Tacoma food trucks could get 5 new curbside spots to set up shop

Food trucks line Market Street in Tacoma on May 1, 2015, during a food truck get-together.
Food trucks line Market Street in Tacoma on May 1, 2015, during a food truck get-together. Staff photographer file, 2015

Tacoma is in the process of rolling out new regulations for curbside food trucks, an effort to appease brick-and-mortar restaurants and property owners while allowing the burgeoning industry to grow.

The city has come up with five proposed food truck hot spots, located downtown and in the Tacoma Dome district, for those hoping to operate their trucks in the right of way in places with decent foot traffic for lunch and dinner crowds. Those locations have been OK’d by property owners, area restaurants, food truck operators and, importantly, the city’s parking task force, said Kala Dralle, an economic development specialist with the city of Tacoma.

They are: Tacoma Avenue South near the main library branch, South 11th Street near A Street, Broadway in front of the Pierce Transit park, East 25th near East D Street and Puyallup Ave near the Greyhound station.

We’re not done with the process of finding more. We really want to find more.

Kala Dralle, city of Tacoma economic development specialist on food truck locations

While those five spots represent places where the city was able to get some consensus, “We’re not done with the process of finding more,” Dralle said. “We really want to find more.” There are also some food trucks operating curbside using special event permits, she said, including in front of Keys on Main piano club downtown.


Originally, a group of food truck operators had pitched 11 spots citywide, said Donna Arnold, who along with her husband owns Arnold’s Happy Days food truck and spearheaded a now-disbanded group called T-Town Food Trucks. Three of their recommended sites made it into the final five.

“I’m pleased to see that we have something to work with now,” Arnold said. “But I’m eager to have more food truck operators come aboard and say, ‘I would like to see this site considered, and this site considered.’ 

The city’s recommendations, which include specifics on signage and an annual licensing fee, are headed to the City Council for approval after they passed out of the Economic Development Committee this week.

Food trucks fit into Tacoma’s ethos of being small-business friendly, both Dralle and Arnold said, and they’ve grown to the point where the city needs a plan for how to regulate them and where to place them.

“It is a town that loves small business,” Arnold said, adding that her truck has gotten “tremendous feedback” from customers: “ ‘This is great, we need to see more of this, why haven’t we had this sooner?’ 

It is a town that loves small business.

Donna Arnold, owner of Arnold’s Happy Days food truck

As the trucks’ numbers grow, they need to reach some level of accord with the established local businesses who view them as competition, and with community members who might see them as further limiting parking options and causing congestion, officials said.

Dralle said the city “got some really intense pushback from property and business owners and the parking task force about how they perceive competition and conflict” during the process of hammering out the recommended regulations. A majority of local businesses had to approve the five proposed sites, Arnold said.

Arnold, who worked on the proposed regulations with the city, said she’s happy to see them move forward. “We want to go out there and play nice with everybody,” she said. “We want these policies in place. We’re eager to get them going because we don’t want to be that nuisance, because you’re going to have food trucks out there that are going to run rogue if there’s nothing in place.”

Candice Ruud: 253-597-8441, @candiceruud

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