As food trucks have gained widespread popularity in areas across Los Angeles, city leaders are hoping to explore ways to curb impacts from the operations related to parking and effects on established restaurants among other issues.
One proposed method would be to require the mobile food vendors operating citywide to obtain permits, helping to address issues such as parking restrictions, and health and sanitary conditions. The City Council voted Nov. 10 to direct the city attorney to develop an ordinance establishing a permit process for food trucks that officials say could provide oversight of the industry and create various regulations.
The council additionally requested the city attorney to prepare an implementing ordinance for a food truck letter grading system similar to one enforced on restaurants, as well as the creation of a task force to focus on policy issues and industry needs and concerns.
Mobile food vendors have drawn growing numbers of customers in Los Angeles and other cities across the country for offering convenient and inexpensive food options such as Korean kogi beef tacos, gourmet grilled cheese and hot dogs. Along with the wide-ranging choices to satisfy food cravings have been some concerns in parts of Los Angeles regarding parking problems, trash and impacts on established restaurants.
In the Venice community, where the trucks have come out in large numbers during the First Fridays events on Abbot Kinney Boulevard, parking has been the overlying concern. Some residents said parking in an already limited area has been affected as vendors try to arrive early in the day to save a space, and there are also safety issues with people walking in the street to avoid crowded sidewalks.
In response to food truck parking concerns, the Venice Neighborhood Council supported a variety of recommendations last month, including implementing an Abbot Kinney business improvement district, supporting the county’s food truck letter grading system and requiring a permit process. Neighborhood council member Jed Pauker, who worked on a task force addressing the issues, said he was pleased to see that the City Council is considering similar proposals.
“We’re gratified that the city is beginning to see eye-to-eye with Venetians on some of the issues regarding our congested coastal zone,” Pauker said.
Pauker said he hopes the city’s emerging permit process will acknowledge the traffic and parking impacts that are a result of the food trucks’ popularity.
“If through the permit process we are able to address the parking impacts the food trucks have, I think it will really do something positive for Venice,” he said. “We think the city can do better, and a well-crafted permit process can serve the needs of stores, restaurants, mobile vendors and local residents alike.”
City Councilman Bill Rosendahl called the permitting system a work in progress and noted that he wants to ensure the lunch truck operations are not impacting restaurants where they are parked.
“I want to be able to let the food trucks exist as long as they’re in proper parking spots and not threatening brick and mortar restaurants,” said Rosendahl, who chairs the council’s transportation committee, which has issued recommendations on the food truck concerns.
Most food trucks, as a policy, try not to park in close proximity to restaurants, said Matt Geller, president of the Southern California Mobile Food Vendors Association, who questioned why the transportation committee was addressing impacts on restaurants.
“My question continues to be, ‘are you trying to regulate food trucks or insulate the restaurants?’” Geller said.
Geller said his association is trying to work toward solutions but he believes many of the issues can be resolved by applying rules that exist under the city’s current municipal code.
“If we enforce the regulations on the books right now a lot of the issues we’ve run into won’t be issues anymore,” he said.
In regards to the other city proposals, Geller said he supports the letter grading system, which will help quash criticisms of the trucks, and he is pleased the association will be involved in the task force.
“I’m happy that the concerned parties are going to be a part of the task force,” he said.
The letter grades have also been supported by the Venice council, Pauker noted.
“We join the city and Southern California Mobile Food Vendors Association in welcoming letter grades for mobile catering trucks, which deserve the same recognition that restaurants enjoy for maintaining safe food conditions,” he said.
While city officials are looking to limit any impacts the food trucks may have in a certain area, they also need to recognize that the businesses have brought a number of benefits, Geller said.
“I would like the city to take a step back and look at all the good that the food trucks are doing,” he said.