City Council moves toward a permit process for food trucks

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A customer reads the menu on the 'Pyongyang Express' food truck in Los Angeles.

The Los Angeles City Council directed its attorneys Wednesday to draft an ordinance that would establish a permit process for food trucks.

Councilman Bill Rosendahl said the ordinance should be developed over the next 60 to 90 days, with input from food truck operators.

“It is a work in progress, but overall, (I want to see) food trucks respecting the brick-and mortar restaurants, No. 1; and that parking spaces they use are legitimate spaces,” Rosendahl said.

“We will continue to refine those recommendations, and when we refine them we'll bring them back to committee and to the full council,” he said. “We’re making progress.”

The council asked for additional information before acting on a proposal to regulate where food trucks can be located to keep them from being a hazard to pedestrians and vehicular traffic.

The council also directed its attorneys to work with Los Angeles County officials to develop a system that would “grade” food trucks in the same way that brick-and-mortar restaurants are graded.

Leah Ross, marketing manager for the Border Grill food trucks, said, “We want to see a reasonable and viable solution to the issues with food trucks in Los Angeles, and we think that solution will come with continued communication, research and goodwill.”

“With the assistance of the City Attorney’s Office, we hope the council can address any public safety issues with food trucks without adversely affecting the longstanding tradition of Lonchero trucks in Los Angeles and while embracing the new gourmet food truck culture as a positive addition to what makes Los Angeles a culinary destination,” she added.

In his motion calling for the regulations, Councilman Dennis Zine said the “increasing prevalence of food trucks in Los Angeles has adversely affected certain locations in which they operate.”

“For example, insufficient access to trash and restroom facilities can dirty the surrounding area,” he said. “Businesses operating as legitimate restaurant establishments have also been affected with mobile food trucks operating at their doorstep.”

Councilman Tom LaBonge suggested creating specially designated parking zones for food trucks, concerned that they were hogging all the parking meter spaces.

“(Food trucks) sometimes operate without city permits and absorb parking ticket fines as a cost of doing business,” he said.

In a letter to the council’s Transportation Committee, Natalia Garcia with the UCLA Labor Center expressed support for food trucks and called for “an ordinance that is just and promotes public safety.”

She said a study produced by the UCLA Labor Center and UCLA School of Urban Planning showed that food truck owners, particularly those belonging to the Asociación de Loncheros, contribute to the local economy since they purchase their products locally and in return are local consumers who invest their profits locally.

“Catering food trucks are a great revenue source for the city, especially during this deep recession where revenue should be welcomed and not condemned,” she said.

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