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Food Trucks May Hit Detour

The City Council wants to limit where and when curbside caterers can operate. Ice cream vendors may face new rules as well.

September 04, 2003|Jessica Garrison | Times Staff Writer

Two staples of Los Angeles street cuisine, the taco truck and the ice cream van, could face strict new regulations after the City Council requested the drafting Wednesday of new laws on where and when they can operate.

The council asked for a draft ordinance that would prohibit catering trucks from parking in residential neighborhoods and limit parking to 30 minutes in commercial locations.

Officials also said they want to reevaluate rules governing ice cream trucks, particularly near school campuses.

Councilwoman Janice Hahn, who pushed for the new ordinance, said some catering trucks are stationing themselves in front of restaurants and stealing their business. Council members Tom LaBonge and Wendy Greuel said ice cream trucks pose a potential safety hazard by parking near school campuses.

"It's dangerous," LaBonge said. "Sometimes, your love of ice cream takes away your thought process on safely crossing the street."

Under current law, catering trucks can park for one hour in commercial locations and up to 30 minutes in residential areas, but those regulations are not always enforced, meaning many trucks park for hours in commercial areas, operating as de facto restaurants.

"It's a blight," said Cecilia Moreno, who sits on the Wilmington Neighborhood Council, which has been urging the city to do something about the catering trucks.

Moreno said that along Anaheim Street in Wilmington, more than half a dozen trucks typically set up shop each evening, many of them in front of established restaurants that "are honestly suffering" from lost business.

City Council members also want the Department of Transportation to be more involved in enforcing the rules, rather than leaving it up to the Police Department, whose officers have more pressing duties than monitoring catering trucks.

"This has long been a problem in our city," said Councilman Tony Cardenas, adding that there are "way too many vendors on the street" in some areas of his district. Cardenas also worries that some trucks sell food that has not been hygienically handled and could pose a health risk.

The proposed new rules alarmed many vendors near MacArthur Park.

"It's not good," said Griselda Hernandez, who with her husband, Marcelino, sells fruit, chips and sodas from a truck parked on 6th Street.

The couple, who have had the truck for 11 years, usually set up shop near the Mexican Consulate by about 10 a.m., staying until a little after 1 p.m. Later, they move to another location a few blocks east.

A 30-minute limit would mean they might not be able to sell enough to keep the business going, the couple said.

Some customers agreed. "I think it's wrong," said Lorenzo Rosales as he waited for a companion to complete a purchase. The vendors need the business, he said, and he and his co-workers need a place to buy snacks.

Up the street, taco vendor Mary Maldonado said she did not buy the argument that the catering trucks were taking business from restaurants.

"We don't sell the same food as them," said the 25-year-old immigrant from Honduras, gesturing to a nearby Chinese restaurant. She added that the proposed new rules could hurt business and make it difficult for her to send money to her two children in Honduras.

Council members stressed Wednesday that they were sensitive to the plight of vendors such as Maldonado.

"We don't want to put anyone out of business," said Councilwoman Hahn. "We want to strike a balance and have an ordinance that makes sense."

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