Santa Ana, Most-Mexican Big City in U.S., Declares War on Taco Trucks. Again

Loncheros, unite!
Loncheros, unite!
Photo by Julie Leopo

Fresh off of helping to kill Mexican beer bars in downtown once and for all, the SanTana City Council has a new target in its endless campaign against paisa anything: taco trucks.

Oh, every council member will deny that they want to ban loncheras in the most-Mexican big city in America, with councilmember Sal Tinajero describing them at yesterday's council meeting as an "integral part of Santa Ana's identity." But an ordinance proposed last night will effectively rid SanTana of its food truck scene, replacing it with designated food lots a la "Portland, Seattle, Chicago," per councilwoman Michele Martinez, in yet another attempt to turn SanTana into a hipster paradise meant for everyone but the working class.

It's the fourth attempt in 23 years by city council pendejos to try to legislate SanTana's vibrant loncheras, which is as close to #tacotrucksoneverycorner as anywhere in the United States and has seen a new wave of taco carts, trucks and trailers emerge over the past two years. The courts and loncheros knocked back every prior attempt as unconstitutional, noted a city staffer during a presentation—but that's not going to stop council ninnies from trying again, you know?

As it stands, the proposed anti-lonchera ordinance is part fear-mongering, part victim-blaming, and all about every NIMBYers ostensible cause: the children. It starts with a bold claim: "The City Council of the City of Santa Ana expressly finds that vending vehicle pose traffic hazards and special danger to the safety and welfare of children and residents of the City." Hence, they've embarked on a mission to "preserve the peace, safety and welfare of the community."

You know, because food trucks are a far more dangerous presence to santaneros than gangs, housing prices, gentrification, and the city's rogue police force.

Tacos Ayutla Oaxaca
Tacos Ayutla Oaxaca
Photo by The Mexican

From there, the ordinance goes Trumpian:

*Ban on any "flashing neon or electronic display signs or visual displays." Adiós, scrolling marquee at Ruben's Tacos y Mulitas.
*No "sound amplification systems or other sound making devices or music systems." Goodbye, soft sounds of SanTana's own La Ranchera 96.7 FM that serves as a wonderful soundtrack to everyone's gorditas, or the lonchera that always blasts Enanitos Verdes.
*Prohibits food trucks from parking "within 500 feet from a school, park, community center or public playground facility." That specifically targets Alebrije's, which is across the street from Benjamin Franklin Elementary School and which city staffers ironically hailed as a lonchera that does business the right way.
*Doesn't allow loncheras to sell "within 100 feet of a marked or unmarked crosswalk in an intersection." Bye-bye, Tacos El Yogi.
*"Restocking of a food vending vehicle is prohibited while the vehicle is on any public or private street or alley." So if a lonchera runs out of tortillas or meat, they'll have to give up their space and go restock. If restocking is such a crime, why don't they go after Ingardia Brothers or Sysco? Their big-ass trucks are a far bigger traffic nuisance than the Tortilleria Ruben's van.
*No parking on streets with speed limits higher than 35 miles per hour—that's a move against Tacos Ayutla Oaxaca, the city's most popular taco truck, which draws lines ever night on Main Street near Dyer Road.
*The resolution also prohibits trucks from putting out "tables, chairs, other furniture, trash receptacles" on sidewalks, making people either eat standing up, on the curb, or to take off. Heaven forbid loncheras try to class up their experience!
*Any lonchera that parks all day somewhere must be within "200 feet of an approved and readily available toilet and handwashing facility," and offer "written evidence of permission from an adjoining property owner to use their restroom facilities." How much you wanna bet SanTana officials won't approve of a homeowner's bathroom?
*And though it didn't appear on the current ordnance, Martinez told her official stenographer, Orange County Register SanTana reporter Jessica Kwong—who can't report a story on the city without someone feeding it to her—that she wants to enact something that would stop loncheras from parking within 300 feet of a brick-and-mortar. So, hey: Dos Chinos? You can't do your DTSA thing anymore.

Alebrije's aka Pink Taco Truck
Alebrije's aka Pink Taco Truck
Photo by The Mexican

And if any food vendor violates any of the above, and other bullshit regulations? A misdemeanor.

The ordinance was accompanied by a staff report that included comments by the Santa Ana Police Department, which claimed that gang members "use the mobile vending trucks as a way to conceal narcotics and firearms in order to prevent being in possession of the items when contacted by police." They also claimed that many pay a protection tax to the gangs, and that they've been held up and even killed. So instead of targeting the aggressors and doing their jobs, SanTana's edibles-fueled finest would rather take away the livelihood of the victims.

All of the above is just stupid. Then councilmembers Martinez and Jose Solorio—both whom proclaim to anyone who'll listen that they're healthy people, and want the world to do the same—trotted out the most evil boogeyman that food do-gooders have: Flamin' Hot Cheetos.

Citing stats (but not naming the source) that 34 percent of Latinos in SanTana suffer from Type 2 diabetes, Martinez said the city needed to make sure "These kids are not just eating those Flaming Hot Cheetos and sodas...if [food trucks are] going to be near our schools, that they're going to be selling good, healthy food for our children."

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Solorio—a proud vegetarian—chimed in. "You see a lot of Cheetos, a lot of nachos," he whined.

As they say in the barrios: ¿Y que?

The City Council chose to table the issue for 30 days—the biggest mistake they could've made. Because present at meeting were loncheros who vowed to organize and hire legal help to fight off any Big Brother ordnances. There were also activists who promise to help in the organizing and loudly cheered when one vendor said "Many people have been able to acquire their own homes and send their kids to better schools" by operating loncheras.

SanTana wants to criminalize the best taco in Southern California #fuckthehatersEXPAND
SanTana wants to criminalize the best taco in Southern California #fuckthehaters
Burritos La Palma

And these loncheros have YOU, the OC Weekly reader. We've been highlighting the many delights of SanTana's food trucks for over 15 years. Join them in the fight—because, as Los Angeles activists proclaimed long ago, carne asada is not a crime.

Did I forget to mention that the current SanTana council is all-Latino and all-Democrat? With vendidos like Martinez and Solorio, who needs Trump to demonize Mexicans?


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