Food trucks vying for space on public streets in downtown Las Vegas would be consigned to special parking spaces under an ordinance proposed Tuesday.
Mayor Carolyn Goodman asked for the bill, which backers say would make it easier for food trucks to park legally in popular spots, such as Third Street in front of the Regional Justice Center and on Bonneville Avenue near the Downtown Transportation Center.
"I'm all for it," Curbside Cafe food truck owner Douglas Porter said.
Porter said he used to park his truck near the Regional Justice Center until it attracted more trucks, essentially halving his potential customer base.
"We just basically kind of cut ourselves in half," Porter said. "We were sharing the area, and it left a bad taste in my mouth."
The City Council's recommending committee voted 3-0 for the ordinance, which could go to the full council next month. Council members Bob Coffin, Stavros Anthony and Ricki Barlow are on the committee.
It proposes a pilot program that would set aside three spots, one each near the justice and transportation centers and a third near City Hall.
City staff also considered spots near the burgeoning Fremont East Entertainment District but backed off amid resistance from business owners there.
A letter from the Fremont East Entertainment District board detailed the objection. "The board members are, of course, not against the food trucks personally or as an industry; however, the position is based on the long-awaited growth of Fremont East, which is now accelerating at a fast pace, and there are approximately 12 new restaurants that will be opening up around the area," wrote board President Mike Nolan, who is general manager of the El Cortez.
The city's parking czar, Brandy Stanley, described the program to the recommending committee. According to Stanley, city staff would designate the spaces with special signs and PIN-operated meters. Truck owners could reserve time and feed the meters $5 per hour.
Under the proposed bill, the fine for staying too long at the meter would be $80. Parking without a reservation would be a $100 fine. The spots would not be open for use by the public.
Stanley said the program is necessary to give food trucks places to legally operate downtown.
In October, the council, after complaints from restaurant owners about food trucks parking too close to their businesses, voted 5-1 to institute a 150-foot buffer zone between restaurants and food trucks on public streets.
Stanley said that made it much more difficult for the trucks to operate at all downtown, save for privately owned parking areas.
If the proposed bill is approved, trucks parked in the special spaces wouldn't need to worry about the buffer zone.
"What it does is it gives the city, and the city only, the authority to give those designations," she said.
Although no one appeared at the recommending committee to object to the proposed new rule, the city's past attempts to regulate food trucks have prompted criticism.
The Institute for Justice, an Arlington, Va.-based libertarian group, said the city shouldn't enforce a buffer zone to protect restaurants from food trucks.
Christina Walsh, the institute's director of activism and coalitions, called the proposed parking spaces "an awfully small step" toward restoring trucks' access to downtown.
"Any effort to open up the streets to food trucks is a step in the right direction. But this pilot program proposal is an inadequate solution to a problem the city itself created," Walsh said. "Las Vegas should repeal its unconstitutional proximity restriction and allow food trucks to park at any metered space, just like every other commercial vehicle is allowed to do."
Contact reporter Benjamin Spillman at bspillman@ reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0285 .