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."