Palo Alto Weekly

News - April 5, 2013

Legal demand shuts down Edgewood Eats

Weekly food-truck events violate municipal ordinances, neighbors say

by Sue Dremann

A popular Palo Alto food-truck event that helped revive a defunct, Embarcadero Road shopping center has hit the skids, just as organizers attempted to relocate it to a nearby church parking lot.

Edgewood Eats, which attracted hundreds of Crescent Park and Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhoods residents each week to dine at Edgewood Plaza, closed last fall after a two-year run as the shopping center began to be redeveloped.

On March 18, organizers relocated the event to the First Congregational Church parking lot at 1985 Louis Road.

But now, an attorney for residents who live adjacent to the church is alleging that Edgewood Eats would likely have significant land-use and environmental impacts, including increased traffic and related public-safety issues, noise from trucks and generators, garbage, air pollution from exhaust, generators and cooking and other potential health risks.

Edgewood Eats cannot take place in a neighborhood zoned for single-family homes, the letter from lawyer Miles Dolinger states.

Residents are also objecting to the city's issuance of a special-use permit for Edgewood Eats, since the event is not associated with the church, as is required under city ordinance, Dolinger wrote. Special-use permits for a recurrent, large-scale event must be reviewed for its potential impact, Dolinger noted.

Property rights and home values could also be adversely affected, and residents have a right to be heard prior to the city's approval, he wrote.

The neighbor who brought in the attorney, speaking on condition of anonymity on Monday, said that the number of patrons alarmed her.

About 500 people attended on March 18, according to Monica Wong, coordinator for Edgewood Eats who is also part owner of a Vietnamese food truck, Little Green Cyclo.

In its letter to residents, Edgewood Eats said the event could draw activity from about 3 to 9 p.m., including set up and break down. Up to 12 trucks could set up.

The resident said that each truck brings generators that roar and spew fumes. Traffic also creates a hazard for kids during event hours, she added.

The resident said she doesn't object to Edgewood Eats per se.

"It's a wonderful community event that has no business in a residential area. ... This is a business venture. If 95 percent of the money was going toward charity, it would still be worrisome, but I'd feel better about it," she said.

Although Edgewood Eats provides about 5 percent of its money to charity, it is a commercial venture, she said.

Sixteen neighbors signed a petition opposing Edgewood Eats' operation from the church parking lot, she said.

"We suggest that this kind of food-cart venture, although it may be a nice gathering event for a community, belongs at a city park, school playground, or shopping area zoned for commercial use," the petitioners wrote to the church.

The resident asked that supporters not judge her and others opposing Edgewood Eats.

"Before you criticize us, think about whether you want a block party in your back yard every week, because that's what it is," she said.

Other residents agreed. A Louis Road resident said the March 18 event was well-organized and clean, but she still is against having weekly events across from her home.

"I honestly have to say that I'm not for it. They start in the afternoon grilling and cooking. It's not ideal for the people who live here," she said.

Rev. Daniel Ross-Jones, associate minister at First Congregational Church, said Edgewood Eats organizers approached the church last March looking for space, and the church agreed after some correspondence.

Church volunteers canvassed the surrounding neighborhood and received only two negative comments from neighbors, neither of whom reside on Louis Road, he said. Other residents on Louis who would be most impacted loved the idea, he added.

On Easter Sunday, organizer Suisie Hwang wrote on Edgewood Eats' Facebook page that the group is disappointed.

"We are on hold indefinitely, folks," she said.

By Monday morning Edgewood Eats had 9,937 "likes" on Facebook, and 30 people commented on its demise. Some suggested mounting a campaign to save the event.

"Yes, it may be a little bit of a disturbance and inconvenience. ... But the bigger picture is the sense of community, family bonding, and social support that Edgewood Eats provides!" Michele Lin wrote.

"I live across the street from the church and I was VERY happy to see you there. Where do I register my protest to the protestors?" Kim Shetter wrote.

Supporters suggested alternate locations: the Palo Alto Square parking lot on El Camino Real at Page Mill Road; the Unitarian Church on Charleston Road; the parking lot behind Fry's Electronics; near the California Avenue train station; and business parks near Ming's restaurant on Embarcadero Road.

Hwang said that, despite the setback, she isn't giving up.

"We are still looking for a home, ideally a lot that is privately owned and commercially-zoned but that neighborhood families can reach by foot or bike. It will be tough to recreate the perfect site we had at Edgewood Plaza, but we haven't given up hope," she wrote in an email.

Aaron Aknin, city assistant director of planning and community environment, said Edgewood Eats was allowed to operate on March 18 as a special event. City code does not allow the conditional-use permit for an ongoing commercial activity in a residential neighborhood, he added.

Aknin said that option was presented by the city to event organizers.

"We suggested that it could be a special event in a rotating location. ... It would operate as a truly special event in different neighborhoods," he said.

Staff Writer Sue Dremann can be emailed at sdremann@paweekly.com.

Comments

Posted by Toady, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 20, 2013 at 7:55 am

"The neighbor who brought in the attorney, speaking on condition of anonymity "

Don't be a wimp. If you're going to complain, come out and put your name behind it. Don't be such a coward.


Posted by yo, a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 20, 2013 at 11:01 pm

"Toady" the same could be said of your complaint!


Posted by Blimey, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 21, 2013 at 2:35 pm

The neighbor who brought in the attorney was a scoundrel for doing it!


Posted by lindaloo, a resident of Mountain View
on Apr 26, 2013 at 2:06 pm

I saw today while walking to the store that there would be a food truck event TONIGHT at the Old Mill condos on Showers Drive in Mountain View.

I hope it's true; I plan to attend. Anyone who loves Edgewood Eats should come along too. Haven't seen any online advertising.


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