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Food Truck Vendors Suing Monrovia Over Old Town Ban

The SoCal Mobile Food Vendors Association filed a lawsuit against Monrovia last week.

An association of food truck vendors has sued Monrovia in an effort to overturn the city's ordinance banning the mobile eateries from Old Town and other areas.

The SoCal Mobile Food Vendors Association (SoCalMFVA), a nonprofit organization representing about 130 mobile vending companies, filed the lawsuit in Superior Court last week and asks the court to throw out food trucks from setting up shop in Old Town.

The organization called the ordinance "a naked restraint of trade created solely to protect [Monrovia's] favored interests--certain fixed-location restaurants-- ... at the expense of association members who would otherwise seek to serve Monrovia consumers with a better product at a better price," according to the civil complaint signed by SoCalMFVA attorney Jeffrey Dermer.

City Manager Scott Ochoa said Tuesday that he had not yet seen the lawsuit--the city was served with it Monday--but he reiterated the city's rationale for the ordinance.

"Where you stand depends on where you sit," Ochoa said. "We sit squarely with the folks who are doing business and paying taxes on Myrtle avenue."

Ochoa said that Monrovia's ordinances were not out of the ordinary and had actually been modeled on those produced by other cities.

"I don't think we're the first ones in the pool on this," he said.

The lawsuit makes specific mention of some of Councilman Tom Adams' statements regarding the ordinance and the need to look out for Old Town businesses.

Adams told Patch last December that the law was designed to preserve the atmosphere of Old Town and prevent food trucks from creating unfair competition by setting up shop without paying into the Monrovia Old Town Advisory Board merchant's association.

"To have someone say that they want to come and take advantage of that without contributing to it just doesn't pass the simple test of fairness," Adams said in an interview last December.

But the vendors claim that so-called brick and mortar businesses are using the city to unfairly stymie competition from food trucks.

"As with the success of any new industry, older industries are subjected to new competitive pressures," the complaint reads. "One tried and true method of responding to a new industry is for competing industries to seek to use government as a sword to eliminate the insurgent industry."

The vendors also claim their civil rights are being violated by "coercive threats of criminal sanction" produced by the ordinance.

"This lawsuit is about protecting the food trucks’ civil rights to operate under the law and without coercive threats of criminal sanction and, consequently, the consumer’s right to access the marketplace without interference from a municipal government that willfully violates established state law and court precedents,” Dermer said in a written statement.

Adams said in an interview Tuesday that businesses do not have the right to set up shop wherever they want. Zoning laws set all kinds of restrictions for where certain types of businesses can operate, he said.

"I think on the surface of it I’m not sure that anyone has a civil right to conduct business without zoning approvals," Adams said. "If we didn’t have those restrictions I think it would be kind of a free-for-all, so it almost sounds like their lawsuit is probably completely without merit."

Frank "frazgo" Zgonc March 30, 2011 at 10:02 PM
Oh heavens no. Parking and traffic in Old Town is bad enough as it is without adding that to the mix.
LASPULGASGUNNER March 30, 2011 at 11:21 PM
These third world roach coaches don't pay property taxes like the restaurants that are located in Old Town. These roach coaches don't provide restrooms for their customers so one can wash their hands before they eat. ( Evidence shows that customers of these roach coaches don't take personal health and hygiene seriously.) Where do the roach coach operator and hired help go when nature calls ? Maybe they use the restaurants that pays property taxes and collects sales taxes and use their facilities. Where ever you have these roach coaches, there's always trash and at night they seem to attract the criminal element and seem to be a magnet for the gang bangers from surrounding areas. Being a cash business, it's very likely that the State Franchise Tax Board don't receives the taxes they should be getting from these roach coach operators, if any. Look at the photo above, the roach coach looks like it belongs on the streets of TJ.
Steve Buckner March 30, 2011 at 11:49 PM
That roach coach was used in Cheech & Chong's Next Movie.
LASPULGASGUNNER March 30, 2011 at 11:52 PM
Another law suit filed against the City of Monrovia ! Does anyone know what bar the City Attorney, Craig A. Steele and Scott Ochoa will be celebrating at tonight ? Does anyone know if the law firm that Steel works for, "Richards, Watson & Gershon" is a publicly traded corporation ? There's a sure investment.
Greg March 31, 2011 at 12:51 AM
"Monrovia" a good old boy's club, need i say anymore!!!
Leif Anderberg March 31, 2011 at 03:56 PM
Do we really want these ugly food trucks take parking spaces and leave litter all over the place? I think not. Downtown is a nice, clean family place with several very nice eating places as it is. Please, let's keep it that way.
JJWHIRRR March 31, 2011 at 04:14 PM
Hmmmm, is it really these vendors who would leave litter or the people who utilize their services? My guess is the latter. As far as taking parking places, If you are concerned about the lack of parking, you might want to voice your complaints to the City Council as much of our diminishing public parking is utilized by Monrovia public employees because they are too lazy to park in the lots provided to them. Have a look across the street from the firehouse and see how many cars have the fire hat emblem. They seem to be exempt from citations.
Samantha March 31, 2011 at 04:34 PM
I agree. These 'ugly' trucks belong outside major factories to quickly feed the line workers that punch time cards. It absolutely is unfair for them to make a buck while our restaurants PAY for the privilege of doing business in our, or any other city. This should be an easy win for Monrovia. However, the slap happy litigations are costly to each & every city. Therefore, make it a state-wide law to rid the cities of these roach coaches.
JJWHIRRR March 31, 2011 at 04:59 PM
Gee Samantha, that's a rather elitist statement. The fact of the matter is these businesses exist because most people can’t afford the alternative, not just the “time card punching factory workers” as you affectionately refer to. While I am personally not a fan of these coaches, saying things like “These 'ugly' trucks belong outside major factories to quickly feed the line workers that punch time cards.” is a rather unpleasant thing to say about the workers who provide valuable services. Not everyone can be an over paid public employee who can afford to eat out at a restaurant every day.
Alex Zucco March 31, 2011 at 05:24 PM
The gourmet food trucks are not the roach coaches that are a work-site staple...but a fun, easy alternative when you aren't looking for a sit-down dinner experience, and a bit of an adventure -- but good food, quickly...the Dupling Station, Lobstah Truck -- Grilled Cheese Truck -- and something called the "Get Your Lard On" that is dedicated to bacon. There are festivals dedicated to bringing them all in a single location that regularly sell out -- like the one at the race track and that we had for the Junior League Community Expo at the Rose Bowl last month. Websites and iPhone "apps" to track your favorite: http://roadstoves.com/ --- there are several that have cult-status type followings....and while I know they have an incredible advantage in some respects to brick and mortar restaurants -- there could be some compromise. Away from our main thoroughfare since the parking and space are such a premimum, a special monthly permit they need to purchase since our Old Town merchants have additional fees/taxes and since they are regulated like brick/mortar restaurants -- they have to post their letter grade signs from the County of Health as well, of course they wouldn't be exempt from any of the regularly posted parking laws and maybe they could have truck-free zone, like you wouldn't be able to park within 100 feet of a brick and mortar restaurant?
JJWHIRRR March 31, 2011 at 05:41 PM
That sounds reasonable to me
Melanie Ward March 31, 2011 at 06:46 PM
Alex is correct about the food trucks. I travel to Austin, TX often and they are the leader of the food truck industry. They are usually located, in groups, on empty lots. They pay the owner of the lot a "parking fee" and city requires a business license among other things. It's a lot of fun to walk by and see all the different things they offer. The cupcake truck was the best! Maybe we could do the same thing here and have them located on weekends at the Park and Ride lot in south Myrtle. I don't know, just a thought!
Kristy Sketeris March 31, 2011 at 06:52 PM
I completely get both sides of this argument. I understand wanting to protect local business and to preserve what little parking there is in Old Town. However, I also think if you are calling these venders "roach coaches," then you haven't actually visited one. Alex gave a great description above of what these trucks really are. I have driven considerable distances to check out some that I'm interested in. There is a 2nd festival of food trucks taking place soon at the Santa Anita Race Track. The trucks I've been to are mobile versions of restaurants serving food that would easily fit into the atmosphere on Myrtle and nothing like the ones some people are thinking of. (I.e., these are not like the truck often found parked in front of our local Home Depot.) I would love to know where certain people above read their "evidence" and why they think it applies to these businesses.
LASPULGASGUNNER March 31, 2011 at 06:54 PM
You know what come next ? The guy who wants to sell sox and t-shirts out of the back of the trunk of his car is going to use the same argument that these "roach coach" operators are using. Except the guy selling merchandise out of his trunk of his card can claim his trunk isn't a breeding ground for cock roaches and he will only be taking up one parking space. He will likely point out that pot smokers who have the munchies and drunks who want something to eat before they drive home will have no interest of driving on the road to buy a pair of sox's at 10 P.M. Eventually it's going to lead too massage vans on Myrtle offering massages with a happy ending in front of Jakes Roadhouse.
LASPULGASGUNNER March 31, 2011 at 07:37 PM
Roach coaches discriminate against short people. Short people and children are unable to reach up to the counter of these roach coaches. These roach coaches will have to obey the ADA regulations as the restaurants have too. There will need to be wheel chair access up to the counter of these roach coaches. To meet these federal ADA regulations, each roach coach will require a truck to transport these ramps for those confined to wheel chairs and for short people. If the City of Monrovia doesn't enforce these regulations, the City Attorney will be rolling in the money because someone is going to file a law suit against the City for not enforcing these regulations. More likely the restaurant owners along Myrtle Ave will be filing these law suits. Holding one business to higher standards than another business is wrong.
Kristy Sketeris March 31, 2011 at 07:40 PM
So...no evidence? Clearly the sky is falling.
Kristy Sketeris March 31, 2011 at 07:43 PM
Melanie, I love your idea. :) That's the same sort of thing I was picturing here. And it would save me a drive to Tarzana for my next grilled-brie-and-walnut sandwich!
Richard Christy March 31, 2011 at 08:19 PM
What Monrovia isn't understanding is that Roach Coaches are a big fad right now. These coaches serve really delicious and unique food. Having them will attract many more people to the stale street fair. They sure would attract me back. I can't believe people are worried about them taking up a single parking space. I've never had trouble parking in Monrovia. I don't think a few spaces are really an issue. I've also never seen a roach coach leave litter behind. Weird arguments
Chris Ziegler March 31, 2011 at 09:37 PM
I have to side with the optimists. I have heard wonderful things about the gourmet catering trucks and have a goal of going to taste their product. Unfortunately, I'm somewhat adverse to driving to an unfamiliar neighborhood so I have yet to realize that goal. As for the lawsuit, I hope the city holds off on litigating; 1) we don't even know for sure that a problem will materialize 2) These trucks may even attract consumers to brick and mortar businesses 3) We can adopt an ordinance readily if a problem does arise and then we would have a stronger case if it comes to litigation as we would have concrete evidence on our side. Our parking and traffic problems could be addressed with more attractive/convenient alternative transportation options.
LASPULGASGUNNER March 31, 2011 at 09:40 PM
Richard, Re: roach coach trash, let me help you out with the weird argument. http://www.flickr.com/photos/strph/4298811677/ This is at Venice Beach -> http://www.yovenice.com/2009/12/06/nouveau-food-truck-regulations-needed-in-venice/ (Read the article, you'll understand the argument.)
Karen Lujan March 31, 2011 at 11:36 PM
I think the issue is more about them parking in Old Town where the merchants pay a fee to be a part of the Association than it is of having the trucks in Monrovia. According to the article about the ban they are only banned from Old Town and residential areas. So having something like Melanie suggested is still feasible.
Tom Adams April 01, 2011 at 01:10 AM
I like Alex's idea, maybe we could have gourmet lunch truck events at one of the schools from time to time. The schools could make some money and everyone could enjoy the food.
R Terry April 02, 2011 at 06:58 PM
Might be reasonable to allow them occasionally and not close to other restaurants. They would have to pay fees including for some portable restrooms and city clean up of the area later. You don't want to create heavy competition for the restaurants that pay leases, licenses, employee wages, restroom maintenance and provide customers a place to sit and enjoy the meal. Unregulated food trucks could drive out all but the upper end restaurants who have clientel who are not as concerned about paying more for quality AND being served by a waiter/waitress in nice climate controlled conditions. I can just picture shuttered restaurants with a food truck on every other side street in Old Town and wind blown food stained trash in every nook and cranny.

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