid by being mobile,” Davis said of fees charged by the city. “Personally, I take the view that anything that promotes activity and people on the street — people going out and dining out and exploring new things — in a holistic sense benefits the community and benefits Santa Cruz.”

Davis said the creamery — which won national acclaim when Vice President Joe Biden called Davis and business partner Kendra Baker to laud their video praising the federal stimulus funds that enabled their venture — almost started as an ice cream truck. But the pair pulled back because of the city’s restrictions, Davis said.

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