SANTA MONICA BLVD — For gourmet food truck operators, not even private property is a safe haven.
A day after a group of mobile food vendors set up a makeshift food court on a vacant lot at Santa Monica Boulevard and 14th Street, City Hall code enforcement officers put the kibosh on the idea, showing up at the site Tuesday morning with a cease and desist order.
The truck operators had the blessing of the property’s owner, Steve Taub, and had planned to make the food court into a daily fixture. But using the site, which was formerly a used car lot, to sell food violated zoning codes, the officers said.
“Basically, this was a non-permited use of the food truck [vendors] on that lot,” said Kate Vernez, assistant to the city manager. She said the vendors never contacted City Hall about their plans and were circumventing land use rules.
“What we’re doing now is we’re researching the code to see if there’s any type of permit” the vendors could apply for that would allow them to continue using the site, she said.
Taub and the vendors said they’re determined to work with City Hall to find a solution.
“I will continue to pursue this and we’ll get it done,” Taub said on Tuesday.
At one point he offered to donate a year’s worth of proceeds from renting the lot to food trucks to a Santa Monica charity. He also said a lawyer is helping him look into ways to overturn City Hall’s order.
About 1,200 people showed up for the food court’s first day on Monday, the organizers said.
“It was the second best day I’ve had since I’ve had my truck,” said John Bowler, owner of Barbie Q and president of the just-launched Southern California Mobile Food Vendors Association. “Everybody who came there was just raving about the idea.”
He said his group is reaching out to members of the City Council and hopes to “find an amicable way to make this work.” He said they’ve already set up a meeting with Councilman Bob Holbrook.
On Tuesday, a steady stream of disappointed lunch seekers scoped out the empty lot before heading off.
“It should have been a huge day,” Bowler said.
A former Hermosa Beach City Council member, he said he wasn’t surprised the lot drew City Hall’s attention.
“We expected something from the city of Santa Monica, [but] we didn’t expect to be shut down outright,” he said.