Last night, the SanTana City Council approved the first hearing of an ordinance to purge the local taco truck scene via regulations and eventually replace it with designated food lots. And loncheros aren't having any of it.
"It's ridiculous...we aren't selling drugs, destroying property or putting anyones life in danger. We sell tacos!" says Albert Hernandez owner of Alebrije's Grill. It's probably the most famous lonchera in Orange County thanks to its tacos acorazados and appearances on everything from KCRW-FM 89.9's Good Food with Evan Kleiman to Last Night with Carson Daly. But if the ordinance holds up, Hernandez's truck will become illegal even though city staff last month cited it as a truck that does things right.
"We pay for our local permits and we pay taxes—it is all legal," he says. "This [taco truck] is my American Dream achieved—it is how I plan to pay for my daughter's college tuition. And how my workers make ends meet to pay for their living expenses. Our motive is to bring quality food to the streets of Santa Ana.
"I would be willing to drive my taco truck to the City Council," Hernandez concluded, "and feed the City Council members for free. And for the vegetarians down there, we have a tasteful nopal taco."
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Most of the food truck owners had no idea about the ordinance and expressed confusion, sadness and rage. "I received a letter about the ordinance from the City Council on Monday Feb. 6," says Alex Albarran owner of Chiva Torta, which sells amazing tortas ahogadas. "The meeting was the next night on Tuesday, so I couldn't just take the day off on such late notice. I think they did it on purpose so we [food truck vendors] could not organize and attend the meeting to speak up. Lately, the city has been passing by and checking up on us. I thought it was just a routine practice but now I think its just an excuse to build up a bad profile on us."