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Santa Ana tightens rules on food trucks

Alebrijes Grill taco truck in Santa Ana. City Council voted March 7, 2017 to put new regulations on food trucks, including prohibiting lighted signs.
Alebrijes Grill taco truck in Santa Ana. City Council voted March 7, 2017 to put new regulations on food trucks, including prohibiting lighted signs.
Jill Replogle

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Santa Ana City Council voted Tuesday to tighten regulations on food trucks, potentially setting off a battle with the city’s popular mobile vendors, which have successfully challenged the city’s attempts to regulate them in the past. 

The new ordinance will prohibit food trucks from parking within 500 feet of a park, school, playground or community center, and from within 100 feet of crosswalks.
 
Food trucks will also be prohibited from playing music to attract customers and from displaying flashing neon or electronic signs. 

Albert Hernandez’s Alebrijes Grill taco truck would be in violation of several of these provisions. Hernandez has been parking his bright pink truck a half-block away from Benjamin Franklin Elementary School in central Santa Ana for nine years.  

On a recent afternoon, Latin tunes tinkled out of the truck’s speakers, and when night fell, a lit marquee flashed messages around the top of the truck advertising Hernandez's Mexico City specialty plates and thanking customers for their patronage. 

Hernandez said he spent $4,000 on that marquee and that he bought it — and chose his spot — when both were perfectly legal. 

“We chose this location based on the regulations at the time,” he said. "If they move me from here, I’m going to lose all these customers because they already know where I’m at.”

City council members said Tuesday the new regulations are necessary to improve safety and make sure mobile vendors are playing by the same rules as brick and mortar businesses. 

After the council’s 5-0 vote (Mayor Miguel Pulido and Councilman Vincent Sarmiento were absent for the vote), Hernandez said he and other vendors will enlist the same lawyer who successfully fought off a similar attempt to regulate Santa Ana’s food trucks more than a decade ago. 

Hernandez said he's willing to work with the city to improve the local food truck scene, but he said the new ordinance took him and other vendors by surprise. 

The ordinance must still pass a second reading before City Council to go into effect.