Petaluma approves food truck hub
A new open-air hub for trendy food trucks in Petaluma could be open for business as soon as this summer after crossing an administrative speed bump this week, according to the local man behind the project.
Site plans for The Block got a thumbs-up during a second round with the Petaluma Planning Commission on Tuesday, following a tweak to the design that will draw traffic away from a roadway frequented by the heavy trucks of the nearby Dairymen’s Feed & Supply Co-op.
Co-op representatives had claimed during a hearing in late January that an earlier access plan sharing that street would put The Block’s future customers at risk, prompting the city to ask for additional traffic study.
City planners said the new tweak shifting the access to the property effectively eliminated the need for the study, and commissioners praised the change as an effective compromise seeking harmony with the project’s future neighbors.
“I think this is a very good result,” said Dave King, the Petaluma city councilman who serves as a liaison to the commission.
Envisioned in the mold of popular food truck pavilions elsewhere in the country, The Block would occupy what is now a largely empty lot behind an Auto Zone retailer on East Washington Street. The fenced-in venue would include a staging area for a rotating roster of up to four food trucks, a permanent kitchen and pizza oven, a beer bar, covered outdoor seating and an on-site parking lot.
Entry will now be on Grey Street, compared to a previously planned entry point along Baylis Street, and will include new sidewalks and a new crosswalk.
“You have a fully accessible path from downtown to the front gate of this establishment,” said Petaluma Senior Planner Kevin Colin.
A first-time restaurant entrepreneur, Charles Hildreth said he saw the venue as having widespread appeal in filling an unmet niche in an increasingly foodie-friendly city. Motorized eateries at The Block are likely to be a far cry from the “taco truck” that has become a fixture at California’s construction sites and business parks, offering a diversity of unique and eclectic fare.
“We’re still definitely pushing for this summer,” he said.
The Block has generated a large amount of local interest since Hildreth, a Petaluma native, first went public with his idea. A Facebook page dedicated to the project that has attracted more than 1,700 “likes.”
Hildreth noted that he is largely bootstrapping the project on his own, relying on trades with professional service firms to accomplish the groundwork for launching the project. A crowdfunding initiative on Kickstarter attracted thousands of dollars in support, though Hildreth cited a relatively quiet campaign for the effort ultimately falling short of a $20,000 goal by a January deadline.
Meanwhile, buzz around the project has attracted the attention of other local investors, said Church Hildreth, a well-known local architect who is participating in the project as a business partner with his son, Charles Hildreth.
“This will be run and owned by Petalumans,” Church Hildreth said.
(Contact Eric Gneckow at email@example.com. On Twitter @Eric_Reports.)