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Restaurants Band Together to Rid Food Trucks on Wilshire

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Workers gather at Baby's Badass Burgers last Wednesday in Mid-Wilshire | Photo by Julie Wolfson/LAist

Workers gather at Baby's Badass Burgers last Wednesday in Mid-Wilshire | Photo by Julie Wolfson/LAist
The popular lunch truck row in Mid-Wilshire has the scores of office workers in the area thrilled. Echoing the sentiments of Michael Schneider who calls the area a "vast wasteland of lunchtime eateries," the lack of diverse choices has workers bored or worse yet, some places just seem like horrid choices to them. But since the food truck craze has hit Los Angeles, the lunch time options have changed.

That's meant happy days for many workers, who freaked out Wednesday when the LAPD arrived to cite the trucks over a variety of issues. The next day, there were only two, when usually there can be more than five.

LAist readers and others commenting on the internet at websites like Yelp have been solely focusing blame on Toshi's Fresh Asian. But Toshi's says don't look at just them, it's everyone.

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"They're only picking on us apparently," said Toshi's General Manager, Fred Williams, who thinks all the recent criticism has been unfair. "We're actually not the ones who called the police [on Wednesday]. All the restaurants here have been complaining about the trucks. We gave up on it a long time ago. We really haven't been doing anything about it."

And that's true. Jose Ceja, the manager over at Johnnie's New York Pizzaria, says all the restaurant managers in the area, including Koo Koo Roo, Baja Fresh and Organic to Go, have been meeting over the issue. "We're all trying to work together getting rid of these things," explained Ceja. "I've cut employees left and right because we don't have enough income to keep everyone here. The economy has been bad and I had to cut, and then these trucks show up and had to cut more. We all average $15,000 to $18,000 in rent, have to pay employee taxes and alcohol licenses."

"You know, some of us have been here for 10 to 12 years and all of the sudden these catering trucks park here at broken meters and take our lunch business," continued Ceja, explaining that the city told him they do not have the resources at the moment to constantly fix the broken meter problem. He said one city employee told him they suspect the food trucks are breaking the meters with paperclips. But once again, the city does not have the resources to monitor the meters.

However, Ceja believes there can be a happy medium. The group of managers have contacted Councilman Tom LaBonge's office and it appears he might be looking into some regulations. But we've been here before. Regulating taco trucks in the past has proved a difficult task for officials. Most recently, a judge struck down a 2006 city ordinancethat regulated food trucks.

"There has to be some kind of guidelines," said Ceja. "You can't just park in front of another business." He suggests maybe looking into a law that would allow the trucks to park on side streets, but not directly in front of a restaurant.