DC Seeks Solutions for Food Truck Parking Woes

The head of the Washington, D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs said the agency will try to find a "solution" to a food truck parking dispute outside the headquarters of NASA and the offices of Special Counsel Robert Mueller. The parking scheme was first revealed in a News-4 I-Team investigation in February.

A group of food truck operators have squatted on a set of prime public parking meter spaces for more than a year, according to the I-Team report, causing controversy with nearby businesses and other food truck vendors.

The I-Team review found the food truck operators work collaboratively and share a set of older cars. After the lunch hours are complete, operators move their food trucks from the metered parking spaces, but immediately move some of their fleet of shared cars into the spaces. Doing so blocks access to those spaces to others and allows the truck operators to squat on the spots around-the-clock and through the weekends.

Truck workers and neighboring businesses told the I-Team the food truck blockade of the parking spaces has continued for more than a year -- without interruption. Truck workers said the cars parked overnight at the meters incur parking tickets, which they regularly pay as a cost of their business.

The parking operation monopolizes valuable parking in a densely populated section of DC. The operators of neighboring businesses said the food trucks are siphoning customers from traditional bricks-and-mortar cafes.

“There are problems with the parking and we recognize that,” said DC Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs director Melinda Bolling during a DC Council hearing about the agency’s budget. Bolling said, “We are working with all the parties to find a solution.”

Bolling said she expects to broker a solution by the end of April, “before the weather warms.”

The pursuit of a solution could be challenging, according to multiple DC officials who spoke with the I-Team. DC parking and regulatory officials said the trucks are not violating parking rules, nor are they breaking the District’s food truck policies. 

The DC Food Truck Association, which represents the nearly 500 food trucks in DC, will be part of a task force to help the DC government settle the parking dispute, according to Bolling.

DC Food Truck Association political director Che Ruddell-Tabisola said the DC government should consier expanding the number of designated food truck zones it operates, to provide more curb space for the growing number of trucks. There are ten zones, offering approximately 100 parking spaces.

Ruddell-Tabisola said, “That’s really what this is about. We haven’t had a new food truck zone open since 2015. It’s incredibly hard.”

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