When La Cañada High School alumni Kyle Bilowitz and Travis Emi opened the Dairy on the northeast corner of Foothill and Ocean View boulevards last October, in the site of a former Alta Dena Dairy stand, they had big plans.
They immediately set about renovating the old drive-through store, attempting to rebrand it as a business focused on local, sustainable and in some cases, trendier (think CBD-infused chocolate and protein chips) products. They had big ideas for making it a space where community residents could try new things.
It was in that spirit that they introduced “Food Truck Fridays” in July. From 5 to 9 p.m. mobile food vendors from throughout the Los Angeles area set up shop to sling their respective hashes for interested shoppers and passersby.
“We started coming here when the food trucks started coming,” La Cañada resident Dana Griffis said during a Sept. 20 visit with her husband and two young sons. “Now this is what we do for dinner every Friday night.”
The feature was quite popular — until the city’s code enforcement team caught wind, that is.
A compliance officer visited the Dairy Sept. 26 and informed the co-owners they could not invite the trucks without a city permit.
“The code enforcer told Travis they got a report of how it was affecting traffic on Ocean View Boulevard,” Bilowitz said Friday. “It’s not like In-N-Out, where cars are hanging out onto the street.”
When hungry patrons turned out to the Dairy the following evening, they were disappointed to find a blank spot of asphalt where a food truck would have been. Some residents called and visited City Hall in a show of support.
“It was amazing to see people go out of their way to go to the city or call in,” Emi said. “It feels really good to know they’ve got our backs.”
Over the following week, the pair learned from Community Development Director Susan Koleda they’d have to file for a master temporary use permit before the trucks could return.
Reserved for impermanent but generally recurring events — like outdoor swap meets and farmers markets — the permits cost $981 and lasts for up to one year.
While La Cañada’s municipal code describes a processing period of up to 35 days, including publicly notifying property owners who live within a 500-foot radius and accommodating a seven-day appeal period, Koleda told Emi she could likely issue a permit in “less than a work week.”
“If approved, [a permit] could allow the food trucks on Friday evenings provided it can be accommodated safely and will not cause parking issues or any other hazards,” Koleda said in an Oct. 3 email to the Valley Sun.
Now it’s just a matter of scraping together $981, a tall order for the owners, who confessed Food Truck Fridays won’t likely resume for at least two weeks.
Still, they’re hopeful to reach a peaceable agreement with the city so the trucks can roll once more.
“Hold tight and thanks for the support — we’re working it out,” Bilowitz told customers. “We just want to do what’s right.”
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