Cupkates Truck battles City of Berkeley over parking location issues

Posted by Cyrus Farivar on November 17, 2009

Kate McEachern updates me on the situation in an email:

In August of 2009, I was issued a permit to operate my cupcake truck in the city of Berkeley. During the permitting process, I submitted a route map and explained that I would be operating in commercial zones on public streets. A week after I opened, a code enforcement officer located me in a yellow parking zone and instructed me to park in a legal, metered space at all times—I complied. Two months later, on Friday, November 13th, the same code enforcement officer and his supervisor approached me in a legal, metered
space and informed me that—according to a city municipal code—it is illegal to vend from a metered parking space and that I was to shut down immediately or be issued a $500 citation. I showed him my permits and documentation and referenced our earlier conversation, but he insisted I close.

On Monday, I met with two departments: one who assured me my permit is still valid and I am authorized to vend in legal parking spaces, and another who told me that it is against city law to do so. The deputy city manager assured me that she would resolve the discrepancy and get back to me on Tuesday. Today, I went to meet with her and was informed that she was too busy to see me; Berkeley Police then escorted me out of the building.

I stressed to the city that I quit my job and invested my life savings building a business that the City of Berkeley permitted and endorsed just three months ago. Every day I remain closed, waiting for the city to sort
out internal miscommunications, I lose a tremendous amount of income. The city’s response to my crisis has been to continually ignore me and now to have an armed officer escort me out of city hall.

Therefore, I will be operating tomorrow according to my normal, approved route. Please check our Facebook and Twitter pages for continued updates. We’re asking supporters to contact the Mayor’s office at 510-981-7102 or email Mayor@ci.berkeley.ca.us to voice their disapproval of the city’s actions.

Best,
Kate

I’m going to call the City of Berkeley to find out what’s going on from their perspective.

Update (2:11 pm, November 18):

I just got off the phone with Julie Sinai, chief of staff to Mayor Tom Bates to inquire as to the status of this dispute with Cupkates.

“According to us, we’re not in dispute,” she said.

Sinai told me that the city has an ordinance (Berkeley Municipal Code 14.48.220.b), which states: “Other street vending is permitted from vehicles which are lawfully parked upon streets which are not regulated by parking meters or other posted parking time limits.”

Therefore, she added, Cupkates is not allowed to park in an metered space. She also said that Cupkates was not cited, nor fined, but rather was given a warning to not park in such spaces.

Sinai said that they had referred the issue to the City Manager’s office.

“She claimed to me yesterday that she was out of business and could not operate but when I looked at Facebook, she’s operating,” she said.

I also spoke with Christine Daniel, the deputy city manager in question, who told me that she was “not aware” of a similar issue happening in the city’s history and that her office would resolve it “as soon as we can.” She declined to give any estimate as to how long this process would take.

As to Kate’s claim that she was escorted out of the building by police, Daniel says “she was asked to leave when the building was closing.”

Again, on its face, it would seem that Berkeley’s ordinance may be in violation of California Vehicle Code 22455. I’m checking with the city for their view.

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  8. Terence Said,

    Here’s the response I got from the Mayor’s office to a complaint on how the city is dealing with Cupkates:

    Thank you for your communication regarding CupKates. I want to assure you that the City of Berkeley has not suspended Kate McEachern’s mobile vending permit to operate CupKates in Berkeley. In fact, if you look at her Facebook you will see that she is still successfully selling her cupcakes on Berkeley streets.

    Ms. McEachern arrived in the Mayor’s office late Friday afternoon, November 13th, after receiving a Notice of Violation for unlawful vending in a commercial zone. We asked the City Manager’s office to review the parking issues and communicate with Ms. McEachern directly. Staff spoke with Ms. McEachern on Monday and assured her that they were looking into the situation and would get back to her as soon as they had more information. My office has been in communication with city staff, as well as Ms. McEachern, with the intent to get the quickest resolution to the situation as is possible. While I understand Ms. McEachern’s concerns about her business , it is critically important that we ensure our laws and regulations are applied consistently with all mobile vendors, and therefore, staff is doing its due diligence to ensure fairness.

    Again, I want to assure you I support Ms. McEachern’s business venture and I hope that it can flourish in our community while complying with our local ordinances. I want to reiterate, we have not “suspended ” Cupkates’ permit.

    Thank you,

    Mayor Tom Bates

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