The Amateur Parker
Feed me, Iím yours
Melissa Bean Sterzick
I might have mentioned before that I used to be a newspaper reporter. My first experience in publishing was writing for my college newspaper. Finding a good story was as easy as walking through the quad or the cafeteria.
My second reporting job was as an intern in the local bureau of one of the main state newspapers. There I distinguished myself for being terrified to make phone calls when other reporters and editors were in the room; for writing a measly two stories a week; and for missing huge news on a regular basis.
One of the more seasoned reporters finally told me about the new gym going up at the high school in a nearby town – the town that was part of my beat.
The story was not the gym itself, but the misplaced footings and cracking foundation that were going to have to be removed and replaced at an enormous expense to the school district. When I finally called the superintendent, the first thing he said was, “We’ve actually been expecting you to call for a while.”
For whatever reason, sometimes the obvious is not so obvious.
It was an honest mistake on my part, but I don’t blame the bureau chief for honestly thinking I was completely stupid and lacking talent. All I can say is that I was 21 – children, schools and concrete were not on my radar, not in the least. But I learned, and now I can’t drive down the road without seeing 20 articles I wish my local newspaper, The Daily Breeze in Torrance, CA, would publish.
My latest surf through its online pages brought a very interesting news item to my attention. I, like a hundred-thousand other Angelenos, am in love with food trucks. It’s a trend several years old that just gets more and more alluring. Korean tacos, deep-fried pickle chips, sweet potato tots, and the “everything bacon” truck are just a few of the offerings.
These food trucks are not like the “roach coaches” we all know and love. The roach coach will cook you just about anything you want, but it all tastes the same. I thoroughly enjoy a thick quesadilla that tastes slightly like a hamburger or a hamburger that tastes slightly like a chile relleno. I’m into food, but I’m no snob.
Food trucks take it to another level. They focus their menu on one or two specialties. They have Twitter feeds
and followers. They threaten local restaurants with their quick, original and delicious dishes.
Food truck owners must park to prepare food and conduct their business. Boiling oil and sharp knives aren’t a good idea at 65 mph on the freeway or in stop-and-go traffic on surface streets. Imagine the carnage. That’s how you get a severed finger in your chili.
But it seems a lot of cities have ancient and stringent laws and regulations regarding the sale of goods from parked vehicles. The old standby ice cream truck could conduct its business in 10 minutes, but a food truck needs to park for longer than that before it can start selling food.
Southern California food truck owners are fighting for their rights. During the last few years, six cities have been sued for their outdated laws and insufficient responses to requests for dialogue by the Southern California Mobile Food Vendors Association. Attorney Kevin Behrendt, who represents the group, says the cities that have been sued are the exception – dozens of cities have already adjusted their laws to accommodate this growing mode of commerce.
“We don’t like having to file lawsuits. We try to work with cities. Most of the laws on food trucks in LA County are 50 years old. They relate to a different time – a different type of food truck environment,” Behrendt says. “We think it’s a good industry, and we prefer to work with cities to come up with solutions to a unique situation.”
City officials have a lot to worry about, so maybe Korean tacos and bacon cupcakes aren’t on their radar. But food trucks are one of those obvious things – like giving skateboarders somewhere to go so they don’t have to break laws and end up in juvenile hall. Food trucks are a trend that might become a constant.
They are worth an article or two (and believe me, there have been thousands), and they’re worth accommodating before the courts have to get involved.
Ingenuity and mobility are part of the American dream – whether they play out in politics, finance or on a plate.
Melissa Bean Sterzick is an Amateur Parker and PT’s proofreader. She can be reached at Melissa@parkingtoday.com.
Article Abstract from November, 2012