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City Needs Airing Out

Original post made by Randall Frost, Vintage Hills, on Jul 15, 2017

For the past 18 years, one of the best kept culinary secrets in the Tri Valley has been the authentic Mexican cuisine cooked up at the taco truck near the intersection of Vineyard and Isabel Ave in Pleasanton. The truck was featured in a cover article that appeared in the Pleasanton Weekly in 2012.

On June 21, I spoke to Nelly Ramirez, owner of the taco truck, and she informed me that the City of Pleasanton had asked her to move her truck because it was obstructing traffic. This seemed a little odd to me because Nelly had been doing business in the same location for 18 years and to our knowledge there had never been any complaints about traffic obstruction.

Curious, I contacted the City of Pleasanton later that day and was told the person handling the case was the head of the code enforcement department, Mr. Mark Dennis. When I spoke to Mr. Dennis the same day, he explained that [removed], in front of which the truck sits, had complained to the city about it being there, even though the truck had been doing business there much longer than Casa Real or the Winery had been in existence. Mr. Dennis told me he did not know why the Casa Real wanted Nelly to move her truck.

I spoke again to the City’s enforcing agent on June 22 and learned that the City was working with Casa Real to force Nelly to move. On making further inquiries I was told that someone from Casa Real had said the reason they wanted the truck moved is that the people who bought food at the truck did not wear the right kinds of clothes to satisfy the operators of Casa Real---in other words, they were working class Latino people. (This is not in fact entirely true. Nelly’s clientele includes members of the Ruby Hill community and even the local fire department.)

I spent more than an hour talking with Mr. Dennis trying to find a workable solution to the problem. Eventually, he and I came up with five conditions that would have to be met if Nelly was to be allowed to continue to do business. They are (1) patrons' cars park on public property and off the asphalt, (2) they do not create a traffic hazard, (3) they are not on the pedestrian footpath, (4) they are not in the street, and (5) they are not parked on top of plants.

On June 27, I stopped by Nelly’s truck to have lunch and ran into Mr. Dennis parked 25 to 50 yards behind the truck. He was engaged in taking phots of ``violations” of the agreement. Nelly had made a sincere effort to comply with these rules by placing yellow cones in back of her truck to keep customers from parking there. A few customers did not yet understand the rules and parked close---within inches of the asphalt--in front of the truck, and I had to redirect them to another location. But before I could do so, Mr. Dennis was there with his camera taking photos of these so-called violations. As Mr. Dennis passed me, he would say “two,” “three,” etc. Finally, after several hours sitting in his car and waiting to pounce, he presented Nelly with a piece of paper showing that there were five rule violations. I corrected him, pointing out that in at least two cases, the drivers moved their cars immediately after I spoke to them. On June 30, 2017 the City of Pleasanton ordered Nelly to desist from doing business in her longtime location.

I spoke to my attorney about this case and he noted that often in cases like these, the situation is such that someone (e.g., representing Casa Real) who supports the City or members therein gets special favors for the support. There’s a bad smell coming from somewhere, and it most certainly isn’t coming from Nelly’s taco truck.

Clearly, what is need here are fewer enforcers and more accommodation of sincere attempts to do the right thing.

Comments (17)

34 people like this
Posted by Crumudgeon
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Jul 15, 2017 at 3:59 pm

Crumudgeon is a registered user.

Randall, Looks like you have done some excellent work here and for that I commend you. Good taco trucks are like splendid jewels. They are to be cherished.

Now I have a few questions.

1. Why does Casa Real have city employees doing their bidding.
2. If I go to the city with a complaint, will Mr. Dennis do a
stakeout for me?

Finally the most important question:

WHY ARE TAXPAYERS PAYING MR. DENNIS TO CHASE TACO TRUCKS!


29 people like this
Posted by no name chosen
a resident of Downtown
on Jul 15, 2017 at 5:52 pm

no name chosen is a registered user.

Perhaps the code enforcement department can explain their hounding of the taco truck when other violations are pointed out on a regular basis and they are not pursued this way.

For example:
Cellar Door continually places an illegal sandwich board sign in the middle of the sidewalk on Main St when their business is on Railroad and those signs are not even approved at all. They also play loudly amplified music outside when their conditional use permit prohibits ANY music outdoors at any time.

Icicles ice cream store, same sandwich board issue.

One resident on First Street places garbage cans on the street for entire weeks at a time to prevent anyone from parking there. He also parks a vehicle on the street with no license plates and another one that is parked across the sidewalk forcing walkers into the street to get around it.

Anything at all goes on weekends as there is never anyone from code enforcement available at that time. Rules are either for everyone or they should not exist at all. Uneven enforcement smacks of favoritism (I wonder which City employees get comp wine tastings and big discounts at Ruby Hill Winery?). Reminds me of the time when Hosterman tried to overrule the CA building code to allow an illegal structure to remain without being brought up to safety code just because she was friends with the owners. (PW, no need to delete that as unsubstantiated, it's all in the council minutes and you published it in your paper).


13 people like this
Posted by Michael Austin
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Jul 15, 2017 at 6:33 pm

Michael Austin is a registered user.

The code enforcement officer is in effect utilizing city code to exercise eminent domain. This established Taco Truck business is being forced out of business at its current location after eighteen years of operation with the apparent blessing of the city code enforcement office, because of a later business setting up operation and complaining.

This Taco Truck business must be reasonably compensated under eminent domain law by the government entity forcing this action. This Taco Truck business also has other rights that can be exercised with the complaining later set up business.


12 people like this
Posted by Lou Stuhle
a resident of Jensen Tract
on Jul 15, 2017 at 11:19 pm

Lou Stuhle is a registered user.

LOL. MA, you perhaps have reached a new level of laugh-ability even for you. you think the taco truck operator owns the property from which they are being expelled? if you don't, then obviously eminent domain doesn't apply.


4 people like this
Posted by FrequentWalkerMiles
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jul 15, 2017 at 11:24 pm

FrequentWalkerMiles is a registered user.

Maybe I am missing the legal nuance of the term "eminent domain", but the taco truck is parked on either private land or more likely the road's shoulder which is city property, depending on how far off the main traffic lane it is parked. What rights are afforded to periodic but non-continuous occupying party of a part of the road way or private property?


12 people like this
Posted by Grapevines
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Jul 16, 2017 at 12:53 am

Grapevines is a registered user.

I think they mean that, if this is private property, there is a possible prescriptive easement. Given the requirements in California--mostly that the use must be open and notirious, adverse to the owner, and over five years--it sounds like there may very well be.

If so, the truck owner should claim it and fight back.

In any event, I like that that taco truck is there. And I don't like Casa Real now for trying to displace them. Given that residents like me are the sort of customers that Casa Real should want, they need to seriously consider the ramifications of this if it is at all true.


7 people like this
Posted by FrequentWalkerMiles
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jul 16, 2017 at 2:35 pm

FrequentWalkerMiles is a registered user.

I am highly skeptical it is on private land. That stretch of Vineyard is not wide, you have the two main traffic lanes, the bike lane, a few feet of dirt, then the commonly used walking path, then a few more few of dirt, then the wooden fencing of the winery.

I looked on google maps street view. From what is shown there:

-the taco truck is parked right off the pavement and essentially on the walking path.

-the owner set down orange cones right in the middle of the bike lane out to about 20 feet both to the front and to the rear of the taco truck

-right in front of the last cone in front is a curb so no one can park in front of the cones.

-the last cone in the rear is at the entrance to casa real. If a customer were to observe the cones, they would need to park on the bikelane/shoulder/walking path on the other side of the winery gate and walk over.

-There is likely not enough room to park across the street without posing danger to cyclists since a vehicle would take up the entire bikelane for parking.

-I suppose one could park in the dirt lot where the fruit vendors set up shop, but (1) that would cause a turf dispute and (2) people walking across the road right after an intersection sounds pretty unsafe.

So that brings to mind some questions,

-where does the taco truck operator expect people to park? Or is it one of those 'if they park on the other side of the casa real entrance then I am at no fault for their actions"?

-will Randall be there to be the parking director anytime the taco truck is parking there to make sure people park legally and don't pose a hazard to traffic on a road with a fairly high speed limit and shared with pedestrians and cyclists?

-is this attorney of Randall Frost's able to tell him if the taco truck is on private or public land? seems like a pretty easy question for a licensed attorney.



21 people like this
Posted by Randall Frost
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Jul 16, 2017 at 3:09 pm

Randall Frost is a registered user.

Casa Real became embroiled this dispute with someone who has been doing business (with all necessary city and county permits) in front of what is now Casa Real for the past 18 years (longer than Casa Real has been in existence).

The kerfuffle began when someone from Casa Real showed up at the taco truck recently and started complaining to my friend about the way some of the truck's Latino customers were dressed. The owner of the truck was told she would have to move her truck (which was properly permitted and on public property), the individual from Casa Real claiming to have friends in the city of Pleasanton who would evict her if she did not. And, sure enough, a couple of weeks later the city ordered the owner to stop doing business in her longtime location on the grounds that her truck was obstructing traffic. Never mind that for the past 18 years there had been no complaints about this.

I have personally tried to intervene in this dispute, contacting both Casa Real and the city, but so far this has been to no avail. Meanwhile, charges of racism have now begun to surface and as of this posting they seem not to have been resolved. The bottom line is that if you are planning an upcoming wine-themed event, the right thing to do would probably be to choose one of the 40 or so alternative wineries in the Livermore Valley to host it.

Hope that helps!


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Posted by FrequentWalkerMiles
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jul 16, 2017 at 3:22 pm

FrequentWalkerMiles is a registered user.

Randall

Since you are ignoring the questions I posted, lets start with a simple one. Is the taco truck and its customers parking on private or public land?


7 people like this
Posted by Randall Frost
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Jul 16, 2017 at 3:38 pm

Randall Frost is a registered user.

The truck has been parking off the street on public land under city jurisdiction (under an agreement reached with the city 18 years ago).


2 people like this
Posted by FrequentWalkerMiles
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jul 16, 2017 at 3:52 pm

FrequentWalkerMiles is a registered user.

Randall,

Was the agreement from 18 years ago an written one? if so what are the terms of it?


2 people like this
Posted by Randall Frost
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Jul 16, 2017 at 3:55 pm

Randall Frost is a registered user.

Mr. Dennis told me he had a written document.


Like this comment
Posted by Randall Frost
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Jul 16, 2017 at 3:56 pm

Randall Frost is a registered user.

Maybe you could ask him for a copy.


2 people like this
Posted by FrequentWalkerMiles
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jul 16, 2017 at 4:13 pm

FrequentWalkerMiles is a registered user.

Well there you go, Randall, the city has a copy of an agreement on the use terms of city property. I'm sure your and your attorney's time is best used dealing with Mr. Dennis.


23 people like this
Posted by MAGGIE
a resident of Valencia
on Jul 17, 2017 at 11:30 am

MAGGIE is a registered user.

The city of Pleasanton should spend more time enforcing the restaurants that take more and more side walk space up - creating a hazard for the elderly and handicapped individuals. My 87 year old mother nearly fell several times trying to maneuver her walker between a tree and outdoor seating. Not to mention the individuals that attempt to ride their bikes on the sidewalk vs. the street. If Dennis wants to fine people - fine the people that are ignoring the parking rules - Nelly is not a parking enforcement officer! And finally, if following the code is so important how is it that the Fair Grounds can continue to place preferred parking closer than handicap parking? And how does Kohl's landlord get to place electric car chargers closer than handicap parking? Lots of ignorance towards codes that can actually cause harm to citizens!


11 people like this
Posted by no name chosen
a resident of Downtown
on Jul 17, 2017 at 12:53 pm

no name chosen is a registered user.

I find it disgusting that Casa Real and Ruby Hill Winery don't want the "low lifes" who are not "well dressed" to hang out near their property. However, they have no objection to hiring said "low lifes" to pick their fruit, work their fields and clean their filthy bathrooms.

I have posted information on all of my media sites, as well as sent personal emails to everyone in my address book that they should consider any OTHER winery or party venue before giving these places any business. I have been a member of half a dozen high end wine clubs in this area for more than twenty years and will never again patronize these places. I have done so in the past.


7 people like this
Posted by Grapevines
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Jul 17, 2017 at 6:51 pm

Grapevines is a registered user.

Actually, I wonder if they can negotiate something with the owner of the other corner with the Starbucks.

I've never been to this taco truck, and find a lot of the Mexican food in the area to be embarrassingly bad, but if this truck is good, as people say, then it is an asset to the (culinary and cultural) community, and should be protected.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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