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Mobile Food Vending Permits

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Applicants should first review the Vending Guidelines and Standard Conditions of Approval to see if they meet the requirements for a mobile food vending permit, and if the permit meets their needs. The Mobile Food Vending ordinance was revised in November 2005 (Municipal Code Chapter 5.22) and should also be reviewed to ensure all qualifications can be met.

Links to Mobile Food Vending Application and Renewal Forms:

Vending Guidelines << Please read this first <<
Application for Mobile Food Vending Permit
Application for Mobile Food Vending Operator
Standard Permit Conditions and Maps illustrating where mobile food vending is allowed
Application for Renewal (Only for Current Permit Holders)

Mobile Food Vending Permit Guidelines:

1. Street vending is allowed only in residential and industrial areas, and only under a mobile food vending permit approved by the City Council. No vending is allowed in commercial districts unless it is part of a permit for a special event.

2. Vending permits are issued only for the sale of fruits, vegetables, and foodstuffs.

3. Except under a valid vending permit, it is illegal to sell, barter, or exchange any goods from a vehicle on any City street.

4. No commercial use, sales, or solicitation is allowed in the following areas, unless it is included in a special event permit or lease or license agreement:
i. On West Cliff Drive between Columbia Street and Beach Street;
ii. On Beach Street between West Cliff Drive and Third Street;
iii. On the vehicle and pedestrian thoroughfares of the Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf or on the
Municipal Wharf's South End, Commons, and Agora;
iv. On the property abutting the ocean side of Beach Street between Westbrook and Cliff Streets
v. On the Beach Street Promenade Deck.

5.  Permitted must comply with the Environmentally Acceptable Food Packaging ordinance which stipulates that all food service providers shall provide food or drink in containers that are reusable, biodegradable, compostable or recyclable. The ordinance expressly prohibits the use of polystyrene foam “to-go” food packaging—without exemption. Failure to comply will result in fines.  To view more information about the ordinance, click here.   To view or print the brochure, click here.

6. The mobile food vending permit will include the Standard Conditions of Approval. Additional conditions may be imposed based on the particular circumstances of an individual application.

Permitting Process:

1. After reviewing the guidelines and standard permit conditions, applicants will fill in an application and submit it to the Santa Cruz Police Department. Paper copies of the applications are also available at:

Santa Cruz Police Department 
155 Center Street
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
(831) 420-5875

2. The application will be routed to various City departments for review and comment.

3. The Chief of Police's designated permit officer will review the application and make a final determination whether to grant or deny each mobile food vending permit. The designated permit officer may alternatively place the application on the City Council agenda for Council approval. Every effort will be made to have a decision within ninety (90) days of the application date. Under special circumstances, the process may take longer.

4. The applicant will be notified as to what additional information is required prior to the permit being issued. This will include:
• Providing copies to the Santa Cruz Police Department of their City of Santa Cruz business license and permit from the County Environmental Health Department.
• Providing a detailed description of the vending cart, including license number if applicable and a photo, if not included as part of the permit application.
• Obtaining an inspection of the vending vehicle and approval by the City Fire Department.
• Obtaining a background check and approval to operate from the Santa Cruz Police Department for all vending vehicle operators. All operators must submit an Application for Mobile Food Vending Operator to the Santa Cruz Police Department.  

5. When the applicant has submitted all required information, the Santa Cruz Police Department will issue the permit. If the applicant does not submit the required information within six months, the approval will no longer be valid.

6. The Santa Cruz Police Department will issue a photo ID for each operator.

7. Permits will need to be renewed annually, in March:
a. In late January/early February, the Santa Cruz Police Department will send reminder letters to all vendors.
b. In late February/early March, vendors must initiate a background check through Police.
c. Vendors must submit an Application for Renewal no later than March 31st, including Police approval based on the background check. To obtain approval, all operators must submit an Application for Mobile Food Vending Operator to the Santa Cruz Police Department.

8. Requests for amendments to the permit will be submitted to the Santa Cruz Police Department:
a. Revisions, such as adding new operators and vending vehicles or changing the vending vehicle will be handled by the designated permit officer, with amended permits issued by the Santa Cruz Police Department.

Santa Cruz Police Department
155 Center Street
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
(831) 420-5875