"Torrance defends its enforcement actions in debate over food trucks"
By Nick Green Staff Writer
Posted: 12/07/2011 07:21:54 PM PST
"The Torrance City Council on Tuesday rejected charges the city had unnecessarily clamped down on gourmet food trucks on school campuses during a fundraising event, even as residents pleaded for greater transparency.
"We're not changing anything," Mayor Frank Scotto said. "We wouldn't be having this meeting if all the trucks had business licenses."
But as some residents saw it, the clear-the-air meeting wouldn't have been needed had city officials effectively communicated regulatory requirements with school fundraising organizers. The gatherings of the trendy gourmet food trucks can draw hundreds of loyal foodies and generate thousands in revenue.
Tuesday's meeting came in the wake of what amounted to a police raid on a recent Yukon Elementary School fundraiser to cite unlicensed trucks.
"We felt we asked the right questions and obviously we didn't," said Cathy Beasley, a parent involved with the nonprofit Yukon Elementary Education Alliance. "We just want clear and concise rules - something easy for the food truck vendors to follow."
Despite the defensive comments by municipal officials, it appeared all involved shared a portion of the blame for the recent food truck fundraising fiasco.
Parent volunteers, as Beasley conceded, were so focused on ensuring whether the school campus gatherings needed a special events permit - they don't - the issue of whether individual trucks had the necessary city business license was overlooked. City officials, in verbally approving the gatherings, assumed organizers knew the trucks needed a $236 annual business license, which requires a $37 commercial vehicle safety inspection. They didn't.
Many food trucks, apparently believing they had received the go-ahead from city officials to attend events on school campuses, which are governed by different land-use regulations than private property, neglected to get the necessary license.
Caught in the middle were city police, who said they were simply trying to enforce "rudimentary" Vehicle Code requirements. Instead, they incurred the wrath of both event organizers and food trucks. The latter were seemingly unaccustomed to that level of regulation elsewhere in the county.
"You guys are taking it to a whole new level," food truck gathering organizer Glenn Debacca told the City Council. "We're trying to do a fundraiser."
The only concrete things the City Council did Tuesday: adopted an ordinance requiring food trucks to display the county food facility grade and refer to the Planning Commission a proposed ordinance governing food truck gatherings off school campuses.
The commission is scheduled to begin deliberations on that issue Dec. 21."