As First Fridays on Abbot Kinney Boulevard in Venice has become a destination event over the past year for people seeking nightlife on the Westside, so has it seemed to become a hotbed of food trucks searching for hungry people crowded into one location.
On the first Friday of every month, throngs of people young and not so young can be seen strolling down the eclectic boulevard, where businesses stay open later, music is playing in the street and restaurants and bars are drawing large numbers of patrons. It is also a time when food trucks know they have an ideal opportunity to attract people cruising the street to their wide range of offerings from Kogi Korean barbeque tacos to gourmet grilled cheese and cupcakes.
While some welcome the mobile food vendors as a convenient and inexpensive choice to satisfy their food cravings, others point to issues such as trash associated with the visiting trucks and impacts on parking in the area and during a time when it is already heavily limited.
Venice resident Marc Saltzberg, who serves on the community’s neighborhood council, said he appreciates the trucks’ presence when he’s hungry but feels differently when he is having difficulty finding a parking space. Still, he is supportive of the business they can bring to the local area.
“I like having the commercial activity and having people come to our vendors in Venice; that’s what makes a community a community,” he said.
Understanding that there are viewpoints on both sides of the issue, the Venice Neighborhood Council has created a task force, at the request of council president Linda Lucks, to study the lunch truck parking situation and make any recommendations to the advisory council. Some food trucks are parking on Abbot Kinney at lunchtime and other busy times during the week but concerns about the impact of the trucks have come to a head during the First Friday events, when many more trucks are coming to the area with larger crowds, said Jed Pauker, a task force representative.
While task force members note that the food truck craze is not isolated to Venice and has spread throughout the city, as well as cities across the country, they are hoping to investigate the issue as it relates to Venice, particularly Abbot Kinney Boulevard.
“This is an emerging phenomenon all over the country not just L.A.; it’s amazing,” Pauker said of the popularity of the mobile food vendors.
Explaining the increasing attraction to the food trucks, Venice resident Matt Geller, head of the Southern California Mobile Food Vendors Association, said he believes the state of the economy has influenced people to seek quality meals from the trucks at a good price. Social networking sites such as Twitter also enable people to track their specific locations and customers can socialize while waiting in line or enjoying their lunch, he explained.
“Food brings people together and food trucks are no exception,” Geller said.
According to the Venice Neighborhood Council motion calling for the establishment of a task force on the food truck, complaints have included taking up valuable parking spaces, posing a traffic safety hazard by impeding traffic flow and creating a litter problem. Pauker and fellow task force representative Robin Rudisil have been tasked with investigating the benefits and complaints regarding Abbot Kinney trucks and any possible abuses of parking and zoning laws.
The two conducted a survey on how people feel about Abbot Kinney food truck operations at the most recent First Friday, July 2 and plan to incorporate the survey results and other research when making recommendations to the neighborhood council.
“We want to develop a better understanding of what the concerns are,” Pauker said of the process.
He said the task force has been reviewing how other cities across the country have been handling the food truck effects, noting how some have proposed ordinances. His group was also asked to work with City Councilman Bill Rosendahl’s office, the city Department of Transportation and Parking Enforcement, the City Planning Commission and the Venice council’s land use and planning committee regarding the issue locally.
Geller said the mobile food vendors association hopes to work with local communities to alleviate some of the problems associated with the food truck industry. One step it has taken is providing workers to help empty the trash bins and clean the street following the First Friday events, he said.
“We’re addressing the issues area by area. It’s about working with the communities in which we’re doing business and in which we serve,” he said.