The Bakersfield City Council will talk about how to regulate food trucks Wednesday amid concerns by brick-and-mortar restaurant owners that they’re taking away business.

City staffers propose allowing food trucks downtown and in some commercial and manufacturing zones to operate from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sunday.

Downtown, they’d be allowed to stay open from 6 a.m. to 1 a.m. Multiple food trucks could operate in these zones or elsewhere in the city by conditional use permit.

Staff also suggests keeping food trucks 10 to 100 feet from brick-and-mortar restaurants; 200 feet from residences; and 300 feet from public parks, playgrounds or corporations.

That’s a little different from the draft ordinance proposed to the council’s Community Services Committee on Aug.4. Its main proposed distance restriction would have kept trucks 30 to 100 feet from restaurants.

City Attorney Ginny Gennaro said if the council decides exactly what should be done about food trucks, city staff could bring a draft ordinance back for a first reading in September — meaning it could be approved and become law in November “at the earliest.”

Southwest Councilwoman Jacquie Sullivan, who chairs the Community Services Committee, said at its meeting she was inclined “to strongly sympathize” with restaurant owners.

But Sullivan said on Tuesday having nearly two more weeks to consider the matter has helped her become more flexible and understand “that we’re trying to do what’s best for all of downtown.”

Restaurateur Jerry Baranowski, owner of Jerry’s Pizza on Chester Avenue, said at the Aug. 4 meeting food trucks should be at least 75 feet from restaurants and preferably 100 feet.

“I wouldn’t say they shouldn’t exist but they should be in a very, very proper distance. I would say it’s almost dishonest to pull up in front of someone’s place and start to sell,” Baranowski said.

Chris Gonzalez, co-owner of the Curbside Kitchen food truck at 18th and H streets, said distance restrictions of 100 to 150 feet from existing restaurants would “definitely change my business strategy and I’ll probably have to lay off half of my crew.”

Councilman Willie Rivera, a committee member who favored letting food trucks operate late and not requiring them to seek the permission of surrounding restaurants — a suggestion from a downtown business owner — said Tuesday he thought the issue was an appropriate one for the whole council to consider.

Downtown Business Development Corp. Executive Director Cathy Butler observed the process of crafting an ordinance “takes a while. I’m learning that,” but is ultimately a good thing.

“I know we’re growing. This is part of growing pains. It’s nice there’s an interest in downtown and I think that comes from the young professionals,” Butler said. 

Also Wednesday, the City Council will learn the state’s historic drought cost the California Water Service Co. $4.2 million from May 1, 2014, to Dec. 31, 2015 — money it has asked the California Public Utilities Commission for permission to recover through a 12-month rate increase.

The proposal comes on top of an existing request for a nearly 17 percent rate increase over three years that the CPUC is considering.

Cal Water wants to charge customers with water meters an additional 3 cents per 748 gallons, or about $9.12 for 12 months. Flat rate customers would pay more: $14.87 over 12 months.

“It goes away after 12 months. That’s (for) all the advertising we’ve done, radio, TV, billboards and of course the bill inserts,” Rudy Valles, Cal Water’s Bakersfield district director, said.

Rivera called the request “absurd” and said he plans “on asking the city to pen a letter in strong opposition to the request.”

“How far do you want to go? We can keep writing letters but the bottom line is going to be what’s the result?” said Hanson, who chairs the City Water Board. “The CPUC seems to say yes to everything.”

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