A catering truck operator who refuses to stop selling food from a curbside post he has held for five years is challenging a 10-month-old Glendale ordinance that sharply restricts street vendors.
Pablo Torres, 45, has been cited more than 50 times in the last year and has paid more than $300 in fines for violating parking laws and the new ordinance. It prohibits vendors from staying more than 10 minutes in any one spot.
Charging that the law is unconstitutional, Torres is appealing the citations in Superior Court. He has refused to quit parking his truck at his usual post on Maryland Avenue, just outside the corporate headquarters of Glendale Federal Savings.
"I am being hassled with discrimination," complained Torres. He said he sometimes receives two citations a day.
"I've been selling from the same street since 1981," he said. "There were no parking restrictions. Now I have a good business here, and the city wants me to leave. I have no place in Glendale to do my business."
Torres said more than 150 of his Glendale customers have signed petitions asking that city officials allow him to remain in Glendale. So far, the petitions have been ignored.
City officials said this week they will seek an injunction against Torres. If the court grants their request, violations of the order could result in stiffer fines or even jail sentences for Torres.
They acknowledge that the dispute will test the legality of Glendale's laws regulating catering-truck operators.
An attorney representing Torres and other mobile caterers said a city injunction against a vendor would be extremely unusual. "You don't arrest a citizen for parking violations," said Philip Greenwald, a Sherman Oaks attorney and general counsel to the Mobile Industrial Caterers Assn. International, an organization of U.S. and Canadian caterers. "I've never heard of it before."
Greenwald said he is challenging the city's law as "unfair, unjust and discriminatory." Court dates on Torres' appeals have not been set.
The vending ordinance was adopted by the Glendale City Council in January after officials voiced concern about the growing number of pushcart vendors selling hot dogs and other items on city sidewalks. Merchants and restaurateurs complained that street vendors are unfair competition.
Representatives of caterers protested that the 10-minute rule is unfair to customers who rely on caterers for fast food at remote locations, such as at construction sites, in manufacturing zones or at summer schools when cafeterias are closed. Because of the arguments, the ordinance was amended to include a provision allowing the city clerk to issue a special permit for extended stays at some locations.
Besides limiting stops to 10 minutes, the ordinance prohibits an operator from returning to within 300 feet of the same location.
The final ordinance was adopted on a 3-2 vote, with Councilmen John F. Day and Carl Raggio opposed, saying the measure restrains trade and free enterprise.
City records show that, besides Torres, a few other truck caterers have been cited for violating the 10-minute rule, but none to the extent that Torres has. City Council this month authorized attorneys to take civil action against Torres.
Caterers say they fear that the city will seek injunctions against other operators as well.
"I don't like the implications of what that means," said Dorothy Heyne, co-owner of Ray's Rite Rate Service, a 30-year-old Glendale catering firm which operates 55 trucks. "It makes me wonder what is going to happen next."
Despite the citations, Torres said, he is conducting business as usual in Glendale.
He said his 13-hour workday begins at 3:30 a.m. when he heads to a meat market to buy and begin cooking the food he plans to sell from his truck.
From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. each weekday, Torres and his partner, Ana Mejia, park their truck on a cul-de-sac in the 800 block of North Maryland Avenue, across from Glendale Federal and the offices of several large insurance firms.
Torres estimates that he sells snacks and lunches to several hundred workers in the nearby office buildings daily. He also sells food at two other places in Burbank, in the morning and afternoon.
In August, 1985, Glendale city officials restricted parking in the 800 block of North Maryland to two hours to discourage all-day parking there by office workers, said Kenneth Johnson, city traffic engineer. Torres then began moving his truck during his four-hour stay, but was issued citations anyway because the law prohibits parking within 300 feet of the same location on the same day.
After the city adopted the vending ordinance, Torres applied several times for a special permit to exceed the 10-minute rule, his attorneys said. The requests included petitions signed by more than 150 of Torres' Glendale customers, according to attorneys.
Repeatedly Denies Permit