16 May 2008

Taco Kerfuffel in LA

As a follow-up to my interest in Food Trucks and why we don't have them much in Ohio. Here are some articles about new restrictions on them in LA:

Carne Asada is not a crime.

... new rules that go into effect Thursday – what to do with the 14,000 roving restaurateurs who have brought inexpensive entrees, a sense of community, intensifying competition for diners, neighborhood complaints, and a political brouhaha to the street corners of Los Angeles County.

The new county law makes parking a taco truck in one spot for more than an hour punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 or six months in jail, or both. It replaces a longtime but rarely enforced measure that fined trucks $60 if they stayed in one spot longer than 30 minutes. The law affects unincorporated areas of the city – where about 60 percent of the population lives – and includes East Los Angeles, one of the biggest concentrations of Mexican-Americans in the United States.

The five county supervisors passed the new regulations unanimously a month ago, saying the volume of complaints had reached critical mass in recent years.

With less-expensive menu items and lower overhead, the mobile kitchens were forcing established restaurants to close early and suffer losses, according to the East Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce and other business groups.

...some 150 of the city's 14,000 licensed vendors have stated they will refuse to comply with the law starting this Thursday. They have hired a lawyer, Philip Greenwald, a veteran of 40 years of representing mobile industrial caterers.

"These trucks pay taxes, they are inspected by the health department, and there is no legitimate reason to be pushing them around," he says. "This is not a matter of unfair competition but restraint of fair trade."

Others worry that one of the city's most distinctive social and cultural features could fall by the wayside.

"Thousands of Angelenos ... have long gathered at the trucks, in many cases since childhood, for quick carnitas burritos or mouthwatering cemitas, ... fired meat and other gut-busting goodness," says a recent editorial in the Los Angeles Times. "Call them what you will: roach coaches, loncheras, snack vans ... but taco trucks are a rich part of our region's heritage."

The Times and a leading political columnist in California, Dan Walters of the Sacramento Bee, have called for the county's supervisors to rescind the law as unfair to those at the lower end of the economic ladder.

On Wednesday, a grass-roots campaign (saveourtacotrucks.org), which has gathered thousands of signatures to petition a change in the law, is sponsoring "Taco Libre" – the chance to enjoy a last mobile entree before the new law takes effect.
"This is about more than delicious and inexpensive food," adds his Web partner Chris Rutherford. "It's about people and community and neighborhoods."


Anonymous said...

I'm struggling to believe these LA taco truck vendors earn more revenue than the costs of their expenses. Especially with California exceeding $4.00 per gallon for gasoline. I regret throwing fire into the salsa but something seems amiss.

CityKin said...

They do a great business, and it's not like they are driving around all day. They just park in one spot.