It's a food fight that is now on the front burner for the city of Los Angeles. On one side, the mobile food truck vendors -- according to the city there are about 4,000 of them. Some of the vendors say they're entitled to run their business as long as they have customers who want to eat what they have to offer.
L.A. City Councilman Tom LaBonge introduced motions to possibly set up specially designated parking zones for food trucks. He also wants to see if the trucks can be restricted from parking meters within commercially zoned areas.
On one stretch of Wilshire Boulevard in the Miracle Mile area of Los Angeles, more than half a dozen food trucks line up every day, and right across the street from them are the traditional restaurants.
Those along Wilshire Boulevard say they are following the rules, feeding the meters and paying a daily $45 ticket for parking past the allotted time.
Those restaurants say the food trucks are taking their business and prime parking spots. Many customers say that's what competition is all about.
At a hearing at Los Angeles City Hall, restaurant owners said the food trucks are taking away their business, calling it unfair when they park in front or near their eateries.
"I can look from the front door of my restaurant and see up to 15 food trucks in a one-block area," said restaurant owner Dennis Rohde. "It's pretty frustrating. When they get one ticket, or get two tickets, and stay there for four or five hours, and they're obviously considering it the cost of doing business. It doesn't seem fair."
"I don't think it's fair to restrict competition in the United States," said Vince Giangrande of Vesuvio Italian Food Truck.
"I'm just basing my opinion on what the public has told me, and they're not happy with the quality and the service of the food across the street," said Giangrande. "And I'm a bit puzzled why they don't attempt to send their people across the street with samples and try and say, 'Hey, look, you know, we're across the street and we offer a good product at a good service. It's a free country. But they never did that."
What both sides can agree on is that there should be some kind of permit process. City and county agencies will meet with food truck owners and restaurant owners to come up with a plan everyone can stomach.
Customers say they enjoy the fact they have choices.
"The trucks give you a variety, and I mean, I don't think it's fair they're paying the city to be parked here, they pay their taxes, they pay their licenses," said El Sereno resident Carmen Iniguez. "This is what you call 'capitalism.' This is entrepreneurship, and I say let them be here."
"I think people make their decisions themselves, and I think that it's just more options for people to choose from," said Meredith Wallace.
Navin Baurland pointed out that food trucks tend to be cheaper, and they're more convenient, too. "The restaurants are nice too, but they're generally higher priced," he said.
The legality of regulating food trucks is also in question since the city lost a 2006 court case that challenged the city's parking laws regulating catering trucks.
"They definitely make it difficult for us," said Libry Darusman of the Green Truck. "I feel like we have a right to be out here. We're just trying to give the people good, organic food."
The committee will meet with everyone in 60 days to see if some kind of a plan can be established that deals with safety, health, cleanliness and fair competition so everyone is satisfied.