Food Truck Eviction Stirs Debate

Fans of food truck enjoyed the trendy dining option in a Hawthrone Best Buy parking lot before the city shut down the Tuesday gatherings for violating the municipal code. (Photo courtesy of James O Grady)

By Sandy Mazza |

Fans of food truck enjoyed the trendy dining option in a Hawthrone Best Buy parking lot before the city shut down the Tuesday gatherings for violating the municipal code. (Photo courtesy of James O Grady)

Gourmet food trucks attract crowds of adventurous foodies wherever they set up shop, but Hawthorne officials were not pleased to find a dozen of the trendy eateries making regular visits to one parking lot in the city this summer.

The trucks were evicted from their makeshift home outside of a Best Buy store a few weeks after they began congregating there on Tuesday nights in June.

City officials said the Municipal Code does not allow for the new food phenomenon. But the city’s rejection drew ire from hundreds of fans who were drawn to trucks in Hawthorne via posts on social media Web sites Twitter and Facebook.

“I am a foodie and will travel a country mile for some good food, so it would be nice to have it in my own backyard,” resident Dana McKinley told the City Council after the trucks were removed. “It was very positive. It’s a nice new trend and it’s catching on and people are enjoying it.”

A Twitter page called “Hawthorneddagg” was created for the Hawthorne food truck event, and many attendees went there to complain when the city evicted the trucks.

Mayor Larry Guidi said he opposed the trucks because they could take business away from established restaurants in the city. However, he said last week that he would support them under certain circumstances and will work with city staff members to outline the rules for food truck gatherings.

“I don’t want to hurt our local businesses and restaurants,” Guidi said. “I

like the idea of having a special events permit so we can control it and collect fees.”

Guidi said he would prefer to have the food trucks park at Hawthorne Memorial Center or near City Hall.

Currently, the Municipal Code restricts food trucks on private property to park for only 30 minutes and only serve people living or working on that property, interim City Manager Arnie Shadbehr said.

Food truck operators will happily pay for business licenses to work in the city, said Glenn Debaca, a Carson-based event promoter who organized the food truck event outside Best Buy.

“The city isn’t looking at the big picture and that this is bringing revenue into the city,” Debaca said. “This is a young crowd, it’s what’s new and what’s hot. We need this.”

Debaca said he is hopeful Hawthorne will allow some version of a food truck gathering by the end of the summer.

Torrance and Redondo Beach allow food trucks to park at private lots, with permission from the owners. Hermosa Beach permitted food trucks at Hermosa Beach Art Walk and the city is considering allowing food trucks to park for long periods at other times.

And San Pedro recently has included the popular food trucks as part of its monthly First Thursday Artwalk and downtown festivals.

John Bowler, operator of Barbie’s Q food truck, is a former Hermosa Beach mayor. He asked the Hawthorne City Council to modify its policy toward food-truck gatherings.

“A lot of South Bay cities have old regulations that were really meant to regulate trucks that went to construction sites or that sort of thing,” Bowler said. “This whole new truck phenomenon has appeared within the last two years. South Bay cities are having to adapt and look at this differently.”

James O’Grady, president of Hawthorne’s Ramona Neighborhood Association, is an ardent supporter of the food trucks. He believes they represent a new generation of young families moving to Hawthorne.

“There’s this massive new influx of young, educated, up-and-comers who have come here to raise their families,” O’Grady said.

“We are the new voice in Hawthorne, a voice that is being lost in our representation. The efforts we put forth are being hampered by the City Council. The removal of the food trucks was an absolute disappointment.”