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D.C. Council Committee Rejects Food Truck Regulations

D.C.'s food trucks fought regulations proposed by the city, saying that they left too much discretion to city agencies.
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D.C.'s food trucks fought regulations proposed by the city, saying that they left too much discretion to city agencies.

What's becoming one of the city's longest-running regulatory battles has just gotten a bit longer.

A D.C. Council committee today rejected a proposed set of regulations for the city's growing network of food trucks, sending them back to the drawing board and further delaying a process that dates back to 2010.

The regulations—already on their fourth draft—were submitted to the council by the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs for an up-or-down vote, but during today's hearing Council member Vincent Orange (D-At Large) said that standing concerns with certain provisions left him and his colleagues little choice but to reject them in their entirety.

Under the proposed regulations, food trucks would be allowed to vend for longer periods of time in highly sought-after downtown locations, but spots in those areas—designated as "Mobile Vending Zones"—would be assigned by lottery. Food trucks not in the zones would have to stay at least 500 feet away, and would not be able to vend in locations where there isn't 10 feet of unobstructed sidewalk.

While city officials said the rules properly balanced the interests of food trucks and traditional brick-and-mortar restaurants by offering the food trucks over 150 spots throughout the city to vend, food truck operators worried that too much about how those spots would be doled out would be left to the discretion of government agencies. The food trucks mounted a social media-led public relations campaign against the regulations, and in a seven-hour hearing earlier this month convinced various legislators that they should be rejected.

Orange said today that he would seek to introduce emergency legislation to allow the council to tweak parts of the rules, instead of only being able to approve or disapprove them. "We are close to a solution," he said, noting that his concerns were limited to specific provisions of the regulations.

Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) joined Orange and two other colleagues in unanimously rejecting the regulations, but also expressed hope that the council and city officials could soon come to a resolution.

"This is the longest-running movie on the council, and we're fed up with it," he said.

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