There has been discussion recently about the use of public streets in Santa Barbara for food trucks. Reader Ken sent me a link to the official Santa Barbara Municiple Code for everything you can and cannot do in Santa Barbara. Below is the law about how public streets are allowed to be used. I could be wrong but after reading this it is my impression that public streets in the city of Santa Barbara cannot be used for food vending trucks. The owner of a food truck would need to park on private property instead.

SB Municiple Code – Page 214-3, Section 9.48.010 Commercial Use of City Streets

A. GENERALLY. It shall be unlawful for any person, whether acting as principal, agent, clerk, employee, or otherwise, to use any public street, public parking lot, or public sidewalk in the City for the purpose of selling, vending, offering for sale or soliciting or receiving orders for the sale of any goods, wares or merchandise.

B. SALE OF NEWSPAPERS. Notwithstanding subsection A hereof, nothing herein shall prohibit any person from selling or offering for sale newspapers, magazines and periodicals upon any of the public sidewalks of the City in the present customary and usual manner of selling and offering for sale of newspapers, magazines, and periodicals in the City.

C. EXEMPTION FOR SIDEWALK SALES, FARMERS’ MARKETS, AND SIDEWALK CAFE TABLES. Notwithstanding subsection A hereof, an individual or an organization may, upon the issuance of a permit by the Director of Public Works in accordance with the requirements of this Chapter and the administrative regulations adopted pursuant hereto, use a public street or sidewalk in the City for the following limited purposes:

  1. Sidewalk Sales. A retail business licensed to do business at a location within the City may conduct a sale of merchandise on a City sidewalk under the following conditions:
    a. the sale occurs only on a public sidewalk immediately adjacent to the retail business; and
    b. the retail business does not conduct such sidewalk sales for more than a total of ten (10) days for each calendar year provided, however, that those businesses within a two (2) block radius of a construction project which impacts pedestrian or vehicular access to the City block within which the business is located for a period exceeding fourteen (14) consecutive days may be allowed up to twenty (20) days for sidewalk sales during the year in which the construction project is undertaken.
  2. Farmers’ Markets. An individual or an organization may use a public street or City parking lot for the purpose of conducting a Certified Farmers’ Market [as defined and provided for in Title 3, Chapter 3 of the California Code of Regulations] under the following conditions:
    a. the merchandise offered for sale at the Farmers’ Market is allowed to be sold at a Certified Farmers’ Market; and
    b. the use of the street or public parking lot is authorized by and pursuant to a written license agreement between the City and the Market sponsor, which license agreement limits the Market to a specified day or days of the week and to certain limited hours; and,
    c. the vendors of merchandise at the Farmers’ Market are authorized to conduct such sales by the organization sponsoring the Market and entering into the license agreement with the City.
  3. Limited Nonprofit Sidewalk Sales. In connection and concurrent with a Parade or Event (as permitted and defined in Municipal Code Section 9.12.020), which Parade or Event is sponsored by a nonprofit entity (as evidenced by tax-exempt status under state and federal tax laws), a public sidewalk may be used for the limited merchandising of items or services under the following conditions:
    a. the sidewalk sales may occur for a period not to exceed five (5) days in any calendar year, and the sales must be concurrent with the associated Parade or Event; and,
    b. the location of any booth or table used by a sidewalk vendor under this subsection shall be at a specific location approved in advance by the City; and,
    c. the net proceeds received by the nonprofit corporation from such sales are to be devoted exclusively for the benefit of the sponsoring nonprofit organization(s); and,
    d. the persons conducting such sales are authorized in writing to do so by the nonprofit organization sponsoring the event; and,
    e. for the purposes of this subsection, the word “concurrent” shall be defined as occurring within the same calendar week (Sunday through Saturday).
  4. Sidewalk Sales in Connection with a Reserved Park Event. A public street or sidewalk immediately adjacent to a City park facility may be used for the limited merchandising of items under the following conditions:
    a. the person or organization sponsoring the merchandising is a nonprofit entity, and it has reserved the adjacent park facility for an event pursuant to the requirements of Santa Barbara Municipal Code Chapter 15.05 and 15.16; and,
    b. the sales occur only during the time the park is being used for the reserved event; and,
    c. the persons conducting such sales are authorized in writing to do so by the nonprofit sponsoring the event; and
    d. the net proceeds received by the nonprofit corporation from such sales are to be devoted exclusively for the benefit of the sponsoring nonprofit organization.
  5. Sidewalk Cafe Tables Under Chapter 9.95. For the placement of sidewalk cafe tables in accordance with Santa Barbara Municipal Code Chapter 9.95.
    214-4 rev. 12/31/09

D. SIDEWALK MERCHANDISING REGULATIONS AND PERMITS. The City Administrator, acting by and through the Director of Public Works, is hereby directed to prepare an appropriate administrative process (along with related administrative regulations) for the City’s acceptance, review, and processing of applications for the issuance of sidewalk merchandising permits, as such permits are allowed by and consistent with the requirements of this Section. (Ord. 5350, 2005; Ord. 5236, 2002; Ord. 4843, 1993; Ord. 4751, 1992; Ord. 3880, 1976; Ord. 3852, 1976; prior Code §32.23.)

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  1. SL says:

    Yep, this is why the Burger Bus and the Culture Shock truck have made arrangements to use private lots. It appears that “O Street Truck” has made some of these arrangements also are stating they will be parking out in front of the Farmers’ Market and the Art Walk which I doubt will fly for very long.

  2. Anonymous says:

    And the saga continues…..seems as if the California Vehicle Code can override any local municipality law with regards to food truck placements……This should make for great fodder.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I have done some continuing research and came across a court case that validates food trucks being able to conduct business on California city streets.

    Take a look at:

  4. Critic says:

    I’d like to see some enforcement of these laws with the Latino vendors that sell their wares… or are they immune from these laws as well?

  5. Anonymous says:

    Is there any ordinance that states that a food truck must maintain a certain or minimum distance from a brick and mortar business in Santa Barbara?

  6. qq says:

    After reading the case and the relevant Santa Barbara code, my conclusions are as follows (I recently graduated from law school for what it’s worth. My analysis of this issue represents my own personal opinion and does not constitute any legal advice)

    1) The Barajas case mentioned above deals with the issue of preemption. Similar to how States may not pass laws that conflict with the Federal laws, cities are barred from passing laws which conflict with or usurp areas of law dominated by the State. In Barajas the court found food trucks to be covered under the State Motor Vehicle Code, therefore preventing cities from passing ordinances to regulate them.

    2) Our city code makes it unlawful for “persons” to sell goods/merchandise on public streets, but is silent as to motor vehicles. I’m not sure if this wording was meant to circumvent the Barajas case (to prevent the motor vehicle code from preempting city law) or if was left intentionally broad for some other reason.

    3) The Santa Barbara code regarding food trucks was last amended in 2009, suggesting that the City was aware of the 1993 Barajas case when it made modifications to the existing code. (actually this is almost certain since Barajas has been the seminal case in mobile food vending for the past 2 decades, and its something you would expect the lawyers and lawmakers that drafted this section to be aware of.)

    4) This municipal code section has been law for the past 2 years, providing ample time for opponents of the ordinance to sue and have the code amended.

    When taken into account ,these factors then are supportive of the conclusion that the city code does ban persons (including those on food trucks) from selling on public streets. While it is possible the city law conflicts with California law, it is unclear whether Barajas governs in this case due to the wording of the ordinance. In any event, the ordinance has been in place for a sufficient period of time for opponents to sue and have the code amended. Thus absent a repeal or modification of municipal section 9.48.010, one must conclude that the laws on the city’s books remain valid and enforceable.

    • Moe Hong says:

      The State Vehicle Code VERY clearly says that cities may only enact additional regulation on trucks in cases of public safety.

      If the City of Santa Barbara can prove having these trucks vending on public property (vs. private) is a risk to public safety, they may then enforce this regulation.

      If not, they are in violation of the State Vehicle Code.

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