Hawthorne Food Truck Laws Revisited - NBC Southern California

Hawthorne Food Truck Laws Revisited

City councilmembers are reexamining food truck policies that could require vendors to purchase special event permits.



    Food Truck Fight in Hawthorne Heats Up

    Gordon Tokumatsu reports on the battle between food truck operators and Hawthorne city officials. (Published Tuesday, July 19, 2011)

    The Hawthorne City Council is revisiting a crackdown on food truck events in local parking lots after loyal foodies used social media to voice their opinions.

    "Social media played a huge role," said Glenn DeBaca, food truck event organizer. "I took it immediately to Facebook and Twitter, then I invited those people to join me at the city council meeting (in late June)."

    DeBaca, along with 20 food truck followers, used that platform to join forces with city councilmembers who are now in talks to alter city ordinance laws, making the culinary events easier to maintain.

    Safety hazards and customer inconvenience have been cited as reasons for city's involvement, but City Attorney Russell Miyahira said the criticism spread via social media was exaggerated.

    "They say we shut them down, but they were taking up too many parking spaces," he said. "They should have divided themselves among (neighboring) lots so customers would not have been inconvenienced."

    Miyahira said he has heard reports of customers parking across the street from the Best Buy lot, located at 5000 West 147th St., because hungry foodies occupied the spaces. He added that large crowds may block emergency personnel from performing their duties.

    "It's a new eating experience, the city council is hearing the community but we want to be able to manage (these events) safely," he said.

    DeBaca's organization Din Din A-Go Go organizes truck events in different cities. The Hawthorne gathering showcased 10 food trucks from 5:30 to 9 p.m. Tuesdays in June.

    Although DeBaca said Best Buy invited the trucks to hold the event on its lot, store officials had no comment on the matter. He added that Hawthorne police would often join the event, grabbing a seat or a spot on the curb to enjoy the food truck fare.

    "I don't understand how there was a safety issue," DeBaca said.

    Four-wheeled restaurants are governed by a county-wide ordinance that limits their operation to 10 minutes in a public space and 30 minutes in a private space.

    As of July 12, a committee comprised of the city manager, mayor, planning director and attorney have been discussing possible ways to rein in the events, such as requiring vendors to hold special event permits.

    "It would be similar to a farmer's market, that's the best analogy," Miyahira said.

    Permit expiration and cost would depend on individual trucks and events, but Miyahira said they would probably be less than $200. He added that some private businesses may also require trucks to have a liability policy.

    As the mobile eating phenomena grows, food trucks must now adhere to LA County Health Department regulations that require eateries to display letter grades reflecting the business' cleanliness, and hold business licenses from the areas in which they vend.

    Despite increased regulations, DeBaca said the policies do not hurt business.

    "We are happy to work with the city on this," he said. "We bring the communities together, we bring people out of their homes in a way that restaurants cannot."