Luis Diaz can see his home as he cooks up meat for the lunch rush in his mobile taco truck each morning.
He owns and operates Tacos Xavi, a mobile food truck, and his business is parked next to a shoe store on North First Street in Hermiston. It’s just steps from his back yard.
If he can help it, Diaz would like to keep the location.
A proposal to regulate mobile vendors by the city would change where Diaz and others to could sell their goods, and for how long.
Between customers arriving for lunch on Thursday, Diaz walked back to his residence to grab an avocado before he continued making tacos. He said he makes up to 200 tacos and burritos each day, and he often grabs ingredients from his home.
For more than a year Diaz tried to find a location for his mobile business, until he and his wife found a rental and set up shop nearby. Diaz said he doesn’t have a problem with the city regulating mobile vendors as long as there is some type of a plan.
“If they come up with rules, I’m willing to follow them as much as possible,” Diaz said, through translation by Eddie De La Cruz, Hispanic Advisory Committee chair.
Under the proposal written by Clint Spencer, city planner, and Mark Morgan, assistant to the city manager, mobile vendors would be required to buy a permit that would 180 days. After that time, vendors would need to buy a new permit and set up shop in a new location. The proposal also includes requiring seating structures to be temporary and limiting daily hours of operation from 8 a.m.-9 p.m. The proposal is a blueprint for what could be regulated by the city, and has not been approved by the city council.
The regulations lay out six mobile vendors in Hermiston that would be out of compliance if they were approved and enforced.
The topic has been discussed between the Business Advisory Committee and Hispanic Advisory Committee as well as the city council. Spencer said he didn’t expect action on the proposal until summer at earliest, which the city will continue to discuss.
Many, including Diaz, worry about the potential requirement to move their business and lose clientele.
“The biggest obstacle is the 180-day period,” Diaz said through translation.
Diaz said if the proposal were approved as written, he would consider building a permanent site, and apply for a conditional use permit with the city’s planning committee.
But there is more to it than taking the wheels off his vendor truck. He would also need to comply with the city’s building department, according to Spencer.
Diaz said he sees a positive outcome from the proposal, however.
“I think there’s going to be a good outcome out of this because everybody’s going to look more professional and they can attract more business when everything is in order,” he said. “This is for the benefit of everybody.
“The city is doing this to make sure everyone is under regulation.”
Other mobile vendors are not as sure about the potential rules.
Diaz gathered five mobile vendors and their families on Thursday night at a local restaurant to discuss the possible regulations.
Christina Magallares Sanchez, of Hermiston, works at Nelly’s Super Tacos, operated by her and her mother, Nelly Sanchez. Magallares Sanchez translated for the group of vendors who discussed the possible changes, many who wondered how they could be affected. Some shared Diaz’s concerns about the permit time period as well as requiring certain hours of operation.
Daisy Mendoza, who operates Tacos El Trebol along Highway 395, said she also worries about the 180-day permit rule. Mendoza said she supports herself and two brothers through her business.
“It would be kind of hard for me to support my family, moving around,” Mendoza said, through translation by Sanchez. She has been at the location for two years and said she has regular customers.
There are potential exemptions in the proposal, including vendors who sell at the Umatilla County Fairgrounds. Mobile vendors operating on city property and on public right of way with council approval would also be exempt from the regulations. Charitable organizations performing fundraising activities and mobile vendors who stay less than 14 days would not need permits.
De La Cruz, who is also a business owner, said he disagrees with the 180-day period for mobile vendors but supports the city’s efforts to keep areas regulated and clean.
“We want to keep Hermiston as a neat-looking community,” he said.
To view the complete proposal in English or Spanish for mobile vendor regulations, go online at www.hermiston.or.us.