Welcome to another installment of L.A. Food Trucks versus City Council Member Tom LaBonge. In this episode, Southern California's Mobile Vendors Association (SCMVA) co-founders Matt Gellar and Coleen Craig, along with Cool Haus Truck founder Natasha Case, take their plight to a national audience: the thousands of loyal listeners of comedian, actor and former Man Show host Adam Carolla's podcast.
The current issue at hand? It's not the motions proposed by LaBonge to keep L.A.'s food truck contingency from parking for more than an hour in metered parking zones. It's not the accumulation of wrappers, napkins and other trash from tipsy truck patrons at Abbot Kinney's First Fridays. Nor is it crowd control or parking in red zones during Downtown's Art Walk. No, the issue is much more fundamental than that, focusing on the competition for patrons between brick-and-mortar restaurants and the food trucks that park along Miracle Mile's Museum Row.
Matt Gellar, who has worked to fight LaBonge's stance and proposed motions, admits the constant flip-flopping of issues brought to light by the City Council against food trucks can be confusing. “There were three big issues we were dealing with. First, an Art walk issue where there were too many trucks. So we put all the trucks in a lot and dealt with that issue. Then we were dealing with too much trash at [Abbot Kinney] First Fridays; the association just hired four guys to work for 5 1/2 hours and they cleaned up all the trash. And now we've got Wilshire but the problem is, what issue am I dealing with? Am I dealing with competition? I can't stop that. Or am I dealing with parking?”
Case, a former architect who founded the ice cream sandwich truck Cool Haus, believes the true issue behind the food truck resistance is much more emotional. “Something new — in this case, food trucks — creates excitement and creates jobs, but it also creates fear and controversy. It pushes [brick and mortar] restaurants to be more innovative and do cooler things with their menus. But I believe in the end, a product that's cool, exciting and loved by many people will win over the fear and resentment.”
For those who are familiar with Carolla's topical, irreverent and profanity-laced podcast, his stance on the way Los Angeles is (mis)managed by city officials is no surprise. “I'll tell you the one [expletive] thing this city does: parking tickets! That's the one [expletive] thing we're good at… But the schools? That's [expletive]. City Hall? [Expletive]. Graffiti? [Expletive]. Trash? [Expletive]. Everything? [Expletive]. Anyone ever just think of that one simple little truth, what one [expletive] thing [the city] actually pulls off? It's parking tickets. And of course, that involves removing money from your pocket.”
Carolla's co-host, Teresa Strasser, after waiting patiently for his tirade to tire, summed up the food truck issue in a single, family-friendly sentence: “What I'm hearing is that this is a war, not just against free enterprise, but against ice cream.”
Stay tuned for updates. In the meantime, judge for yourself.
Christie Bishop also blogs for PardonMyCrumbs.com.