Taco truck, gas station will compete

Planners approve permit

cpride@losbanosenterprise.comNovember 18, 2013 

The Planning Commission on Wednesday weighed the rights of a taco truck to operate near a gas station that sells burritos, tamales and other items.

The owners of the taco truck asked the commission for a permit to set up shop at Battery Outlet at 210 W. Pacheco Blvd. Representatives from Valero at 140 W. Pacheco Blvd. objected, claiming that it would hurt business because the gas station sells some of the same items.

Commissioner Tom Spada sided with the gas station.

“The Valero has food similar to what the taco truck’s going to have and I have a concern about that,” Spada said. “I don’t see it as fair.”

Los Banos’ ordinance states that no mobile vendor can operate within 500 feet of a similar business. Some commissioners argued that a gas station with a convenience store that sells food is not the same as a food truck. They compared the taco truck to a restaurant that would offer the same menu items.

Assistant Planner Stacy Elms said there was a Mexican restaurant across the street from where the taco truck wants to do business, but the eatery is no longer in operation.

Steven Nunes of CST Brands Inc., which provides food items to Valero, said business is suffering.

“Since am-pm opened up, we’ve lost about 40 percent of our business,” Nunes said.

He said gas stations with convenience stores provide sales and property tax revenue to the city while the taco truck likely will not.

Commissioner Arkady Faktorovich said he believes not allowing the taco truck is unAmerican.

“I’m from the former Soviet Union. For someone to come forward and say, ‘Oh, you can’t do business because it’s a competitor and I don’t want (you) in my back yard’ reminds me of my former country,” Faktorovich said. “I say the business has a right to open. It’s just a friendly good competition. That’s what this country’s built on.”

City Attorney William Vaughn, who reviewed the mobile vendor ordinance when it was revised in 2008 and 2010, said recent court rulings may make the 500-foot rule obsolete.

“Since this ordinance was adopted, there have been California areas where they tried to limit mobile vendors based on brick-and-mortar criteria (nearby storefronts),” Vaughn said.

“Those are being challenged now by mobile vendors. Our ordinance may be out of line.”

The taco truck was granted a permit in a 4-2 vote. Spada and Chairwoman Tracey Rosin voted no. Commissioner Susan Toscano was absent.

The commission requested a review of the city’s mobile vendor ordinance.

Reporter Corey Pride can be reached at (209) 826-3831 ext. 6563 or by email at cpride@losbanosenterprise.com.

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