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Their best dish!

A dear friend and member of the SOCALMFVA, David Shin of The Yummy One food truck, just passed away several weeks ago. Mr. Shin was an excellent entrepreneur, chef and a fellow member. He is survived by his wife and daughter. We hope that David Shin’s legacy of hardwork, friendliness, honesty and sincerety will pass on to the rest of our SOCALMFVA family and the food truck industry. May you rest in peace, 신대걱. You will always be in our hearts.

-Yeyen Ong

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After 10 months of negotiation, the Health Department has changed some of their policies concerning bathroom access.  The requirement for the bathroom letter, is no more.  The members remained committed to changing these polices, and should be applauded!

As of July 1, 2012, the County has agreed to:

  • eliminate the “bathroom letter” requirement in its entirety;
  • require trucks to show only “actual access” to a bathroom facility when operating for more than one hour at the same location;
  • provide an actual definition of “same location”; and
  • exclude suspension and truck closure as penalties for lack of bathroom access.

New Interpretation and Enforcement Policy:

  1. The County will no longer require Mobile Food Facilities to acquire a bathroom authorization form.  Mobile Food Facilities that are stopped to conduct business in the same location for more than one hour will only need to demonstrate “access in fact” to an approved toilet and hand washing facility within 200 travel feet of the truck.

To demonstrate “access in fact” an employee will have to walk the inspector into a bathroom within 200 feet of the truck.  If the bathroom has working toilets, warm water, and single use soap and towels, no bathroom violation will be issued.  A truck may still use a bathroom letter to satisfy the requirements of Section 114315; it is simply not a requirement.

1.   A truck that does not have bathroom access (either a “bathroom letter” or “access in fact”)  may not operate in the same location for more than one hour.  However, the County will no longer issue temporary suspensions or order immediate closures of trucks that operate for more than one hour without access to an approved toilet and hand washing facility.  To avoid a temporary suspension and immediate closure the truck must immediately cease operations at that location and move at least one half mile before restarting.  Further, the truck may not return to that location for the rest of the day.  The truck will still be cited for a violation and be docked 6 points if it is a graded inspection.  A truck that receives two violations within a twelve-month period will be subject to a permit revocation proceeding.   A truck that refuses to cease operations will be subject to a suspension and an immediate closure.

2.   A truck that voluntarily suspends business operations for a minimum of 15 minutes within a one-hour period will be presumed to be operating for less than one hour and are not subject to a restroom requirement.  A truck will be deemed to have suspended business operations only when the service window is closed and all employees have vacated the vehicle.  No sales may take place during this 15-minute period and all food must be properly stored.  Operators must place a “clock sign” in plain sight to customer indicating when the break began and when operations are scheduled to resume.

3.   A truck that does not have access to bathroom facilities that does not choose to cease operations pursuant to number (3) above may not operate for more than one hour at the same location.  However, a truck may continue operations under one of two scenarios:

a.   Move the vehicle at least one half mile from the prior location or

b.   Move the vehicle to service a different “community of customers.”  This means that truck moves far enough away from its previous location that its customers are different than the ones it was previously serving.  So as an example, customers two blocks down on Abbott Kinney or Chatsworth on a Friday night are likely not a different “community of customers.”  But customers on Hill and Fourth in Downtown Los Angeles are likely a different “community of customers” from the ones on Hill and First.

A truck that elects to continue operations under either option a. or b. may return to its previous location after fifteen minutes.

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Summer is back and the Main Street Lot at the California Heritage Museum is going strong.  Every Tuesday night from 5-9:30pm, 10-12 trucks line up in the parking lot of the California Heritage Museum and the Victorian (2612 Main St Santa Monica, 90405).  Patrons are invited to use the Museum lawn or grab a drink and a table at the Victorian bar or the Basement Tavern.  The partnership has benefited all parties involved and the Santa Monica community.  To date, the SoCalMFVA and our participating member trucks have raised over $80,000 for the California Heritage Museum.  The trucks have found a great home in Santa Monica and they’re excited to serve the community  throughout the Summer!

The truck schedule for the Main Street Lot is here. The twitter is @smfoodtrucklot.  Please check out the latest exhibit at the California Heritage Museum.  Our partners at the Victorian and the Basement Tavern have been very supportive of the museum and the trucks.  Please check them out next time you’re in Santa Monica!

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On March 28, 2012 Assemblymember Monning wisely decided that AB 1678 should not proceed any further in the 2012 legislative process.  In a statement released by his office Assemblymember Monning said, “ The challenge before us is working with a diverse group of stakeholders to establish a shared understanding about the adverse impacts of these practices and the necessity of a statewide legislative solution.”

The sponsors of the AB 1678, The California Food Policy Advocates (CFPA) did nothing to reach out to impacted vendors or their advocacy organizations to include them in discussions.  Additionally, the CFPA did very little to collect data on specific instances where mobile vending directly led to adverse student impacts.  In fact, the CFPA, when asked, could not even provide the names of fifteen schools out of 10,000 in California where these issues existed.

As we have stated previously, many cities already have restrictions on mobile vending.  These restriction focus on public safety impacts related to attractive vehicles near schools.  AB 1678 would have criminalized selling a bag of chips from a food facility on four wheels while an adjacent liquor store could have legally sold the exact same bag of chips.  AB 1678 was an ill advised bill that did not address the real causes of childhood obesity and looked to scapegoat a group of hard working entrepreneurs.

We object to the CFPAs assertion in their March 28th press release claiming that mobile vendors are “targeting children” as if they were some sort of pushers attempting to fatten up children.  The CFPA should start looking into the root causes of the childhood obesity epidemic and stop targeting mobile vendors.

We look forward to working with the State to continue to further the rights of mobile vendors throughout California.

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Please start by signing our petition:  http://tinyurl.com/AB1678

On February 14, 2012 Assemblymember Bill Monning (Carmel) introduced AB 1678, which would prohibit mobile vending 1500 feet from an elementary or secondary school from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.  This Bill is flawed in many respects.  If enacted, the Bill would decimate the burgeoning mobile food industry without addressing the author’s concerns in any significant manner.   In many California cities, more than 80 percent of the public right of ways are within 1500 feet of a school.  Without suitable areas to operate a large number of mobile restaurants will be forced out of business.  Yet, even with food trucks out of business, children will have plenty of access to “unhealthy” food.  Even if one accepts the Author’s claim that students on closed campuses leave school to obtain unhealthy food, the Bill will do nothing to curb this alleged threat.  The Bill  does not purport to ban the sale of any particular type of food.  So fast food restaurants, convenience stores, and gas station stores will continue to operate within the restricted area offering all manner of “unhealthy” food.

In the last three years mobile vending has become one of the fastest growing trends in food service.  Restauranteurs have taken to the streets to deliver a wide variety of cuisines.  The mobile food facility is merely a delivery system used to service the public.  Many trucks pride themselves on providing organic healthy meals that come straight from the farmer’s market.  Even the trucks that do not promote their cuisines as health food often use only high quality ingredients in their food’s preparation.  This Bill does not differentiate between cuisines, only the delivery mechanism used by a restauranteur to serve the public.  Imagine the Bill had banned all restaurants with a drive through window from operation within 1500 feet of a school.  Healthy restaurants that wanted to service the public and provide a quick take out option would be prohibited from doing so just because of a service practice.  This Bill does not ban unhealthy food, it bans a service mechanism.
The Bill’s attempt to make a statewide prohibition to address local issues simply makes no sense.  A number of Cities and Counties already have rules prohibiting mobile vendors from operating near schools while in session.  Local school districts have rules prohibiting students from leaving campus.  The Author fails to make any showing as to why the State should make these broad legislative decisions when the local authorities already have the power to do so.  If enacted this Bill would even restrict schools from holding food truck fundraisers on campuses.

California is in the middle of any unprecedented financial crisis.  However, instead of using our limited legislative resources in an efficient manner, this Bill would put thousands of people out of work without actually addressing the issue of childhood obesity.  The Author claims to know what is best for every county, city, town, and school in the entire state.  This Bill will be defeated because Californians are smart enough to know there are better ways to address these issues without damaging an entire industry.

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Last week, the Manhattan Beach City Council passed new food truck regulations that were fair, equitable and in compliance with California State law.  The new ordinance removed their previous 30 minute time limit and focused on regulations that would enhance public safety.  Ordinances for trash pick up, distance from an intersection and distance from schools were all included.  We’re happy that Manhattan Beach chose to work with the industry to ensure regulations that benefitted the community.  The City Council and the City Attorney took the time to weigh public safety concerns and State law requirements.  We’re looking forward to a constructive relationship with Manhattan Beach.

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Over the past six months, we’ve been giving the Los Angeles Health Department’s Vehicle Inspection Program (VIP) examples of deficiencies in their enforcement policies.  After reviewing “inspection”  reports we found that inspectors and supervisors were misinformed about basic public health regulations.  Some inspectors did not know the difference between hot water (120º) for warewashing sinkes and warm water (100º) for handwashing sinks.  Inspectors were using an improper code when shutting trucks down for restroom access violations until we pointed out their mistake.  The Department did not understand the limits to their authority when issuing “Community Event” permits. The regulations are written in the County Code and the State Code and we have asked that they follow these codes to the letter.  Unfortunately, when the codes conflict with their “policies” they refuse to make changes and have even said,  “if you don’t like it, you can sue us.”

Even more troubling is the frequency in which the Nouveau Food Truck industry is being inspected.  Every truck is required to be inspected 2 times per fiscal year.  Our members have already been inspected an average of 2.4 times for the 2011/2012 fiscal year which ends June 30, 2012.  There are over 2600 trucks that need to be inspected twice for the 2011/2012 fiscal year.  Currently, there are over 1700 trucks that have not received one inspection this fiscal year. These are figures from County’s own website (http://publichealth.lacounty.gov/rating/ Search: Catering Truck -sorted by: Inspection Date).  Even more troubling is the fact that there are over 450 trucks that have not been inspected since the 2009/2010 fiscal year. In 7 months, The VIP have inspected 750 or so trucks out of the over 2600.  At this rate they will never get through all of the trucks.  At the end of last fiscal year, 30% of the trucks did not even receive one inspection.  Some of our members had as many as 6 inspections last fiscal year.

Under “About Us” on the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health website, they have a mission statement.  It reads: “The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health protects health, prevents disease, and promotes the health and well-being for all persons in Los Angeles County. Our focus is on the population as a whole, and we conduct our activities through a network of public health professionals throughout the community.” The SoCal Mobile Food Vendors’ Association has been working for the interests of our members since January 2010.  We believe the interests of our members coincide directly with interests in Public Health.  If the public is not protected, our industry will suffer.