Food trucks return to Capitola Mall after management secures permit

CAPITOLA — After a delay, Capitola Mall was granted a conditional use permit to host mobile food vendors on its property.



a man standing in front of a building: Merlone Geier Partners, a real estate development group from San Francisco, bought the Capitola Mall in April but has not submitted a redevelopment plan to the city of Capitola. (Dan Coyro -- Santa Cruz Sentinel file)


© Provided by Santa Cruz Sentinel
Merlone Geier Partners, a real estate development group from San Francisco, bought the Capitola Mall in April but has not submitted a redevelopment plan to the city of Capitola. (Dan Coyro — Santa Cruz Sentinel file)

The permit, approved Thursday at the Capitola Planning Commission, is good for two years and includes conditions that require vendors to comply with city biodegradable and compostable disposable food serve ware requirements and the mall to only host food trucks in the spaces outlined in its application.



diagram: Capitola Mall management applied for a conditional permit to operate in four different spots on the property (highlighted by color). The Capitola Planning Commission approved the application Thursday night. (Credit: City of Capitola)


© Provided by Santa Cruz Sentinel
Capitola Mall management applied for a conditional permit to operate in four different spots on the property (highlighted by color). The Capitola Planning Commission approved the application Thursday night. (Credit: City of Capitola)

Mall management was sent a “courtesy letter” from the city Jan. 20 after it found out from Sentinel content published on its Eat & Drink pages that at least one mobile food vendor was planning to operate on-site. The manager of the mall, according to planning staff, informed the owners of the two active vendors — Taquizas Gabriel and Saucy’z — that they would no longer be allowed to operate there without permits from the mall.

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Since then, management identified as Merlone Geier Management LLC has applied for a conditional use permit that allowing up to three mobile food vendors to operate from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days a week, according to the staff report. The mall proposed four sites for the food vending locations: parking along 41st Avenue north and south of the main eastern mall entrance, the parking spaces along Capitola Road near the main southern mall entrance and the parking spaces along Clares Street south of the main western mall entrance.

Staff recommended the acceptance of the application because of the physical suitability of the site for the food trucks.

“The use is being proposed in underutilized areas along the outer edges of the Capitola Mall parking lot,” staff wrote. “The operating characteristics of mobile food vendors are complementary to the existing retail and restaurant uses in the Capitola Mall and on the adjacent parcels.”

Associate Planner Matt Orbach brought up the benefits of mobile food vending, benefits that could allow it to serve as a community economic development tool.

“Food trucks and trailers provide opportunities for entrepreneurs and small businesses,” he said, displaying colorful trucks on screen. “They can add interest, vibrancy and activity to streetscapes and sites and expand food access in areas otherwise underserved by traditional restaurants.”

No seating or additional signage (such as flags or sandwich boards) will be allowed. Vendors will be required to provide a physical barrier, such as a retractable belt barrier, between the vehicular right of way in the parking lot and the queue for customers waiting to order. These vendors will vary.

There were no lighting requests included in the application and individual mobile food vendors will be required to have onsite trash and recycling, disposed of within mall refuse disposal areas.

The Capitola Municipal Code around land use regulations indicates that mobile food vendors can operate in one location four times or less per year with an administrative temporary use permit. They may operate in one location more than four times per year with a conditional use permit. Permits are granted based on hours of operation, maintenance of accessibility for the disabled, protection of fire lanes and access and approximately five other criteria.

Due to a request from the commission, the permit will be reviewed in six months to ensure that no violations are taking place. This is in addition to normal code enforcement practices such as fines for violations, and, if necessary, pulling the permit altogether.

“Any of these vehicles on-site will also be under an agreement with us they’d need to follow, so we would address (violations) ourselves first,” said mall president Brian Kirk during public comment.

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