Advocating for Change

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Tim Johnson, a registered lobbyist and consultant from the Northwest Policy Group LLC, is our full-time Policy Director.  He provides the Washington State Food Truck Association insight regarding the current political climate in Olympia and assists us in the development of specific legislative goals and objectives.  

Tim lobbies the state legislature and state agencies on our behalf, oversees our local government lobbying efforts, and helps us train and organize our statewide grassroots advocacy team.  


Accomplishments (State Level)

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Commissary Kitchen Exemption

Governor Jay Inslee signs HB 2639 on behalf of food truck owners in Washington! 03/22/2018 (Find the updated RCW here.)

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Plan Review Reciprocity

Governor Inslee signs SSB5218 on 04/29/19!

  • State Department of Liquor and Cannabis -  via agency proposal, we were successful in getting the Caterer's License redefined for mobile food vendors who want to apply for a liquor license, to include mobile food vendors sharing commissary kitchen space 02/2017. Amended Section. WAC 314-02-112: added language allowing the caterer’s licensees to share a commissary kitchen under certain conditions.  

  • Washington State Labor & Industries -  we were succesful in redefining the risk classification codes for the modern day food truck 06/2017 which resulted in many refunds.  If your food truck is not moving to different locations during the day, all operations are reported under code 3905, with a base rate of .41.   Food trucks had been erroneously reporting under Code 1101 - (base rate = 2.15), which is for route food services that travel to various locations throughout the day.   

  • State Department of Health -  many examples of uneven application from one county to the next of the state health food code. As of  11/01/2017 - we have brought enough issues to the state health department that they have agreed to open up the code for change, a stakeholder committee was formed and meetings have begun leading to a multi-county pilot program to look at multiple policy changes.  We have also been succesful, through an agency rule petition, in changing the 200-foot restroom rule to 500-feet and this will become effective January 2019. 

  • Washington State Legislature -  we proposed bill HB 2639, and it passed through the state legislature 03/2017 unanimously, allowing mobiles who meet certain conditions to operate without the costly addition of a full commissary kitchen, which brings us up to date with the 2017 FDA food code.

  • Washington State Legislature - we proposed SB 5218, and it passed through the state legislature 04/2019 unanimously, allowing mobiles to apply for secondary permits in other counties without having to repeat the time consuming, redundant and costly plan review portion of the health permit process.


Accomplishments (Local Government Level)

  • City of Everett - After running a short pilot program in 2017 to test out food trucks and the ROW, a proposal was made to the City Council to remove the old mobile food vending code and create an ordinance that will: eliminate any special business license requirement for food trucks (and remove the current requirements of fingerprinting, providing photos, and an FBI check), change the distance food trucks can park from a permanent eating establishment to 50-feet from the front door of a permanent eating establishment unless the food truck has written permission from the establishment to be directly in front of the door, eliminate the protection zone around the Arena and allow more administrative changes to better adjust the food truck temporary right of way permitting process. This new ordinance is expected to pass 08/07/19.

  • City of Sea-Tac - Food Truck regulations proposal for a new city ordinance was submitted to the city council, accepted and passed 03/27/2018. The new ordinance creates a business license for mobile food vendors and changes the land use & zoning code. The Association's director spoke at the land use committee meeting and was supported by several other food truck owners over 5-months in subsequent committee and council meetings.

  • City of Yelm - Food Truck regulations proposal for an new city ordinance was submitted to the city council by the Yelm Business Assn. (YBA) in November 2016. Our Director, Lori Johnson spoke at the town hall and was supported by Turan Wright of the Silver Spork food truck. A new ordinance was passed on 06/2017 allowing food trucks.

  • City of Bellingham - Planning and Community Development Department had reported (March 2016) that they are currently updating their sidewalk vendor regulations, to include food trucks with a new ordinance pending after a succesful pilot program. In May of 2019, city passed new ordinance allowing vendors to access public property and the ROW via street permits.

  • City of  Ferndale Planning and Community Development Department held a commitee meeting in January 2018 and was attended by the WSFTA Director and the owner of Something Cheesey.  City council voted to change existing policy to allow food trucks on public property, in local parks and removed the distance restriction to schools. 

  • City of  Lynnwood  -  Ordinance passed with a 7-0 vote on 03/22/16.  The City now allows mobile food vending with a city license.  The Association worked with the City of Lynnwood for 3-months providing comments and guidance. 

  • City of Shelton -  had asked for public comments  on updating their Food Truck laws back in Sep 2015, and the State Association submitted comments and supporting information from the National League of Cities.   October 12, 2015, the city amended the municipal  code to no longer prohibit food trucks from staying in one location for more than two hours per day,  and they are now able to sell near schools. 

  • City of Renton -  after a year of partnership and collecting public and food truck owner comments, the city has decided to change their code affecting food trucks and to reduce the need for a costly and time-consuming Tier-2 permit in commerically zoned areas.   

  • City of Puyallup -  the city management has decided to approve a pilot program we proposed as of Dec 2018, allowing food trucks to operate for a limited period of time outside of the current municipal code; food trucks may now operate on private property without the additional vendor's license that required a criminal background check and on public property with a permit.

  • Snohomish County - Health district has approved a new policy that allows vendors with a King or Pierce County permit to skip the redundant and costly Plan Review process in 04/2017 as we pointed this out to be unnecessary and a costly process to vendors who were already annually permitted in a neighboring county. Vendors can also request a commisary "in County" exemption, approved on a case by case basis.   


Issues we are working on now

  • HB1134 - Standardizing Fire Code for Mobile Food Vendors w/Fire Permit Reciprocity, Lack of fire inspection standards and permit reciprocity - No single NFPA code or standard addressed all the fire protection and life safety challenges inherent in mobile food preparation and service until June 2017.  

  • Parking prohibitions in multiple cities - current code only allows mobile food vending for special events (e.g. Liberty Lake near Spokane, Marysville, etc), limited amount of permits being issued (e.g. Edmonds), no parking on public   property (e.g. Bellevue) etc.

  • High Event Fees - Most event hosts are over charging food trucks to participate in special events. Food trucks are a huge draw to the public and increase foot traffic to their venues.  We aim to protect and defend our members in educating those who organize events to the unique logistics of using food trucks and have a page for this purpose found here.

  • Department of Transportation Permits - Current SDOT applications for annual curbside vending are very lengthy, costly and not guaranteed, causing a lot of food truck owners not to pursue SDOT vending locations.   Open up Park & Ride/commuter lots and ferry terminals to mobile food vending. (SDOT, Sound Transit, & County owned) 


The Washington Constitution protects individuals from economic protectionism. Article I, section 12 of the state constitution—the “Privileges or Immunities” Clause—provides, “No law shall be passed granting to any citizen, class of citizens, or corporation other than municipal, privileges or immunities which upon the same terms shall not equally belong to all citizens, or corporations.” 

The purpose of the Privileges or Immunities Clause is to “prevent people from seeking certain privileges or benefits to the disadvantage of others.” From the earliest days of statehood, the Washington Supreme Court counted the right to earn a living among the “privileges” with respect to which the government cannot play favorites. Thus, throughout the early 20th century, the court routinely struck down regulations that burdened the economic liberty of some citizens while granting special favors to others.


City Resources

Cities That Push Out Food Trucks Are Only Hurting Themselves - Institute for Justice: https://ij.org/cities-that-push-out-food-trucks-are-only-hurting-themselves/

Study Shows Food Trucks Not a Threat to Restaurants - https://mobile-cuisine.com/off-the-wire/study-shows-food-trucks-not-a-threat-to-restaurants/

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