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Jingling Trucks Create Bad Humor : Noise: Incessant tinny music of ice cream vendors drives Oceanside to consider regulating them, as the neighboring town of Vista did.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The ice cream man is getting the cold shoulder again in North County.

A neighborhood in Vista was nearly driven nuts when convoys of ice cream trucks, sometimes 10 an hour, circled the streets, their speakers blaring a tinkling version of “Old MacDonald’s Farm” and other kiddie hits.

“It was incessant,” said David Wilson, the city’s code enforcement supervisor.

Hostile homeowners, their walls no barrier to the maddening music, fought back and Vista last year enacted a strict law forcing the trucks to turn down the decibels, limit the number of sweeps through a neighborhood, and pass safety inspections.

However, many ice cream vendors simply left Vista to its laws and began combing the supposedly sweeter streets of nearby Oceanside, where now the City Council may follow Vista’s lead and put a chill on purported abuses.

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Police and citizens complain that many, although not all, ice cream trucks have made a nuisance of themselves in four or five neighborhoods. The litany of gripes ranges from unsanitary trucks to vendors who are suspected of selling bug-infested candy. Some drug sales are also alleged.

But, for sheer psychological torment, police report, residents put at the top of their list the chorus of tinny tunes for pre-pubescent ice cream consumers.

“You get ‘Old MacDonald’s Farm’ and ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ both at once,” said Oceanside police spokesman Bob George. “It’s pathetic, it really is.”

“It can be raining out, and they’ll be going up and down the street,” George said. “Residents call all the time, but there’s nothing I can do. They (vendors) have a license. We can’t stop it.”

On Nov. 18, though, the city might begin to regulate the noise.

That’s when the City Council hears a proposed ordinance that would, among other things, require ice cream truck noise levels to be checked, limit hours of sales to from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., mandate vehicle inspections and prohibit drivers from passing the same spot more than twice an hour.

Some sectors of the ice cream industry think that’s going too far.

Among those concerned is Nasser Palizban, whose San Marcos-based Quality Discount Ice Cream Distributors sells the frozen food to markets, convenience stores and truck vendors in San Diego and Orange counties.

“A lot of these things are an overreaction by the public,” he said. “They pass laws to eliminate vendors and put us out of business.”

Palizban admits there are problems but believes the solution is for cities to enforce existing laws and for the industry to police itself.

“There are a lot of abuses out there. We do our best to try to stop it, but there are plenty of laws on the books that, if officers enforced them, (violators) would get off the streets,” he said.

Many ice cream trucks are family businesses, and the owners are often legal immigrants who don’t fully understand the range of government laws. It would be a shame, Palizban said, if they were forced out of business “all for the mistakes of one, or two or three.”

Although officials don’t blame all vendors, they say the problem rests with more than a few.

And, in Oceanside’s case, the good humor is clearly melting.

Chuck McEwing, who lives in a neighborhood near Camp Pendleton’s main gate, said some ice cream trucks speed along the street with the music off, pause in a driveway, conduct a quick transaction and hastily leave.

“It’s pretty obvious,” he said. “Some of the vehicles are suspected of dealing drugs. It’s not all of them.”

Ice cream trucks have annoyed the neighborhood for years, but McEwing said Oceanside’s vexation increased when Vista adopted its ordinance.

“When Vista took care of their problems, ours got worse,” he said.

George agrees.

Eight vendors have city business licenses to sell in Oceanside, and it’s not unusual to see more than one truck working a street simultaneously.

“The noise with 10 different tunes playing on the same block at the same time . . . (is) what makes it so annoying,” George said.

“I’ve had to talk to several (vendors who) have been getting real close to school yards in violation of state law against a business going so close,” he said.

Oceanside officials are heartened by Vista’s success in drastically cutting the number of complaints over ice cream trucks.

Complaints, said code enforcement supervisor Wilson, “went down considerably” after his city embraced the ordinance.

Although the situation isn’t perfect, it’s far better than the days Wilson recalls when trucks would circle a block “10 times an hour” and play their music so loudly in front of people’s homes that “it was driving them to distraction.”


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