Some food trucks just want to watch the world burn

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By Robert Couse-Baker

UPDATE: It has come to my attention that I should probably try harder to not suck at writing. Updates below for clarity.

I had never really gotten too fired up about the food truck controversy here until I read the Bee article this weekend about the So Cal group throwing a wrench in things by holding up a piece of paper called the US Constitution and pointing at it. Matt Geller, a “food truck advocate” from LA and head of the Southern California Mobile Food Vendors Association wants the California Mobile Food Association, the advocacy group here in Sac, to stop trying to work with the Legislature to cooperate with “brick and mortar” restaurant owners on laws allowing cities to slap new regulations on food trucks.

To me this seems like a complete no-brainer. There are sensible existing rules in place about food inspections, parking, and business licensing, and no need to let the restaurants dictate new regulations to hamstring their competitors in such a blatant way. I may be an idealist but I am aware that this is not the fist time that one group has appealed to the government to give it a leg up against its competitor. But maybe it’s the first time that the government has been asked to directly prevent me from getting better and better sandwiches.

If it appeared that public safety was at risk, that might persuade me that there was a compelling reason to limit hours of only certain food vendors beyond regulations that already exist. On the flipside, nobody should take arguments from a group about how its competitors are harming public safety without a grain of salt, much less write laws based on those statements. I’m not sure why the city government is considering letting those two groups duke it out and blessing the results with legal standing.

The Bee article leaves the reader with the impression that the letter is causing some contention among mobile food vendors up here, with blind quotes calling the tactics “bullying.” I understand that people want the more draconian regulations gone, but it seems like this “movement” is on the upswing, and that with patience this could be resolved sensibly.

Author: CoolDMZ

"X-ray vision to see in between / Where's my kimono and my time machine?"

14 thoughts on “Some food trucks just want to watch the world burn”

  1. My brother owns a food truck in Los Angeles. He says that hundreds of truck owners, all throughout the state, have spent many many thousands of dollars – each – on lawyers who have helped them fight space buffers and time limits and other local regulations (all illegal in the eyes of the state of California, which says only safety & health are valid reasons for regulation).

    If these people are selling out all the minority truck owners in the state just so a few middle class white guys can play food truck here in Sacramento, it’s a really sad commentary on race relations in California. I’m not sure where they get off throwing away decades of other folks’ hard work and hard-earned money just to make themselves feel like they’re the good guys … or if they’re just doing this to kiss a little city council and state government ass.

    I can tell you that minority truck owners (who are 90% of the truck owners in Sacramento, too, and who are DEFINITELY not represented by this new food truck group) don’t want anything to do with it, and will fight tooth and nail to hold onto the few freedoms they have – which they’ve already fought tooth and nail to get in the first place.

    These folks are some of the most obliquely racist/classist jerks I’ve heard of in a loooong time.


  2. And just to clear things up, it’s the Southern California group that is standing up for the trucks, and they’re not throwing a wrench in anything; they’re simply saying that the city should play by the rules. They don’t want changes to the state law; it’s these activist truck owners in Sacramento who want to do that.

    Your article was a little messy – I wasn’t sure if you were siding with the truck owners (and Geller) or this upstart group of “Norcal” truck owners in Sacramento, who want to upend the entire process.


  3. So, the minority truck owners are happy only having 30 minutes to vend and then move 1000 feet away? They would be upset by 1.5 – 2.5 hours to vend? The ability to park somewhere in the city and vend as long as invited? I don’t know who you talk to, but those at the commissaries that have been asked are quite happy with the relaxed ordinances in Sacramento. And here’s the best part… NO $$$ left their pockets to go into some lawyer or ‘advocate’. Seems ‘racist’ to take advantage of these hard working people by telling them it’s their ‘constitutional right’. These ‘upstarts’ as you put it managed to work with all the parties involved to reach an amiable solution that will be ever growing and evolving as time progresses. It’s how things happen, not threats, lawsuits (that based on public record, fail).


  4. The point is that the courts have said now, what, nine times? That the time limits and space limits don’t serve public health or safety and are illegal. What’s the point of championing them?

    And why force your beliefs on all the vendors who don’t want to change state laws? Many city managers have been lobbying for the right to make vendors illegal by setting up 1000 foot limits and things like that in their own cities; why would you push for them to have this right, and undo all the work these vendors have done in the past decade? My brother had to give up on their dream of a new home in order to pay attorney fees to keep the right to vend in LA; now you want to give that away. That doesn’t seem very respectful to me.


    1. Let’s look at the facts of the Sacramento Ordinances then look at your argument. Current ordinances are: 30 minutes in one location, move 1000 feet away (roughly 3-4 blocks) to vend again for 30 minutes. Unable to park on private property even if invited. Curfew of 8pm summer, 6pm Winter. That’s as of right now.
      Proposed change- 1.5 on very busy right of way streets , 2.5 hours rest of the city. 1 block by line of sight (not to exceed 400 feet) from a B&M without permission (unlimited time with permission), right to park on private property for indefinite time (with invitation). Really? That’s giving up something? So there is a distance clause? Big deal, that small small bit is worth losing everything else? It would take a very long time to make the changes a lawsuit would ask, you think a tone would try to make things happen quick??


  5. But why work with the government to undo years of hard work that immigrant truck operators have done? They fought for you to have the rights you have now, and spent decades fighting for the changes to state laws that let trucks vend at all. Then they are repaid by treating them like dirt. Just because we are not white doesn’t mean you can do all of this without even bothering to consult with them.

    It just seems awfully 1-sided to me, that is all. I’m glad you finally have the ability to vend in a reasonable circumstance. Please don’t use that freedom to make things worse for everyone else.


    1. For clarification there is no intention to do anything at the state level. Since the CalMFA is local we are asked quite a bit of operational questions. There is no desire to talk for anyone else. We are happy to work with our local municipalities in a gentlemanly fashion. And don’t fret for the old school trucks, we are communicating with those that we park with at the commissaries and they are thrilled with the bupcoming freedom.


  6. If you’re a local organization why call yourself CALIFORNIA MFA? Why are you treading on the hard work of the SoCalMFVA. The names are so similar as to create consumer confusion. If the CMFA isn’t really thinking about working with the legislature to make it easier for cities to regulate food trucks, why is your president saying exactly that on the record and in City Council meetings.


  7. Refuznik that’s odd. I watched a video of the Roseville city council meeting where a member of your association claims to be working with the state legislature to push through rules that would remove the current protections for food trucks and allow municipalities to regulate. Is that no longer happening? If so, that’s good news for many truck operators.


    1. The comments made by the association President were not complete in their meaning. As is probably the case, most associations of the Mobile Food Variety have been contacted by State folks to learn more about the needs of this growing market. There is no plan to endorse any legislation due to further learning on our part and frankly we don’t want any part of anything beyond our home region.
      As for the name, if you are easily confused between SoCal Mobile Food Vendor Association and California Mobile Food Association, I really can’t help you.
      I find it funny that both of you are basing assumptions on a 15 second statement and not the multiple interviews and clarifications since. Or even, gasp, asking a member or officer for clarification. I’m more then happy to answer any questions you might have about FoodMob and our mission to assist and support all mobile food in our area.


  8. Let’s get one thing clear. The new food truck craze is for the Gourmet food trucks, not the Roach coaches.
    What’s the difference?
    Gourmet FT serve higher quality food and much, much cleaner trucks. A majority these owners spend up to $5K to Wrap there rigs.

    A Roach Coach serves up same old tired fried burrito, rice with greasy chicken, Soggy egg rolls, and the nasty Chorizo and egg. And lets not forget the run down Taco trucks…NASTY.

    The fact is, the Roach coachowners don’t like the Gourmet owners, because they will now be held to a higher standard.

    Roach coach days are numbered.


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