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Updated: Monthly Food Truck Event Could be Cancelled Because of Code Violation

One of the event's planners, Meredith Miller, says with county officials investigating the event, she doesn't know whether it will be happening this month.

Altadena's newest monthly event, Fancy Food Truck Fridays, is at risk of being shut down due to a potential county code violation, according to one of the event's organizers.

The news was first reported Thursday morning on the Altadenablog, and organizer Meredith Miller, the co-owner of Webster's Community Pharmacy confirmed it.

Miller said that she is still trying to get in touch with the right person in the county to discuss the issue, which she said has to do with parking.

She said she was told that the county received a complaint from somebody in Altadena.

"One person who complained and it was enough to get the ball rolling unfortunately," Miller said.

The event, which kicked off last month, featured four food trucks in the parking lot behind Webster's along with tables for people to sit.  Most at the event had to park on the street to attend.

She said it is too soon to say whether the second food truck event, scheduled for March 11, will still go forward, but said she believes she may need to apply for a conditional use permit, which would be very costly.

A county planner told the Altadenablog that he is hoping to work with the organizers to come up with a solution.

Here are some other recent county code violations that have shut down Altadena events or institutions:

  • and moved to South Pasadena after a neighbor complained.
  • The idea of a was rejected after neighbor complaints.

Update: Alex Garcia, the county supervising regional planner handling the case, said that the best way to resolve the issue would be to get a temporary use permit to hold the event, while looking into a multi-year permit for the regular monthly event.

The issue he said, is that the parking lot needs to be reserved for the use of businesses that are open in the area.

Holding the event on March 11 without the temporary use permit would be a violation of county code and could subject the organizers of the events to fines, he said.

Garcia said he did not know the cost of a permit off the top of his head, but figured that for a monthly event, the cost would run into the thousands of dollars.

He said that moving the food trucks into the streets and freeing up the parking lot would likely be a violation of police regulations.

PEGGY TROTMAN February 25, 2011 at 12:35 AM
Leslie, you are right on! We need to fight this to the end.
Lisa Hastings February 25, 2011 at 02:23 AM
The trucks can park on the street and the cars in the parking lot and the event will be saved.
Lisa Hastings February 25, 2011 at 02:30 AM
The county reversed themselves and ultimately allowed the art to stay because the art pieces were considered murals. Since a mural is usually a permanent installation, this was a stretch by the county presumably trying to accommodate the wishes of the community. Only the advertising banners were ruled a violation so that is why they were all that was removed.
Angela Odom February 25, 2011 at 03:14 AM
Wait, the Food truck event happened on the 11th and it's the 24th and the county is on the job. Wow. I know many who wish they could get this kind of reaction out of the county. The complaining person(s) must have quite a relationship with the county. Very impressive. Or is it the food trucks period. L.A. and recently Burbank have been trying to put an end to food trucks. Venice has been trying to end First Fridays for a long time. I believe the poor guys have been circling everywhere before finally landing in a parking lot somewhere in Venice, which probably won't last long. People (pedestrians) don't like them because they're losing parking spaces, can't walk past starving people waiting for their food, etc., etc. and restaurants don't like them fearing they will take away business. Local governements are trying to figure out how to tax them for more money. The person who complained may not be an Altadena resident.
Dan Abendschein (Editor) February 25, 2011 at 03:25 AM
@Lisa- Thanks for the info. I've updated the article by removing the part about the violation. Also, interesting thought on putting the trucks on the streets. I was also thinking that could be a solution... if I get someone from county on the line I'll ask if that might work.
ed meyers February 25, 2011 at 05:31 AM
I'm still not sure which code was violated (not enough parking for the amount of trucks)??? I wouldn't doubt the county has some code that prohibts the public right of way on the sidewalks....that could put the breaks on parking on Lake as ppl would line up on sidewalk....who knows, but it may be better to check it out b4 doing it. I'm sure the interested parties will look into all options.
ed meyers February 25, 2011 at 05:37 AM
never mind....I found out.
Laura Monteros February 25, 2011 at 05:48 AM
Given the debacle at Lincoln Crossing, I'd think county planners would be ashamed to show their faces in Altadena.
Leslie Aitken February 25, 2011 at 03:30 PM
Another thing that is frustrating is that this event was on a Friday night, when the stores there are usually closed and the parking lot is empty. The way it was set up was very efficient, allowing room for the trucks, seating and parking on the lot. It is a private parking lot, not a publicly owned lot, so I wonder what the code violation was. I am just plain frustrated with the whole attitude of complaint and desire to squash change. I am still disillusioned about the farmer's market situation.....we could have had an established market for six weeks by now if the ATC and county would have STAYED OUT OF IT! Instead we have talking, meetings and red tape, and promises. Sigh.....
Shaquonia February 25, 2011 at 04:54 PM
Why is there so much resistant to change? We hear so many cries for the need for increased community involvement and the need to improve conditions for our youth in the area - and yet there is a hidden background resistant due to the "self-interest" of a few and their desire to maintain their "prominent status"....... I was amazed at the number of individuals that attended the food truck event and the repeated verbal comments, "This Is What Altadena Needs". .... it was really enjoyable to talk with fellow Altadena residents I've never met before. Change is inevitable.....continued resistance only increases awareness to the issue and the ultimate need to compromise for the good of all.
Shaquonia February 25, 2011 at 04:54 PM
I'm behind the times regarding the "Lincoln Crossing" debacle. What happened?
Lori A. Webster February 25, 2011 at 05:19 PM
Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for your support! The County says we violated Code 22 and we need to apply for a conditional use permit. We are waiting for further contact from the County in regard to this. Yes, it's a privately owned parking lot, but every store is allotted so many spaces and if those spaces are taken up by trucks & tables, then it's a violation. However, we had plenty of parking and actually Meredith hired two parking attendants to guide cars in the lot to avoid such problems. We want to continue to host this event for Altadena, so please help us by contacting your County Supervisors - we appreciate it. Lori & Scott Webster Webster's Fine Stationers 626-797-1135
Dan Abendschein (Editor) February 25, 2011 at 05:22 PM
If you do want to contact Altadena's elected representative to the BOS, Michael Antonovich, his chief of staff is named Tony Bell and can be reached at tbell@bos.lacounty.gov, 213-974-5555.
Gretchen Seager February 25, 2011 at 07:48 PM
Everyone needs to call and voice their opinions that Altadena needs to move forward and become a vibrant community, fulfill its potential, and cater to the people who actually LIVE there.
Lisa Hastings February 25, 2011 at 08:32 PM
Let me first say that I do not oppose the food trucks and that I support an active business/community atmosphere in Altadena. However, many people believe that Altadena should be exempt from many of the laws, rules, and regulations that people in cities take for granted and welcome. It's as Altadena were some kind of Wild West outpost resistant to big city ways. The indignant outrage that people in Altadena frequently express over these code issues is amusing and mostly unheard of in cities where code enforcement is welcomed, such as in Pasadena, Glendale, Arcadia, etc.
Dan Abendschein (Editor) February 25, 2011 at 08:39 PM
That's probably true Lisa, but having reported in a lot of other local cities, I will point out that citizens DO go into the city council meetings there about these type of issues all the time. In a lot of cases, they end up being granted variances or having their local elected officials help find some other solution to the problem. I think in Altadena, the struggle often is that rather than having elected officials handle the issues, instead you just have county employees who are correct to just follow the code and do their job.
mister altadena February 25, 2011 at 10:49 PM
FYI....the Webster stores are usually open past 5p when the event started. I believe that was part of the issue (perhaps there's more to it). If the stores are open, the parking may need to be for the stores (vs. for the food trucks). "Title 22" of the LA Co. code governs this. Title 22 is so massive that's I don't know how anyone can find the violation w/o someone's guidance. It's a true nanny county with so many codes seemingly in place to placate the minority of people/complainers. Sort of "keep the stores open, have no trucks OR have the trucks but close the stores". The county is in the position of enforcing their own screwy codes. The county isn't out looking for a reason to shut it down....they only reacted to the whiny/cowardly/grumpy resident's complaint (I say that b/c anyone who doesn't first go to the event organizer to complain has to be 1 of the 3 adjectives I noted). I'd address the farmer's mkt but this isn't the thread for it.
mister altadena February 25, 2011 at 10:51 PM
word on the street was that it was (at least) one resident. Not sure what the complaint was (lack of parking, parking on the resident's street, blocking the resident's driveway etc.)
mister altadena February 25, 2011 at 10:56 PM
some/many of the codes are outdated &/or unevenly enforced. Just b/c a code is on the books doesn't make it "right". That's the "well, the law is the law" attitude. Sometimes the reason for such a code no longer exists. The counties codes are for all unincorporated LA CO. That's a hugely diverse area. I'd guess that the codes that are out there are of the one size fits all philosophy. That's why the Altadena Community Standards/Community Plan should be reviewed, updated, implemented so that what we feel is appropriate for our community can (hopefully) trump the one size fits all codes that are being applied.
mister altadena February 25, 2011 at 11:13 PM
I've heard that there are very few up here who attend ATC meetings. The prevailing thought is that the ATC can't do anything other than advise. However, they can advise to the county that a compromise be reached with this truck situation. Just b/c they can't make/enforce laws doesn't mean the ATC can't successfully lobby the county on behalf of the community. I understand that there are long term distrust of, misunderstanding of, distaste for the ATC. But, they are a resource we can use to stand up for what we want. The worst that can happen is that you contact your ATC rep and that person does nothing or say he/she won't help you. Even in that case, I'd go to an ATC mtg to force the issue. You're correct that if you go str8 to the county, you'll be met w/ people who are paid to enforce some silly codes.
Lisa Hastings February 25, 2011 at 11:17 PM
The rules are okay but what Dan pointed out seems correct, that problem really is no local government. This unincorporated model of government just doesn't seem to work very well. I still say put the food trucks on the street and the cars in the parking lot and the event can be saved. Unless there is something illegal about that???
Angela Odom February 26, 2011 at 12:29 AM
Yes, Tittle 22 is voluminous but buried within it are the requirements for parking in commercial areas. You can view a summary here: http://planning.lacounty.gov/luz/summary/category/commercial_zones/ Basically, a business needs 1 parking space for each 250 sq. ft. of floor space. Since the businesses were open, the violation may have occurred when the trucks, tables, and people occupied and subsequently reduced the amount of parking. The county wants to make money and they want businesses to acquire Conditional Use Permits and maybe even a Parking Deviation Permit which authorizes a percentage reduction in the number of required parking spaces under the code. I have nothing against people complaining. It is their right. However, as a community and knowing what we know, we have the power to make changes by consulting with our elected officials to either ask for a variance -- an exception to a standard in the code -- or together, contribute for both the CUP and the Parking Deviation Permit. This was a wonderful event and I hope to attend the next one. Going off on the person(s) who complained is a moot issue. It was done. I believe everything happens for a reason, we've learned something. Now we must move to correct it and get this wonderful community show back on the road to success without disenfranchising folks.
mister altadena February 26, 2011 at 12:32 AM
While I have no idea if trucks on the street would violate any bizarre county code, I feel it would invite more scrutiny. On the surface, having people get their food in front, walk to the back lot seems like a good idea. Now, let's think like a county code enforcer....big, wide trucks (maybe more than 4 for the next event) on the street, possibly impeding traffic due to their width. Now, add scores of people waiting in lines, blocking the sidewalks (and a pedestrian's right of way - whether there are any pedestrians to speak of who aren't there for the food trucks). Mix in 4+ trucks who may have to park in front of other businesses not named Websters PLUS, the slope of the street (possible safety issue?) even if the trucks have "blocks" for their tires. I just think trucks in front invite more scrutiny....although I personally don't mind it.....we're close enough to walk there. Having a lack of a strong local gov't is missed during these times. I haven't live here that long (8 yrs), but isn't that part of the attraction for many in the community? That they don't always have "gov't" telling them what to do?
mister altadena February 26, 2011 at 12:36 AM
a thought....maybe the food trucks pick up part of any permit fee? If a permit fee is enforced, maybe it can be negotiated down?
Angela Odom February 26, 2011 at 12:42 AM
I agree. Call it the cost of doing business. They know we'll have a crowd here. They could pay Webster's for use of the lot. That will pay for whatever fees need paying. They know they have a guaranteed monthly deal here and they'll recoup their costs. Great idea.
Dan Abendschein (Editor) February 26, 2011 at 01:16 AM
The story has been updated with additional information from the county. Sounds like moving the trucks into the street is not an option. The planner I spoke with did not know the exact cost of the permit but estimated the maximum range at about $600, and said it could be as little as $200. At that cost a $1 entry fee might suffice to get it done. Or, as suggested, the food trucks could pay it and raise prices accordingly to recoup it. I doubt anyone would even notice the difference. Here's hoping it happens. I really want to try that shrimp truck!
Lori A. Webster February 26, 2011 at 03:10 AM
I want to thank Angela for explaining the code....I couldn't quite get across what I was trying to say. Hmmm, Dan. The County hasn't called me or answered my email but I find here that you've been updated. The CUP that I was looking at was around $1300.00 (for a minor CUP).
Meredith Miller February 26, 2011 at 03:38 AM
We wanted to avoid an entry fee but that may be the easiest solution, at least in the short term. Of course there is a vast difference in fees that are being bounced around. We will hope to hear from Mr. Garcia directly next week. And yes, the food truck proprietors are amenable to the suggested support. We will work this out one way or another! Thanks again to everyone for their great ideas and outreach - we are very appreciative.
Stacia Raymond February 28, 2011 at 06:27 PM
I've tangled with Alex Garcia and his minions before over hedges and it ended up costing me thousands of dollars in fines, legal fees and landscape materials. All over Altadena, you can find examples of plantings 10 times the size of the ones we planted to give my daughter's front bedroom privacy from the street. These bureaucrats are intractable in the face of common sense and relish their power like supervillians. I certainly hope that this situation has a happy ending. Power in numbers could make the difference!
Camille Dudley March 01, 2011 at 01:52 AM
Maybe it is time to once again raise the issue of incorporation of Altadena or at least having our own zoning and land use office here in Altadena instead of in downtown Los Angeles staffed by a bunch of folks that barely know where Altadena is or what it is all about.

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