L.A. County Tells Taco Trucks To Keep Moving

Peter writes to let us know that taco trucks in Los Angeles county now have to move to a new position every hour: “The county of Los Angeles has enacted some new legislation to prevent taco truck owners from staying in one spot, with penalties of a fine of up to $1000 or jail for failures to comply.” Why such a weird law? Because area restaurants say they’re stealing away customers. If you like your carne asada from the side of a truck, be prepared to start chasing them down as they circle through L.A. county in a weird Mexican-food carousel.

The L.A. Times says the move is driven by pure greed on the part of brick-and-mortar restaurants, and that the new legislation attacks an L.A. institution:

Forget the Getty — it’s the taco trucks, and their crowds, that are the true culture of L.A. Attacking the trucks is like New York going after its hot dog stands or Memphis banning barbecue pits.
 
And other than raw greed, I can’t see any reason for it. Ron Mukai, an East L.A. developer, says the trucks are unfair competition, edging out the “legitimate brick-and-mortar businesses.” But the county’s 14,000 registered catering trucks seem just as legitimate as restaurants—they’re just providing a different service. Restaurants provide meals, and a table to eat them at, and walls to eat them within. Taco trucks provide food, pure and simple. They charge less because they’re selling less.

One website, saveourtracotrucks.org, even has an online petition—although we suspect Angelinos will have better luck voting with their dollars than with an online signature.
 
“In defense of the great taco truck” [L.A. Times]
(Photo: papalars)

Comments

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  1. MrDo says:

    I heard on the radio a week or so back that LA has something like 14,000 registered and 28,000 unregistered “taco trucks”.

  2. IrisMR says:

    Infamy! Injustice! SAVE THE CHEAP TACOS!

  3. Dobernala says:

    Tacos from some random truck? No thanks.

  4. Lucky225 says:

    I have to say, this was not something I’m going to miss since I left L.A.

  5. Southern says:

    They passed the same kind of law in Houston just a few months ago, but it hasn’t done a damn bit of good because they haven’t ENFORCED it. The trucks still sit where they always have, some of them on blocks, or with awnings permanently attached, etc..

    The law doesn’t mean a thing if they don’t enforce it.

    I’m AM kinda surprised this is coming from Los Angeles though.

  6. Maybe they should add a passenger area and folks could eat on their way to wherever. TacoTaxi’s ;-)

  7. nuttycakes says:

    Living out here in the Mid-Atlantic, there’s is little I crave more from the West Coast than tacos from a taco truck. While yes, not all of them are divine, you’re missing out if you haven’t eaten from one of the good ones. It is a crime to try and put taco trucks out of business.

  8. nuttycakes says:

    @Big Flicker: My dream come true!

  9. Half Beast says:

    @Southern: Agreed. I don’t think they have the ability to successfully monitor and enforce this very much…
    Though, I am expecting a lot of snitching on behalf of restaurateurs however.

  10. laserjobs says:

    Awesome!!! Mobile Hepatitis

  11. crunchtime2k says:

    just get rid of them

  12. SkokieGuy says:

    14,000 registered trucks! And how do they inspect for compliance with health codes?

    They may be an institution, but to use the New York analogy, if a hot dog cart permanently parked outside my (brick and mortar) hot dog shop, I’d be pissed.

    And it’s not very green to have these old dilapidated trucks that don’t have modern emissions equipment idling all day to keep the equipment operational.

  13. SkokieGuy says:

    LA also has one of the worst commute times in the US, so let’s just clog the streets with 14,000 trucks that relocate every hour.

  14. AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

    I wish New Jersey had taco trucks :(

  15. TheBigLewinski says:

    I like my taco’s “bearded.”

  16. sir_eccles says:

    Won’t somebody think of the environment! By staying still they would surely pollute less.

  17. parliboy says:

    @SkokieGuy: I submit that taco trucks are a lot more green than a traditional restaurant that sucks up way more electricity per customer.

  18. FreeMarketGravy says:

    @Dobernala: Honestly, you’d be shocked. It sounds like a horrible idea, but often the food’s better than from any restaurant and they are shockingly clean.

  19. Whitey Fisk says:

    I don’t think “greed” is the correct word. It’s more like they’re seeking immunity from direct competition. As long as the trucks are subject to the same health rules as restaurants I don’t see what’s wrong with them. Let the consumers decide.

  20. DeepFriar says:

    That should help with the clean air standards.
    Dear L.A. – your air is the consistency of sugar free jello pudding, stop forcing cars to drive around.

  21. FreeMarketGravy says:

    @parliboy: And there have been trucks that have been modified to run on the used grease from Tex-Mex restaurants. The exhaust they create smells like fresh Mexican food. The first taco truck to be repurposed to run on the recycled grease that it creates will truly have cornered the market.

  22. LatherRinseRepeat says:

    Taco trucks in LA are overrated. There are very few good ones, and thousands of really bad ones. I’ll stick with the hole-in-the wall Mexican restaurants. At least they have Health Department ratings posted on the front door.

  23. CPC24 says:

    Nashville passed something similar last year; they forced the trucks to have permanent buildings. Most of the taco trucks just moved into low-rent shacks like old gas stations.

  24. consumersaur says:

    Some local sheriff was quoted in that story saying something to the effect of: “We’ll enforce it IF we get calls about it.” – which basically means the cops have other things to do beyond timing taco trucks.

  25. MaliBoo Radley says:

    @TheBigLewinski:

    Surely you mean you clams?

  26. consumersaur says:

    byLatherRinseRepeat: LA is overrated <- fixed that for ya.

  27. freshyill says:
  28. jamesdenver says:

    Wah Wah just because something isn’t regulated up the ass makes it dangerous and unhealthy.

    I’d trust some guy or Mexican family running a food truck over lunch at Arby’s or Taco Bell any day.

    These people generally visit the same places every day – like construction sites – so they have an incentive to keep in good shape.

    I guess I should be scared. But hey I’m not.

  29. valthun says:

    When I was in San Diego, we had one that came to our office every morning and lunch time. It was good food. I have seen plenty of reports here in LA where inspectors have to shut those guys down consistently for violating some food thing. Improper temps, no clean water, that kind of thing. I would prefer a true taco shop to a taco truck any day. The roach coach isn’t always a good thing. When they are located in one spot for hours or even all day, they are essentially a restaurant, they even have benches and tables and are in some businesses parking lot. 1 hour seems a bit extreme, maybe 2 or 3 then they need to move.

  30. parliboy says:

    @Whitey Fisk: Unfortunately, what you’re suggesting, though well-intentioned, doesn’t work well either. There’s been a crackdown on bacon dogs, but they only hit licensed trucks, not unlicensed. Result: licensed trucks are bleeding money while unlicensed are inheriting their customers.

    Link: [www.reason.tv]

  31. theBIG says:

    So technically, cant they just move like 10 feet every hour back and forth and say they changed locations? Thats what I would try.

  32. TPS Reporter says:

    Personally some of these trucks can give pretty good food for a good price. Some are bad, but it’s not like every restaurant that is brick and mortar is good also, some are bad also. Alot of times its the ones who show up at the same work places every day that seem to be the good ones.

  33. hypnotik_jello says:

    @theBIG: Nope, I think they have to move 1/2 mile every 3 hours or something.

  34. Me - now with more humidity says:

    Ever get stuck in traffic behind one of those rancid meat wagons? Makes you want to puke.

  35. camille_javal says:

    @freshyill: the grease trucks! Oh, memories of grad school and using a fat sandwich to restore the lining in my stomach after getting hammered at Doll’s. (Although, my favorite was the Fat Darrell from Giovanelli’s on Easton – chicken fingers, french fries, onion rings, ketchup, mayo.)

    God, I’m having Jersey flashbacks.

    I actually won’t eat hot dogs from a stand now that I’m in NYC, but that’s because when I have in the distant past, they had the consistency of vienna sausages (which make me gag).

  36. Lambasted says:

    Sounds like on-street parking in D.C. residential neighborhoods. Try visiting a friend who lives in a zoned parking neighborhood–meaning only residents have street parking permits. All others must move within 2 hours. And when I mean move, I mean MOVE! Not just repark a few cars down. I think technically you are suppose to move to a different zone entirely.

    DC parking patrols will definitely get you. I have no idea how they keep track all of all those cars. I swear they must hide in the bushes watching to see where you move your car to and then when your back is turned, they jump out and slap a ticket on your windshield if you didn’t repark far enough away.

    I knew someone who purchased a $1 million house on Capitol Hill and has difficulty getting people to visit him because of the parking situation. He finally agreed to pay for any parking tickets guests received while visiting him. I got one once and he did pay it.

  37. Shadowfire says:

    People are pissing and moaning about these trucks… what exactly is the problem with these, as compared to NYC hot dog or pretzel vendors?

    Because they sell some awesome hot dogs and pretzels in NYC.

  38. Buran says:

    @Lambasted: What about parking in his driveway?

  39. CharlieInSeattle says:

    Yes because LA needs more smog, from old trucks. Brilliant LA.

  40. StevenJohn says:

    Traveling Roach Coaches have always had to travel.

    What is the big deal with the law?

  41. bradanomics says:

    Since when did a restaurant have a right to keep the same amount of customers?

    Let the market work. Put out specials around lunch time that compete with the taco truck’s prices and quality. If you can’t do that, then go out of business.

  42. sprocket79 says:

    Geez… Happy Cinco de Mayo to you to, LA. I frankly don’t see how this can be enforced and shame on restaurants for trying. If people want a taco from a truck, they weren’t going to go into your restaurant anyway. They were probably going to go to McDonald’s or something where they can get something fast.

  43. notskywalker says:

    the trucks suck. beef fat and onion… better value at taco bell

  44. Lambasted says:

    @Buran: Driveways are owned by the resident not city so parking in a driveway is fine. However, it’s the city, most don’t have driveways. But sometimes you can get away with parking in a back alley as long as it is wide enough that your car isn’t blocking ingress and egress.

  45. hexychick says:

    @Shadowfire: I was wondering the same thing. Maybe because most of those stands are stationary and this is literally a mobile station?

  46. huertanix says:

    Taco trucks are awesome. I remember eating truck tacos as a kid living in LA and have never gotten sick from one, ever. This is the advantage of not growing up in a bubble, I suppose.

    As for environmental concerns, this new regulation will force more travel and traffic congestion, meaning more carbon emissions, which is not exactly what LA needs *more* of. A little truck using a low amount of electricity and not requiring A/C for its patrons also gives it a way smaller carbon footprint than a crappy brick-n-mortar restaurant.

  47. Empire says:

    They’re doing the same in Sacramento, but the excuse is that the trucks attract “troublemakers.”

  48. TheBigLewinski says:

    @radleyas: I like bearded too, but in deference to Cinco De Mayo I shall have bearded Tacos today. :)

  49. trujunglist says:

    I like tacos.

  50. HeartBurnKid says:

    Taco trucks rule. And they also have some damn nice burgers, generally speaking. I miss those from my time in LA.

    Hey, LA, leave the taco trucks alone!

  51. forgottenpassword says:

    Ah the classic roach-coach!

    Being from the midwest I have never seen a taco one!(…. but sadly I think this will change within the next 10 years or so).

    We see more funnel cake/corndog ones here than anything. ABout two years ago I saw my first hotdog cart & thought it was cool as hell!

    So… this new law…. does it say how FAR you have to move after that hour? (could you move accross the street?) Because in some cities they mark your tires with chalk to see if you moved or not. All you gotta do is move your car a bit to beat it. I once saw on cops where this homeless dude routinely moved his van (he was living in) just a little bit to avoid getting tickets in this way.

  52. HeartBurnKid says:

    @forgottenpassword: Hey, no sadly about it. The only place you’re going to get a decently-spicy taco on the cheap is off a truck. I don’t mind Taco Bell, Del Taco, or the like, but they are a bit bland.

  53. y2julio says:

    Would suck if they did that to the chimi trucks in washington heights in Manhattan.

  54. ChuckECheese says:

    @y2julio: You have chimi trucks? I practically live in Mexico and we don’t have those. Chimis aren’t the most authentic of Mexican foods, but they sure are tasty. That’s why there are chimi trucks. But not here. Sigh.

  55. reflection717 says:

    I don’t understand how the brick and mortar restaurants got this on the books. It’s not the government’s job to keep them in business. If the carts have a business license they should be able to operate however they wish.

    This seems to violate the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th amendment. (Yeah, perhaps not as severe as slavery and such but…) It is a law enacted for the sole purpose of making one group’s life harder.

    If the taco-truck owners want to, they could probably fight this one…of course that’s a lot of tacos to sell to hire a lawyer.

  56. PølάrβǽЯ says:

    I’m from North Central Washington (yes, the state – notice I didn’t proceed it with “D.C.”), and we have several taco trucks (Apple capital of the world = 50% Mexican population). What they do here is simply rent a little space from a local retailer’s parking lot. Since they’re legally on private property, the government can’t make them move.

    And Mexican food made by Mexicans born and raised in Mexico is MUCH better than some crap thrown together by a white guy at a fast food joint!

  57. @parliboy: Not to mention that the trucks aren’t actually running, they have the stuff on inside cooking.

  58. Imhotep says:

    Jesus! First L.A. makes bacon-wrapped hot dogs illegal, and now this! Power crazy officials need to stop this blatant discrimination. [www.yesbutnobutyes.com]

  59. joemo says:

    Food safety conditions are notoriously bad in LA’s taco trucks too – so expect more strict laws to come down the pike soon.

  60. metaled says:

    I agree, the food is wonderful (On some, some it is scary!).
    But I do have a problem with these vehicles. I used to work at a facility that had two building next to each other. One was a convalescent hospital, the other was a board and care facilitu. When our neighbor would close for the night (a clothing store), the truck would show up, pull up onto the sidewalk and out would come the tables, chairs, pop-up canopy, lights and music. Real bad on the weekends!
    Both of our parking lots would be completely full of “their” customers and after 10pm till they left at 1 or 2 am, the cars would actually double park on the street. Music blasting.. people dancing… It was like a night club opened up next door. Residents and patients couldn’t sleep. Beside never being able to park at work, or even worse if I came in early.. we could not leave work. There was no way to get the employees cars out of the parking lots. If we went over and asked them to get their customers to move their cars, they looked at us funny and would say “no comprende”. Funny, they had no problem speaking english if we were getting a carne asada tacos from them. (couldn’t leave for dinner breaks!)
    One night we had to call in a private ambulance (for transport) to the hospital, non-emergency. We had 8 employees out there talking to all the customers trying to get anyone to move their cars so the ambulance could get to the patient. Needless to say we were on first name basis with the guy who worked after hours parking enforcement for the city. He would come out, everyone would jump in their cars, circle the block while he wrote the Roach Coach a ticket for parking on the sidewalk. After he left they would all come back. They didn’t care or pay the ticket,they were illegal in more than one way. Nice Guy, he would show up on the weekends at the beginning of employees shift and make sure we could park in our own lots (no leaving before 1am though). Cops would get angy if you tried to call them to help out!
    I really like the one that parks outside Burger King and our Ciniplex on the weekends! Puts Burger King to shame! They have no business, but their bathroom gets used alot from the Roach Coach’s customers! It’s not fair for legal business’ or the people that work and live around where they set-up! Didn’t even mention the trash that get’s left in the neighborhoods after one stops for the night!

  61. Interl0per says:

    Eh, seems like BS to me. Maybe the “legitamate brick and mortar” restaurants should provide better food if they cant compete with a freaking taco truck.

  62. Trojan69 says:

    The next time y’all want to bitch and moan about the outsourcing of jobs, and the reductions in the safety nets by corporations, think back to this thread.

    No fixed-setting/building restaurant can compete on cost with a roach coach. Can’t be done. The lease payments, the crushing worker’s comp fees, maintenance and cleaning costs are all realities that do not exist for a single-operator roach coach. How about liability insurance? Good luck collecting if something happens to you near a truck.

    Big corporations cut out costs where they can, and consumers don’t give a fig about safety and property value if they can save 50% on some iffy beef on a fried tortilla shell.

    I’m a rock-ribbed capitalist by nature. But if you allow virtually unencumbered businesses to plop down next to those who pay out the ying-yang to follow the myriad regulatory schemes all states impose upon fixed-place businesses, you are not being a capitalist. You are engaging in anarchism.

    If a sidewalk can be made to not have any businesses, so too, can a street parking space have such a prohibition. The principle is precisely the same – the protection of the business interests along the sidewalk. Please don’t make me laugh by claiming “safety” concerns are the impetus for the vendor prohibitions along sidewalks.

  63. Me - now with more humidity says:

    They should all be banned. Off the road unless they can prove health code compliance and legal status. Period.

  64. k6richar says:

    @Me: That makes no sense at all. It is basically guilty until proven innocent. I have worked at a chip wagon, can’t imagine it is much different then a taco truck, we had to pass inspections yearly(might be every 6 months) but we never failed anything.

  65. ideagirl says:

    @jamesdenver: I agree with you, but it’s pretty hard to take seriously any comment that starts with the words, “Wah wah.”

  66. ideagirl says:

    @Trojan69: I don’t get your point–it sounds like you are saying that you are for capitalism, but only for those who are rich enough to afford it and who are willing to do it the way you think it should be done?

    In my area, taco trucks are licensed and inspected, provide proof of insurance, and everything else a brick and mortar has to do to operate. Yes, their costs are lower, it’s a truck for crissakes! Perhaps some of those complaining brick and mortar shops should start their own trucks? Then they could enjoy the same low operating costs as the the taco wagons.

  67. ideagirl says:

    @Me: There are obvioulsy a lot of people here who are not familiar with the taco truck concept. These are businesses that are licensed and inspected just like the brick and mortars.

  68. camman68 says:

    @ideagirl: I am very familiar with the taco truck concept. But LA can’t keep track of their billboards – and they are stationary! [consumerist.com]

    What makes you think they can regulate (license and inspect) a MOBILE ROACH COACH?

  69. captainleah says:

    if you are not going to let me post please delete my account

  70. Trojan69 says:

    @ideagirl: If property values can’t be sustained, there is no capitalism. If I am permitted to offer a service on public property (street/sidewalk) without being forced to pay the taxes and fees of my competition who operate on private land, capitalism is not at work.

    If the taco trucks were forced to pay a mean amount of rent to the landlord (you and I) given the areas in which they operate, it would be a start. If they operate on private land, then an equivalent property tax needs to be paid.

    Whether you realize it or not, we are all subsidizing these trucks which avoid the payment of all property tax. We then lose taxes that would otherwise be paid by the fixed-placed establishments that close due to the subsidized businesses/trucks.

  71. synergy says:

    I suspect that just like down here in South Texas, the people it impacts the most or who would care the most are the ones who vote the least.