A Los Angeles city council member's proposal to curb the mobile meaty meccas known as taco trucks has inspired a veritable online revolution. "Carne asada is not a crime!" proclaim the taco truck defenders. They can have my carnitas burrito when they pry it from my cold, dead hands.

The call to arms:

Led by District 1 County Supervisor Gloria Molina, the L.A. Board of Supervisors has passed new restrictions that will effectively eliminate taco trucks from our streets. Under Supervisor Molina’s new rules, taco trucks will have to change location every hour, or face a misdemeanor charge carrying a $1000 fine and/or jail. Yes, jail. Taco Trucks are a special facet of Los Angeles, and something we don’t want to lose.
The response -- snip from a form letter supporters are sending to Molina:
Taco trucks fill many voids left by traditional restaurants, whether it is more authentic, better food, better hours, or cheaper prices. Furthermore, taco trucks create a sense of community on the streets that enclosed, “brick-and-mortar” stores cannot. Taco trucks are a special and unique facet of East Los Angeles, and something that I cherish about my neighborhood.
Link (thanks, Jolon Bankey!)


  1. I’m pleased to see that the City of Los Angeles has successfully addressed/eliminated all the major/minor crimes that have, for so long, plagued that fabulous city, so that the City Council can now address such pressing quality of life matters as a taco truck sitting in one spot for more than an hour.

    BRAVO, City Council of Los Angeles! Bravo for showing the rest of the United States “how it’s done”!

  2. Could they just move an inch or two to get around the stupid law? I wish we had taco trucks in Minneapolis. Though we do have the Hispanic women selling Elote from grocery carts.

  3. I know I’m going to be going against the grain on this one, but I have zero sympathy for the taco trucks based on personal experience.

    A taco truck where I used to work would park in the red zone right at the entrance to our little parking lot making it impossible to see around the thing when trying to pull out. On top of that the customers would park their cars right in our driveway entrance, sometimes blocking it off entirely. Then there was the garbage that the customers would leave in our planters and on the sidewalk. The walkway got to be so disgusting with ground-in greasy food that it would have to be steam cleaned. No, the taco truck did not do the steam cleaning.

    If the owners of these trucks want to be more responsible, then fine. Otherwise, I have no incentive to speak up for them.

  4. I don’t live in LA, but if they took my taco carts away from me (I live in Denver), I would riot in the streets. They are cheaper than Taco Bell, and better than most any brick and mortar Mexican except a few. And on Saturdays I can get menudo with pigs feet.

  5. Oy, I have such a craving for a burrito now. And there are no good taquerias in Palm Springs. ¡Qué lastima!

  6. Re: HAYDUKE’S complaint

    So, increase the fines for the ones being irresponsible. There’s already laws about things like littering and parking in a red zone — try enforcing them.

  7. An important point that is missing from the SaveOurTacoTrucks discussion is the fact that these trucks (and the ice cream trucks and other “street” vendors) are a very visible example of entrepreneurship that is conceivable to many would-be entrepreneurs.

    While these aren’t as sexy as the technology startups, in many ways this level of startup is a more important part of the spectrum precisely because it’s achievable by such a large portion of people.

  8. Fortunately Taco Trucks in Portland (OR) operate without such nonsense. Good luck to the Los Angelenos working to overturn this ordinance.

    I think I’ll go get a cabeza burrito now.

  9. Must point out some inaccuracies:

    It is not the Los Angeles City council, but the LA County Board of Supervsiors. This action effects only those areas that are unincorporated in the county. This does not affect anything in the city of Los Angeles. Much of “East LA” is unincorporated. The term refers to an area, not the easternmost portions of the city of Los Angeles.

    East L.A. does have plenty of brick & mortar taco stands. The trucks are their main competition. In some neighborhoods taco trucks are the only spots for a real taco, but this isn’t the case in East L.A..

    Also, the ordinance actually extends the amount of time a taco truck can be stopped. It’s currently 30 min. This doubles the time but makes the fine much more severe – too harsh, really.

  10. Some in Des Moines are also trying to eliminate these as well. They say they want to beautify the city.

  11. michaler mentioned the Portland taco trucks, but most of our food carts are actually parked in parking lots where they rent space from the owner.

  12. Mic_Dee is quite correct, this only effects Unincorporated East LA. However, the increase in stationary time doesn’t outweigh the huge fine/jail time associated with the new law. It, in effect, criminalizes a legitimate business and fair competition, for people who respect county health regulations and are honest, hardworking people.

    Further, it appears to be a development-inspired push to wipe out taco trucks in the area in advance of the expansion of the Gold Line into East LA. There is documented evidence to support this theory, in business meetings with County Supervisors.

    Lastly, to all above believing this to be a City issue, it is not, they put up their own similar law two years ago. However, it being a County issue makes it no less odious, and no less deserving of support for those effected by this law.

  13. Near where I’m staying in Connecticut they recently outlawed a guy who ran a grill out of his truck. Not a very nice way of treating a man who dedicated his life to providing late night meals to those of us walking home after getting wasted at a bar.

  14. When taco trucks are outlawed, only outlaws will have taco trucks.

    And I will give those outlaws money.

  15. A coworker and I were caught out in the field and had neither money nor a lunch on us. The school we’d been called to was a private one and allowed one of these taco trucks to pull onto the campus so the kids could buy their lunch. When the owner of the truck saw my coworker and I (we’re with an outreach program so we have a mobile van our program runs out of) we got to talking and when he realized our situation he told us he’d fix us up. When he came back he was carrying two plates heaped with the best lunch ever! And he gave it to us for free.

    I hope for his sake, and others like him, this thing doesn’t pass.

  16. I live in Vegas, and while I enjoy the trucks I’m a bit wary about them. A few months ago I was working with a team and most of the guys got lunch from a truck (I just got a Jarritos since I brought my own), and all of them got violently ill, including the fresh-over-the-boarder guy who enjoys pork brains.

    Since then I’ve only gotten prepackaged things.

    P.S How come it’s only mexican food? I’ve never seen a sub or Chinese one.

  17. This thread is a classic example of people jumping on a bandwagon before knowing all the facts. I’m not an expert myself, but I do live in Southern California, and have heard more details than some. Here’s some of my take:

    #1 – Chris, I get your point, and your sarcasm comes through in print better than most, but this argument is SO tired. Would you have the police stop investigating robbery and assault until every last murder and rape is solved? Should we completely erase any traffic regulations just because there’s something else out there that’s more important to most people?

    #10 – Mic, I agree with what you say. The details I heard were that currently, it’s a half hour in one spot with a $60 fine, and that it’s never enforced. The new regulation gives them an hour in one spot (#2-Noen, they’re not that stupid – the new law says they have to move a half mile away), but it increases the fine to something like $1000, I think. (And for that kind of revenue, they’ll probably be enforcing it!)

    #13 – Salty, this does not “in effect, criminalize a legitimate business,” because they are still allowed to do business. As we’ve said, this regulation actually increases the time they’re allowed to be in one place! Are you saying it’s OK for them to break the law (the current one) just because it’s not heavily enforced? Is it OK to commit a crime as long as you’re willing to “do the time” (e.g. pay the $60)? And who says that only staying in place for one hour is going to destroy their business? Instead of squatting in one place all day, I think a better business model would be to go to the places where people need lunch (isn’t that why the truck has wheels?), and hit several of them at, say, 11, 12, and 1 o’clock. Maybe I’m wrong, but that’s certainly a workable plan – hardly criminalization. Any time a business is regulated, the people affected by it always flap their arms and wet their pants – we’re very happy that some businesses are licensed, inspected, and regulated, but when it’s OUR business, we just know it will destroy us!! Oh, pity the little guy, because if they’re little, they can’t possibly be causing any harm, right Hayduke (#3)?

    #7 – JohnM, that’s exectly what they’re doing – putting teeth into a law that is little enforced and only costs $60 to break.

    Finally, #19 – Zombie, that is a great story. I love hearing about good people who help those in need, whether it’s long term need or (as in your case) in the moment. The vast majority of taco trucks are run by nice folks who care about hygene, food safety and their customers. They should all be so lucky to have a campus to pull onto, so they’d never have to worry about blocked driveways, customers who litter, or complaints of nearby businesses. You (as well as Salty, Turtle, Scott, and Alias) would be right if they were, in fact, trying to ban or get rid of the trucks, but this really comes down to them not loitering in one place all day, and it sounds like they’re really whining about it.

  18. Last time I saw gloria molina (circa 1990) she was pushin’ about 3 bills. I was in city hall one day and someone asked where the rotunda was and I pointed to her office. Perhaps this is just gloria’s desperate cry for help.

  19. Some of the best tacos in Chapel Hill were from the taco truck — you can usually find it most evenings next-door in Carrboro, where they park (with permission) in front of a small grocery store. Ah, good times… un gringo hablando un poco español y comiendo tacos con la salsa verde.

  20. The truck that parks in front of the bait store on main heading towards carrboro plaza is excellent. But taco truck shutdowns aren’t limited to LA. Wasn’t the carrboro town council trying to shut them down about a month or two ago? something tells me that the local restaurants are probably behind it.

  21. Carne asada is not a crime, but “meat is murder”? (Spicy, delicious murder on a corn tortilla, with cilantro and salsa verde?)
    I call transitive property.
    If a = b and b = c, then a = c.

    Jokes aside, those “taco wagons” are fantastic, authentic eateries. They’re great places for a quick, reasonably priced lunch!

  22. Re: JOHNM’s solution (post #7)

    Tried that. I don’t know how many times I called parking enforcement on that truck. So don’t worry everybody, the cops probably aren’t going to enforce the new taco truck rules either.

  23. One of these roach coaches was permanently stationed on my street a few years ago. They didn’t actually sell food, yet people would walk up to the window and hand over cash. Hmm… I reported it numerous times until one day it had a police notice on it, requesting them to contact PD and provide their permit. Next day, gone. It just takes some perseverance to get them to disappear.

  24. Antinous : “Oy, I have such a craving for a burrito now. And there are no good taquerias in Palm Springs. ¡Qué lastima!”

    What about that place right on main street, with the outside patio/court yard?

  25. Mmmmmm…elote, and about 6 carne asada tacos. A yummier lunch (imho) cannot be found. Wasn’t long ago that the city went after the bacon-dog vendors, too. That used to be an after-event institution outside the Staples Center and the Hollywood Bowl.

  26. Love the trucks! In the S.F. bay area, there are a few that offer Chinese/Thai/Vietnamese too.

    Umm.. #13 (Salty) what is “the Gold Line”?

  27. The city/county falls on the side of the brick-and-mortar restaurants (also small, individually-owned, hard-working businesses) for the simple reason that they pay sales tax to the city (the mobile truck is a bit more elusive in this regard). Tia’s Tamale’s in East L.A. argues that the taco truck takes their business by parking nearby and staying there; they probably have a point. If there is some manner of developing civil rules benefiting both interests, I’m for it, thought the fine seems prohibitively high.

    On the other hand, if the objections of legitimate small businesses are in truth a ruse for developers to further gentrify the area, ridding it of “undesirable elements”, etc., then both the developers and county officials in bed with them should be arrested, removed from their positions, and sentenced to lifelong chauffeur positions for said trucks. Police escort provided by county for each hourly move. Occasional parade.

  28. What about that place right on main street, with the outside patio/court yard?

    The one where a shot of Herradura Silver is $11? I was hoping for an honest-to-god taqueria where an inedibly huge burrito is $5. San Francisco has about ten thousand of them. We’re 500 miles closer to Mexico and all we have is expensive chain restaurants. It’s all Sonny Bono’s fault.

  29. I think what they are rightly trying to counteract are the lunch wagons that become de-facto restaurants but whose setup allows them to skirt a number of regs that are community-facing such as property taxes and restrooms. Up here in the central valley we’ve got quite a number of operators who have locations that last for years (I’m lookin’ at -you- Tacos Del Oro) and have nearly all the amenities of a normal outdoor eatery including trash receptacles and picnic tables. Granted your start-up costs are far less and you’ve got zero location risk (just move!), but I can’t help but feel they do so at some cost to brick-and-mortar locations.

  30. Ah, #22 JohnnyQuest, you seem to misunderstand the process of criminalization. By making one relatively harmless pursuit punishable by fine or JAIL (you tried to skip around that), that would be criminalization, especially if the law benefits a select few, ie; developers and restauranteurs (which is cronyism). The fact is the trucks ARE a legitimate business, they abide by County Health codes too, they’ve just been more opportunistic in utilizing a business model.

    Now, instead of either outlawing trucks altogether, or providing them a suitable alternative such as dedicated areas to park, the County is attempting to squeeze them out of existence through threats and intimidation. It’s the NIMBY approach, and developers are fond of it. I’d ask you to ask the residents of East LA what they think of the potential of losing their local trucks, and I doubt they’d be clapping. Even less so if they thought their neighborhoods were slated for gentrification.

    What’s missing here is the cultural element, taco trucks and East LA go together masa and carne, and I highly doubt that the residents of East LA are going to stand idly by as one of their cultural mainstays gets harassed and marginalized out of existence. And neither you nor I will have anything to do about it, recent negative press about the new law not withstanding.

  31. #36 Doug, The Gold Line is the extension of light rail into East LA, the Unincorporated part in question. For years the first segment ran from Union Station (Downtown) to outer Pasadena. The extension will continue South and East into East LA, bringing with it people, connectivity to Downtown for East LA residents aaannnd… development. Areas along the existing Gold Line corridor have seen plenty of development in the form of “apartment homes” and condo blocks, the residents of whom share almost no continuity with the neighborhood they live in. Like little gated communities, the spring up next to stations, but little other development that might benefit long-term residents of the area (or precisely none).

    Two in particular were built just after the Gold Line opening to Pasadena next to the Lincoln/Cypress Park station. They share nothing in common with the rest of Lincoln Heights, and people simply get off the train and slide into their pricey condos, happy in the knowledge their commute is 200% less than the people they work with Downtown.

  32. #40 Salty, more on the cultural element – (LA Times opinion section, definitely pro-taco-truck)

    They’re good for Los Angeles too. The reason so many people think of L.A. as a community-less disaster of urban sprawl is the lifelessness of our sidewalks. Right now, in a lot of streets, the taco trucks are the only spots of humanity — bright little oases of meat and cheer in the night.

  33. ¿Las señoras y los caballeros mayo tengo su atención, por favor? ¿Son sus ventanas de la nariz aquiver y el zumbar así como ésa delicada, olor lushious, ambrosial? sí, son, yo pueden decir bien, las señoras y los caballeros que el aroma que enriquece la brisa, sea como algo comparado a su fuente suculenta como los gastrónomos entre usted le dirán, por supuesto. ¡Las señoras y los caballeros usted no puede imaginar el éxtasis en almacén, apenas dentro de esta puerta! Allí, usted muestreará la carne pies.savory de Mrs.Lovett’s y las empanadas dulces, pues usted verá. ¡Usted que comen las empanadas de la carne de señora Lovetts de las empanadas conjura encima de las empanadas del convite utilizó ser! ¿[ clientes ] aquí, boy.How sobre un poco de cerveza inglesa? ¡Déjeme tener otro, laddie! ¿Podríamos tener cierto servicio, camarero? ¿podríamos tener cierto servicio? ¿Qué sobre ese muchacho de la empanada?

  34. If I had to predict the source of the Internet’s first taco truck blood libel, I’d have definitely put my money on you, my dear sir.

  35. Takuan, dígame – ¿Dónde están las drogas?

    Señor, I have no idea what you’re talking about… But we have some excellent menudo for your hangover.

  36. I live in Portland OR and we actually have some areas that are little food malls full of these trucks that never move. Mostly in abandoned parking lots. It’s kinda cool

Comments are closed.