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Report Recommends that L.A. Regulate Food Trucks via Permits

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Lake Street Creamery serves customers on Hollywood Boulevard in Thai Town (more info here) | Photo by Zach Behrens/LAist

Lake Street Creamery serves customers on Hollywood Boulevard in Thai Town (more info here) | Photo by Zach Behrens/LAist
Two years ago this month, a group of friends after a night of Hollywood clubbing had the munchies, but had no where to turn for some late-night eats, specifically Korean food. A month later, one of them took that inebriated desire and turned it into a business: Kogi BBQ, an agglomeration of the classic L.A. taco truck with Korean food.

The idea was an overnight success. With in days, lines of hundreds of hungry customers was an early norm. And when a good idea is out there, especially when there's the prospect of profit, it gets copied. Now there's over one hundred gourmet food trucks out there, serving anything from Jewish tacos to architecturally inspired ice cream sandwiches to Indian street food to pizza.

But street food is nothing new to Los Angeles. Before the latest craze, thousands of trucks and carts could be found throughout L.A. County. And they were not without controversy as owners of brick and mortar restaurants complained about trucks parking near them. Courts have struck down attempts to regulate food trucks on the streets at least three times already, the latest over the County's attempt which prompted the movement Carne Asada is not a Crime.

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The latest flak flung towards food trucks came from the 5700 block of Wilshire, where office workers feel they have little choice when it comes to lunch time options. Soon a battle of sorts developed where one of the property owners allegedly began parking junker cars to block food trucks from directly competing with brick and mortar businesses. All the action got the attention of Councilmember Tom LaBonge, who represents the area and created a handful of motions to regulate trucks. Those were discussed at a meeting in August and will be again next week, this time with a report of recommendations (.pdf) from staff.

City analysts concluded that creating special parking zones for catering trucks was not a "viable option" -- they said there is limited space in the city for those zones, especially for an industry that succeeds from mobility -- nor was stopping trucks from parking at meters -- only in special circumstances you can regulate a class of vehicles, and anyway, previous attempts have been shot down by the courts.

But one idea is promising: establishing a mobile food truck permit process. "The ordinance would provide a framework for regulatory control within the context of public safety and also provide for a mechanism to ensure that limited City funds and resources are available to support this process," read the report.

If approved, the permit could include a one-page document that would guide trucks on how to conduct business within Los Angeles city limits.

Other recommendations made by city staff include training LAPD and parking enforcement officers from LADOT on existing laws, aka "enhanced enforcement," ratifying the county's recent health grade ordinance and creating a Mobile Food Truck Task Force made up of policymakers, government employees and food trucks.

The recommendations will be discussed at a Transportation Committee meeting (.pdf) next Wednesday.

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