While Texas state Rep. Jason Villalba this week has continued his campaign to get the embattled Huy Fong Sriracha hot sauce factory to move to his redneck state, there's a new effort under way to lobby the company to shift from the San Gabriel Valley to the San Fernando Valley.
That news dropped as Huy Fong CEO David Tran opened the door to leaving Irwindale, which last week declared his factory to be a public nuisance. “At some point the relationship [with City Hall] becomes so irreparable that you have to consider it,” company attorney John Tate told us.
We like a valley-to-valley move better than this right-wing notion that low-tax, small-government states like Texas are ideal for business. Remember, entrepreneurs, you'd still have to live in a dust-ridden shite hole like Texas. Freedom is never free:
U.S. Rep. Tony Cárdenas of the Valley yesterday asked Huy Fong to come to the land of both strip malls and strip clubs. In a letter to Tran, Cárdenas said:
I would like to encourage you to keep Huy Fong Foods Inc. in California. If relocation is the only viable option, I ask that you consider moving your facility to the San Fernando Valley. The San Fernando Valley has plenty of manufacturing zones, especially in the 29th Congressional District. My district has a long history of manufacturing and we would welcome your company with open arms.
(Yeah, a history of manufacturing porn! We kid. A little).
It's too early to say if Tran might have a preference — local or national. Tate told us:
The guy gets bombarded every day with invitations from all over the country. It shows you how blind Irwindale is, given the nature of this dispute.
It is a strange tale. As Tran has told it, Irwindale actually lobbied to get Huy Fong to move from its old digs in Rosemead to Irwindale, which it did in 2010. But when Tran got a bad feeling about initial odor complaints, he decided to take preemptive action.
He was essentially paying Irwindale $250,000 a year for 10 years to use the factory. But he surprised City Hall by buying it outright, depriving Irwindale of millions in future rent.
Most of the odor complaints have come from four nearby homes, one of which is occupied by the relative of a city councilman. That councilman, Hector Ortiz, recused himself from discussion and voting on the matter because, he says, he owns property near the plant.
At the same time, the city was looking to sell property it owns next door to Huy Fong to a waste-management facility, which could be ironic given the odors sometimes associated with those kinds of facilities.
Last week the city gave Huy Fong 90 days to abate its odors or else. Strange thing, though: Fall is crushing season, when the plant typically emits the sweet smell of hot chilis. How is the factory supposed to abate something that doesn't exist?
Who knows. Here's what Tate says:
Maybe they think they can turn around and lease it or sell it to someone else. I've viewed most of their actions as basically being vindictive.
It's an interesting little town.
Earlier this month Abe De Dios, the city's former finance director, pleaded no contest to a conflict-of-interest charge “for his role in spending city money on lavish trips to New York,” according to the L.A. County District Attorney's office.
He already paid more than $9,000 restitution and had his one-year jail sentence set aside as a result.
Councilmen Mark Breceda and Manuel Garcia and former councilwoman Rosemary Ramirez all went to NYC, too ($66,000 in taxpayer money was spent, prosecutors say). And they still face allegations in court.
To summarize things:
Two of five people on the City Council who are giving a factory that City Hall invited to Irwindale a hard time are facing charges in L.A. County Superior Court. A third owns property near that plant.