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Carne asada is not a crime -- once again [Updated]

June 11, 2009 |  4:58 pm

89-year-old Pascual Andrade purchases a seafood cocktail at the El Mangral taco truck in East Los Angeles. Credit: Alex Gallardo / Los Angeles Times

Loncheros have won the latest round in the ongoing battle between taco trucks and brick-and-mortar restaurants. A group of enterprising UCLA law students helped overturn a Los Angeles city ordinance that would have severely crimped taco truck operators' ability to do business. This comes after an August 2008 ruling that struck down a similar Los Angeles County ordinance.

Both ordinances required taco trucks to move every 30 minutes if parked in a residential zone and every 60 minutes if parked in a commercial zone. But unlike the harsher Los Angeles County ordinance, which was a misdemeanor criminal offense punishable by six months in jail and/or a $1,000 fine, violating Los Angeles Municipal Code 80.73(b)(2)(F) was a less serious code infraction.

The California Vehicle Code requires that municipal regulations (i.e. non-state laws) rationally relate to health or safety. And on Friday, Los Angeles County Superior Court Commissioner Barry D. Kohn ruled that this regulation didn't. It was the same argument advanced by students of the UCLA Criminal Defense Clinic.

"This is actually a heavily regulated industry," says Sanjukta M. Paul, a local civil rights lawyer who was a supervising attorney for the students. "Legal [taco truck] operators have to wade through a lengthy health and safety process. And this ordinance drives legal operators out of business. In addition, it served as an occasion for a lot of incidental harassment of taco truck operators."

[Corrected at 6:13 p.m. June 12:] An earlier version of this post mistakenly described the municipal code violation as a misdemeanor. In fact, it is a code infraction, which is less serious than a misdemeanor.

--Elina Shatkin

Photo: Pascual Andrade, 89, purchases a seafood cocktail at the El Mangral taco truck in East Los Angeles. Credit: Alex Gallardo / Los Angeles Times

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