Food trucks may very well roll back into the Old Town district in Monrovia, California where they’ve been banned for the past two years. The city will pay the SoCal Mobile Food Vendors Association $75,000 in attorney’s fees, in addition to their own legal costs for a whopping total just shy of a quarter of a million dollars.
In the law suit, the Socal Mobile Food Vendors Association claimed that it is illegal to ban food trucks from operating, based on an amendment to the California Constitution. Monrovia adopted an ordinance in 2010 doing just that. It restricted food trucks to operating in specific areas of the city in the interest of shielding brick and mortar restaurants from competition.The city reached a settlement agreement last month with the SoCal MFVA, and agreed to repeal the ordinance. The order requires the city to recommend new regulations for food trucks.
The Old Town district of Monrovia is host to eateries and boutiques, and hosts a weekly street fair featuring live music. Food trucks were forbidden from operating during the street fair and any other time.
Monrovia City Manager, Laurie Lile expressed regret in an email message to the Monrovia Patch,
“Regrettably, this is an expensive settlement for the city,” Lile wrote. “However, the City Council made a business decision to avoid the financial risk of taking the matter to trial. With no published legal authority on the issues raised in the case, there was no way to evaluate how the judge would evaluate the city’s ordinance. Some pre-trial rulings indicated that the court was in agreement with the Association on certain issues.”
The city of Monrovia wasn’t confident that it could prevail in court against SoCal MFVA, because pre-trial motions were in favor of repeal. It had already spent $140,000 of its tax payers’ money, defending the illegal ordinance, and felt it prudent to wave the white flag.
Mayor Mary Ann Lutz told the Los Angeles Times that “It made more sense financially for us. I think it’s important to say that we never said food trucks could not come to our community; we were just trying to find a way where they could cohesively exist in our community.”
The SoCal MFVA also filed suits against the cities of Arcadia, Industry, South Pasadena and West Hollywood. The settlement between Monrovia and the SoCal MFVA prohibits either party from making public statements regarding the details of the settlement, however the settlement is public record.
According to the settlement, which was obtained by public records request by the Monrovia Patch, ”The parties will not disparage one another in any context or circumstance,” the agreement reads. “The parties will not issue any written or recorded communication directed at members of the news media for the purpose of announcing the terms of this Agreement.”
The settlement comes at a difficult financial time for the city of Monrovia, and many feel the restrictive ordinances were ill-conceived two years ago. Several outraged residents expressed their anger with the city’s mismanagement and misguided decisions to protect special interest groups on the Monrovia Patch website in response to its report.
One resident sums it best, “We can’t get park equipment for our kids, yet the city passes poorly advised ordinances to protect the interests of local businesses. How sad.”
Lile said in her email that the city will amend its ordinance into a “set of regulations consistent with other cities and acceptable to the food truck industry.”
Read the story on Monrovia Patch http://monrovia.patch.com/articles/monrovia-to-pay-75-000-in-attorney-s-fees-to-food-truck-association