MONROVIA, CA - Earlier this year, the SoCal Mobile Food Vendors Association, represented by the law firm of Dermer Behrendt, sued the City of Monrovia alleging that Monrovia’s recently enacted mobile-vending ordinance was an oppressive, vague, and anticompetitive regulation that violates California state law. Los Angeles Superior Court Case number BC458142.
Wednesday, Judge Michelle Rosenblatt of the Los Angeles Superior Court dealt a major blow to Monrovia’s primary legal-theory. In denying Monrovia’s second attempt to have the case dismissed, the Court went so far as to suggest that Monrovia’s Ordinance is a “de facto ban, which would conflict with state law” under the 1986 case of Barajas v. City of Anaheim.
Thus, the Court not only accepted the Association’s interpretation of California law, but highlighted that the complaint and the briefing suggested Monrovia’s old-town and residential bans, along with a host of other regulations limiting the ability of mobile vendors to operate, amount to an unlawful, de facto ban on mobile vending.
This ruling is important for several reasons.
First, it undermines Monrovia’s main legal theory position, which has been taken by several other aggressive cities that are hostile to mobile vending — that a 2008 amendment to the California Vehicle Code undermined the continuing validity of Barajas. The Court’s citation of Barajas as controlling law undermines Monrovia’s main defense.
Second, the Court ruled that the briefing suggested that Monrovia’s Ordinance is, on its face, a de facto ban according to the complaint. Monrovia’s ordinance includes several “new” regulations as part of its attempt to protect its old-town fixed-location merchants from competition. An Association victory will result in a declaration that those new regulations are just as illegal as the old ones.
The Court’s language suggests that the Association is likely to prevail and reshape the landscape of mobile vending in Southern California. An Association victory will establish the continuing “public safety” limitation and preclusion on prohibiting mobile vending in light of the 2008 Amendment to the California Vehicle Code.
Meanwhile, Monrovia is now facing the likelihood of having wasted hundreds of thousands of dollars passing an ordinance it should have known was illegal.
Unfortunately, the legal system does not work as fast as the people who love gourmet food trucks would like. A resolution in early 2012 is likely — which means that 2012 is likely to be the year the mobile vending opportunities really expand to where the California Legislature intended when it changed in the law in 1985.
For more information contact Matt Geller of the SoCal Mobile Food Vendors Association at 310-666-9950 or firstname.lastname@example.org.