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Tasty meals on wheels

Taco trucks provide a service, a snack and a slice of L.A. life. If you agree, place your order here.

May 02, 2008

Call them what you will: roach coaches, loncheras, snack vans. But taco trucks are a rich part of our region's heritage -- as much so as, say, sidewalk sausage vendors in New York or crab stands at San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf. Yet the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has another word for these mobile kitchens: nuisance.

Two weeks ago, supervisors passed an ordinance that, starting May 15, will make it a misdemeanor to park a taco truck in one spot for more than an hour. There was already a law on the books forcing them to move on after 30 minutes, but the price for violating it was a fine of just $60, which vendors simply shrugged off as a cost of doing business. Now they'll face a fine of up to $1,000 or six months in jail.

Supervisors may have expected the new law to attract little controversy; after all, it was backed by Eastside restaurateurs and developers, a group with considerably more money and political power than the largely immigrant entrepreneurs who own taco trucks. But it has raised the ire of a far larger group: the thousands of Angelenos who have long gathered at taco trucks, in many cases since childhood, for quick carnitas burritos or mouthwatering cemitas, central Mexican sandwiches filled with avocado, cheese, fried meat and other gut-busting goodness. An Internet-driven movement started by a pair of Highland Park residents has already produced 2,200 signatures on a petition to repeal the law. Sign us up too.

There is a legitimate argument against taco trucks. They may limit economic growth in poor neighborhoods because they cut into business for brick-and-mortar restaurants, which generally charge higher prices and employ more people. Yet if these restaurants, which offer vastly more comfort and better ambience (not to mention restrooms), can't compete with a taco truck, they may not deserve to survive. And it's impossible for supervisors to argue that restricting competition is good for consumers. Restaurateurs may not like taco trucks, but their patrons love them.

Moreover, mobile entrepreneurs are just as deserving of an opportunity to make a living as brick-and-mortar business owners. If providing cheap, tasty food that puts competitors out of business were a crime, the late McDonald's mogul Ray Kroc would have died in prison.

Supervisors should repeal their ill-considered ordinance. Angelenos who want to send them that message can sign an online petition at

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