Opinion: The Palm Desert Food Truck Regulations Are a Joke

Food Truck


Back in March, The Palm Desert City Council approved food trucks operating within city limits – well, except for the fact that they didn’t. Regulations restricted the food trucks to only being able to operate in the dark, underground, and when no one is watching. Well not exactly that bad, but it was close. Some of the rules include:

  • Limits on hours of operations: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., or 7 p.m. May 1 through Sept. 30 & 9am -5pm Oct. 1 – Apr. 30
  • Food trucks can not operate on streets with a 35 mph speed limit or higher
  • Food trucks can not operate within 750 feet of existing restaurants
  • Food trucks can not operate within 1,500 feet from elementary, middle, and high schools

I find it just a tad ironic that most conservative Palm Desert residents would go along with these restrictive government regulations – the same type of government intervention that they would normally spend all day bitching about at their country clubs. And these regulations are not even logical.  Food trucks are required to be at least 1,500 feet from schools.  If 1,500 feet seems like a lot – that is because it is!  In fact here are a couple types of businesses that are only required to be 1,000 feet from schools:

  • Escort Services
  • Bathhouses

Yup, food trucks need to be further from your kids than a bathhouse because why exactly?

Here is the thing.  I do not know why exactly Palm Desert has set up these ridiculous food truck regulations and frankly I do not care.  Food trucks have been rolling around Los Angeles and San Diego for years and I do not see their Applebee’s going out of business. But the argument for protecting existing restaurants keeps coming up.  The argument that the brick and mortar establishments have to worry is nonsense, I mean do you really think the Mastro’s crowd is going to blow off their steak dinner plans for some street tacos?  Yet, The City Council keeps saying that they put these hardcore regulations in place to protect the existing restaurants, like this quote in The Desert Sun:

Councilwoman Jan Harnik said the distance requirement goes a long way to protect brick-and-mortar establishments, “We all know our restauranteurs have put in a great investment of their time, their money, their effort into their restaurants, and the last thing we would ever want to do is hurt them. Some of them put that investment into our city during a really economically challenging time.”

Weird how this protection for existing Palm Desert establishments is never a priority when The Costcos, Wal-Marts, and golf superstores want to come to town.

Food trucks give residents an alternative way to enjoy something unique that the rest of Southern California gets to have every day. More importantly, it gives an entrepreneur lacking deep pockets a somewhat less expensive way to enter the market – that same free market that the 1% country club crowd is always saying is being taken away from them.