Archive for the ‘Legal’ Category

Longtime followers of taco trucks issues in the Golden State may remember the veritable bevy of laws that have come and gone that threaten our beloved taqueros. After that, it became clear that taco trucks owners need to get organized.

The old school trucks have formed the aforementioned Asociacíon de Loncheros (which, by the way, is being honored by the LA chapter of the National Lawyers Guild this Sunday night!), while the new school has gotten together to crate the Southern California Mobile Food Vendors Association. They were the minds behind the ill-fated Santa Monica food truck lot, which lasted just one day.

But it was only a matter of time before one of those groups — both of which registered as 501c6 organizations, which means they are trade associations that can engage in political speech — took on a political stance.

Since late last month, the SCMFVA, which represents a lot of nouveau trucks in downtown LA and on the Westside, have formally endorsed Betsy Butler (D) for the 53rd Assembly District in the California State Assembly.

Why?

“She sees the benefit of food trucks in that area,” explained Matt Geller of SCMFVA, in an interview with LAist.

Previously, the SCMFVA endorsed Cary Brazeman for a seat on the Mid-City West Community Council, which is in charge of that oft-conflicted mid-Wilshire district.

So now the question is, how long before we start seeing stance on taco trucks as an item in campaign literature?

Burlingame conducts unscientific survey on Curry Up Now

Posted by Cyrus Farivar on December 28, 2009

Just before Christmas, the City of Burlingame sponsored an online survey to gauge local awareness and opinion of “a mobile food vendor” in the city’s downtown area. That food truck, of course, would be none other than Curry Up Now.

There appear to only be about 300 self-selecting online members of the public who responded to the survey, which was completed on or before December 23, 2009.

I have lots of questions that I emailed to Patricia Love, Burlingame’s economic development specialist, to try to determine the methodology and reasoning behind such a survey. On its face, its results seem hardly definitive and represent the view of roughly one percent of the population of Burlingame, that is, if we presume that all of the respondents live in Burlingame. Of course, though, only 50 percent of respondents say that they live in the city.

That being said, here were the “results”:

53.4 percent of respondents said they had never purchased food from Curry Up Now.

56.6 percent of respondents said “I think [mobile food vendors] benefit the commercial areas.”

81.1 percent of respondents agreed with the statement: “The trucks increase the diversity of food options in Burlingame.”

67.9 percent of respondents agreed: “Mobile food vendors can take business from local restaurants.”

49.8 percent of respondents agreed: “The City should monitor the situation and consider regulatory changes if problems arise.”

59.1 percent of respondents “would be in favor of vendors if the City is unable to limit the number of mobile vendors allowed in the city”

So, y’know, while most of the results are favorable to Curry Up Now, take it with a large dollop of chutney.

Audio: How To Sell From A Mobile Unit (Legally!) In The Bay Area

Posted by Cyrus Farivar on December 17, 2009

Last night’s legal workshop on street vending in San Francisco was a great success!

A lot of great info was passed around, as so as a public service, I’m making the audio of last night’s event available here, under a Creative Commons license. That means: feel free to share it, download it, remix it, whatever.

Moderator:
Caleb Zigas, La Cocina [pictured, right]

Panelists:
Matthew Cohen, San Francisco Cart Project
Martha Yañez, Small Business Assistance Center (City and County of San Francisco) [pictured, left]
Imelda Reyes & Mohanned Malhi, Senior Health Inspectors, Department of Public Health, City and County of San Francisco [pictured, center]

You can download the audio here (1 hr 39 min, 68MB), or play it in your browser below:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Palo Alto High taco truck’s new on-campus location questioned

Posted by Cyrus Farivar on December 14, 2009

It’s not just Santa Monica, Boyle Heights and Lodi that are getting hit with taco truck regulations.

According to the Palo Alto High School student newspaper the Campanile, a Wyss catering truck selling “tacos, burritos and burgers” has begun serving students in the on-campus Churchill parking lot during lunch hours.

However, the paper reports: “According to Vice Principal Jerry Berkson, it is illegal for the taco truck to park on school property.”

However, Berkson admitted that if the truck were to park across the street, that the truck would be ok, provided that all of its permits were in order.

“I was on my way to my route through Stanford and some [Paly] students called me over so I decided to stop,” Jose Dominguez, the server told the paper.. “There were a lot of students so we plan on stopping here every day, Monday through Friday during the lunch hour.”

It ain’t over in Santa Monica, my hometown.

That Bayside District Corporation still has its knickers in a twist and is ready to kick things up a notch.

According to the Santa Monica Daily Press, the BDC is going to ask the City Council to consider new legislation restricting the number and location of trucks operating in the Promenade (downtown Santa Monica) area.

“While we understand that these mobile food vendors can be a very good thing for Downtown and any area, we are concerned that if we have a proliferation of those trucks they could have a negative impact on businesses,” Kathleen Rawson, the CEO of Bayside, told the paper.

Again, not surprisingly, the argument presented here is that the restaurant owners feel that “it’s not fair” they have to pay high rent when the trucks can just zoom away when the clientele disappear. Again, my response is: boo freakin’ hoo. I’d bet that nearly all of the restaurants on the Promenade, and especially the high-end joints nearer to the beach have liquor licenses. Are you honestly telling me that a place like I Cugini, with its $15 lunch entrees, is competing with the likes of Kogi?

The paper adds that already:

food trucks to have a vendor permit through the Santa Monica Police Department and a business license through City Hall, Currently, trucks can conduct business in any legal parking spot but are limited to 30 minutes after which they must move at least 100 feet away. Food truck owners have said that it takes longer than 20 to 30 minutes to fill the orders.

The trucks must also be located at least 10 feet away from the entrance of doors, vestibules, driveways and outdoor dining areas of any business.

I’m not really sure how much more regulated they can be.

Lodi caps local taco trucks at 22, permits will be transferrable

Posted by Cyrus Farivar on November 19, 2009

Nearly two weeks ago we reported that the Lodi City Council might cap the number of taco trucks operating in the city. At a City Council meeting last night, the lawmakers voted unanimously to do just that, according to the Lodi News-Sentinel.

While the specific language of the final ordinance hasn’t been formally approved yet, the councilmembers did agree that the permits will be transferable.

Remember how I’d asked about what attorney David LeBeouf thinks of this new ordinance? Not surprisingly, he was there:

Local attorney David LeBeouf, who has represented the owners of the trucks in the past, told City Attorney Steve Schwabauer that he is fine with the ordinance as long as it allows the current trucks to continue to operate, Schwabauer said. LeBeouf also wanted the permits to be transferable if the owner sells the truck.

The newspaper also added that Mayor Larry Hansen has charged his staff with being more aggressive in making sure that the trucks will obey existing permit, health and safety laws and that he hopes that the new permit limit makes sure that the vendors will be in compliance, as the city has had a tough time with some vendors.

“Now that there is a cap, there is a value to having that license,” he said. “There could be more understanding of I really need to play by the rules of the game if I don’t want to be suspended or revoked.”

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.

Cupkates Truck draws ire of City of Berkeley

Posted by Cyrus Farivar on November 16, 2009

Santa Monica? Burlingame? Los Angeles? Now Berkeley, too?

This just in from Cupkates’ Facebook page: “We will not be operating tomorrow according to our normal schedule. The city of Berkeley is trying to suspend our permit. We will be in meetings all day, and back to our office route Wednesday.”

More soon as this story develops.

Los Angeles Downtown Art Walk kicks out food trucks

Posted by Cyrus Farivar on November 16, 2009

Every second Thursday of the month, there’s a Downtown Art Walk in Los Angeles. Obviously, people need foodstuffs to keep their bellies fueled while they appreciate art, and no doubt the local food trucks are happy to oblige.

However, last week, according to LAist and reports from Twitter, no less than four trucks were forced to move off of Main St. (between 4th and 6th St.), including Don Chow Tacos, Fishlips Sushi (pictured), India Jones Chow Truck and Nom Nom.

They then moved over a block to Spring St., where they joined forces with the Grilled Cheese Truck, Marked5 and Coolhaus, creating one giant Optimus Prime Food Truck. Ok, so I made that last part up, but you get the idea.

LAist adds: It is unclear who forced the trucks to leave, but according to Raw Materials, an art materials store, there were “No Parking” signs lining Main St. between 4th and 6th.

Curry Up Now takes heat from City of Burlingame

Posted by Cyrus Farivar on November 11, 2009

One would think that the City of Burlingame would be pleased that a new, fun, delicious, nouveau food truck is gracing their community. Sadly, though, this is not the case as Curry Up Now‘s founder Akash Kapoor is being pressured by restaurateurs, business leaders and even city officials to get him out of the downtown strip.

The San Mateo County Times reports:

Officials have yet to discuss publicly whether they want to support the free enterprise interests of the trucks or prevent them from encroaching on local brick-and-mortar businesses. No meetings on the topic have been scheduled, as policymakers await the results of staff research.

Opinions on the matter seem split. Patricia Love, the city’s economic development specialist, said she has “gotten comments all over the board” in researching the issue.

Inquires from merchants have prompted police to ask the truck to move 500 feet every half-hour, and the owner has been cooperative, Burlingame police Capt. Mike Matteucci said. The truck is fully permitted to operate in the city, he said.

But Chamber of Commerce CEO Georgette Naylor, Downtown Burlingame Business Association President Kevin Osborne and Mayor Ann Keighran said local merchants have been groaning about the truck. Mostly, they said, shops think the truck has swooped in without having to pay the high rents properties fetch near Burlingame and Howard avenues.

In other words, restaurant owners are upset because they can’t compete. Boo-freakin’-hoo.

Worse still, city officials seem to be listening, and the truck may get run out of its prime location:

[Mayor] Keighran has been talking to business leaders and said they plan to meet with the truck’s owners. She said it may make sense to move the truck toward Bayside Park, where there are sports games and a lack of takeout food options.

But Kapoor said that would be tantamount to moving his truck out of the city.

I sent emails to Mayor Ann Keighran, Patricia Love and Akash Kapoor to get more details. I will update as soon as I know more.

Update 10:00 am Pacific Time: I just got off the phone with Akash Kapoor, who told me that a second truck is already in the works for San Francisco. He says that he’d like to work it out with the city, but doesn’t want to get into a protracted legal battle.

“If we have to move to Bayside Park, we’ll just move to San Francisco,” he said.

“I don’t have the energy to fight,” he added. “I’d rather just move 10 miles down and I know people will come.”

He also estimated that 80 percent of his customers are coming from outside of Burlingame, and in some cases, probably spend money in other city businesses, too.

“We have people coming from Santa Cruz and Sacramento. I wouldn’t come that far, but they come.”

Still no word from city officials.

Update 3:30 pm Pacific Time: Patricia Love responds:

“As highlighted in the article, some people love the convenience and price of the food the truck offers, others comment that they think it tastes great, some are concerned about the competition with local restaurants, others have concerns about safety in terms of traffic and pedestrians, and some are just curious about the truck and regulations. Take a look at the Burlingame Voice for a sample of some of these opinions.”

“The City does not have any actions in the works about vendor trucks. We are just collecting information and getting up-to-speed on the topic. Feel free to share any information you have with us if you think it would be helpful.”

“We are doing research so we can better understand the various laws that may pertain to this issue. We are also listening to what everyone has to say.”

Concerning the possible move to Bayside Park:

“The City hasn’t asked that as far as I know. I think some people may think it would be good for him to move his truck to an area without a lot of restaurants.”

“From the quote in the article, it doesn’t look like anyone has asked them to move. It sounds like the mayor was just throwing out the idea that an under-served area (Bayside Park area) might benefit from access to the food.”