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Food trucks parked on La Jolla coastal streets violate code, but public ‘has limited recourse’

A food truck and an ice cream truck are pictured parked on Coast Boulevard near the Children's Pool in La Jolla.
(Courtesy of John Klitsner)

Summer may mean ice cream cones and lunches on the beach, but when they come from a mobile food vendor, there may be a problem. With the influx of tourists and other guests to La Jolla’s beaches, some residents have reported an increase in food and ice cream trucks parking on streets in violation of local codes.

Roughly a month ago, La Jolla resident John Klitsner started noticing them in front of his home on Coast Boulevard. “They park right across the street from where I live,” he said. “They run the generator the whole time, so we can’t open our window. And they block our view to the ocean and block the sidewalk.

“We saved our whole lives to live here, and I would hope they would move to an area that is not mostly residential.”

Klitsner said he asked a truck operator to move, but the operator declined. “The owner said they needed the work and that there is good business here,” Klitsner said.

He said he then reached out to the city of San Diego and reported the situation on the city’s Get It Done app, with no luck.

There might not be a lot more he can do.

City Councilman Joe LaCava, whose District 1 includes La Jolla, told the La Jolla Light that “food trucks are not allowed to operate within the public right of way in parking impact overlay zones, such as the coastal streets in La Jolla.” But, he added, “the public has limited recourse if witnessing such a violation.”

He suggested using the Get It Done app or calling the San Diego Police Department’s non-emergency line at (619) 531-2000, which may get a parking enforcement response.

Scott Robinson, a spokesman for the city, said that if a truck is on private property, residents can request a code enforcement investigation by visiting sandiego.gov/CED.

“Generally, food trucks parked and conducting business within the parking impact overlay zone violate the San Diego municipal code and it can be a misdemeanor offense,” Robinson said. “However, some violations can be a less severe infraction. If this is the case, a food truck operator could be cited by the San Diego police, park rangers or lifeguards.”

San Diego police Community Relations Officer Brandon Broaddus said the department does not “conduct enforcement with food trucks.”

Klistner said he “would like to see these trucks operate within the confines of what is legal. So if it’s not legal, I would like for them to move to an area more appropriate. I understand these businesses are trying to make a living and they are working in a hot truck, but move where you are not in front of a residence. These trucks don’t belong on the coast; there is an overabundance of vendors.”

Local boards have expressed concerns and frustration about a rising number of vendors popping up at parks, beaches and sidewalks.

Some observers have attributed the increase to the state’s Safe Sidewalk Vending Act (Senate Bill 946), which was enacted in 2019 and allows sidewalk vending, establishes parameters for its regulation and prohibits local authorities from imposing criminal penalties on sidewalk vendors.

The law does not apply to motorized vehicles such as food or ice cream trucks. ◆