Hoping to recognize the contributions of the food truck craze while still addressing area concerns, a Venice business has offered to give some of the mobile vendors a place to park during the popular First Friday events on Abbot Kinney Boulevard.
The offer comes after “no parking” restrictions for all vehicles were implemented during the December First Friday event along Abbot Kinney, drastically reducing the number of food trucks that came to the eclectic shopping and restaurant corridor. Businesses paid to have the city Department of Transportation post no parking signs in response to safety concerns regarding food trucks and impacts on the area establishments.
With an increase in mobile food vendors showing up in recent months, the Abbot Kinney Merchants Committee of the Venice Chamber of Commerce said safety was a primary issue with pedestrians traveling onto the streets to avoid crowded sidewalks. In an effort to continue ensuring safety and limited congestion, the committee voted to extend the parking restrictions at First Friday through March.
Having noticed the drop in food trucks at last month’s event, Bigfoot Entertainment, an international film production company based on Abbot Kinney, proposed a plan to accommodate several of the trucks while taking into consideration the concerns of area merchants.
“We’ve been participating in First Friday off and on over the last 18 months and we saw the exponential growth the event had when mobile food trucks began participating. It felt like this is taking off,” said Christian Meoli, vice president of marketing for Bigfoot Entertainment.
Believing that the food trucks are a popular feature of the events, Bigfoot has decided to host about eight vendors, which will pay a rental fee to park in the company’s lot in the 1600 block of Electric Avenue beginning at the Jan. 7 First Friday. The lot is across from The Brig lot, where a number of other food trucks have been parking.
“The food trucks are super popular. For me, it’s important to recognize and embrace that popularity,” he said.
Meoli called the company’s parking arrangement a “win-win scenario,” as visitors will be able to select from a variety of food choices in a designated area, merchants will receive a boost in customers and the congestion issue will be mostly taken off the table. He acknowledged that parking issues will likely remain a problem with the restrictions along Abbot Kinney.
“For us it was a step in the right direction where the event doesn’t get tarnished,” Meoli said. “We feel we are offering an alternative that benefits the event and keeps it driving.”
Meoli said he met with a representative of the merchants committee and the Southern California Mobile Food Vendors Association to address any concerns with Bigfoot’s plan. But the Abbot Kinney Merchants Committee (AKMC) issued a statement disputing reports that the committee was in negotiations to bring more food trucks to First Fridays.
“Bigfoot’s decision to work with the (mobile food vendors association) on this business arrangement was neither made with prior approval from, nor negotiated with, the AKMC,” the statement said.
Committee members said they are opposed to bringing additional food trucks without further deliberations on the growing impact that the influx of trucks has on the area. Among the committee’s ongoing concerns are that the high number of trucks creates trash on the streets, and impacts pedestrian safety.
“The AKMC reiterates its ongoing commitment to fostering the vibrant, creative, and communal spirit of Abbot Kinney that has made First Fridays a celebrated tradition,” the statement said.
Meoli countered that his company’s proposal is to offer solutions and Bigfoot will arrange the parking in a way to address noise concerns, as well as provide porto-potties.
“We’re trying to address the concerns and be a part of the community,” he said.
Matt Geller, Southern California Mobile Food Vendors Association president, said he is pleased that several trucks will be able to return to First Friday and believes the event will improve with solutions such as Bigfoot’s.
“I think with the extra trucks they will have a much bigger crowd down there and hopefully that will transfer to the merchants with higher sales,” Geller said.
He added that the association wants to ensure that any community concerns are mitigated, such as trash and safety issues with people walking between the two truck parking lots.
“We want to make sure that the neighborhood is respected as best as it can be,” Geller said. “If we can put our best foot forward and can mitigate the impacts it will help.”
Meoli said Bigfoot will first open its lot for the Jan. 7 event and may continue with the arrangement while the no parking restrictions are in effect.