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Fashion District Dogs, Hold The Onions.

By Ed Fuentes
Published: Tuesday, July 03, 2007, at 12:52AM
Randall Tampa Ed Fuentes

This will be the first 4th of July in recent memory where the distinct pungency of the Fashion District culinary staple--bacon wrapped hot dogs, grilled with onions and bell peppers-- will not be sold.

"People come here for that L.A. ambiance" says L.A. Fashion District Operations Director Randall Tampa. Because of the Dog Wars of 2006, the ambiance is different. Only steamed dogs are allowed to be prepared and sold on the street. That came from a series of complaints from in-store merchants that led to carts ticketed, and sometimes towed-away; and as part of LAPD's crackdown on ordinances long ignored.

With a January protest at City Hall declaring harassment of hot dog vendors––along with an understanding of the appeal of carts by just about everyone––a working agreement was slowly formed between the Cushman style hot dog cart owners, fashion merchants, city health officials, the BID and LAPD. Tampa gives much of the credit to Senior Lead Officer Randall McCain who brought in city health officials to determine how the carts can comply with current code. The BID paid for the health departments OT. Some things still need to be worked out, like creating a system where vendors can park for a daily fee.

As the Cushman style carts didn't always comply with city health codes and parking ordinances, the pirate hot dog carts with flat pans and propane tanks placed inside a wire rack on wheels are worse offenders. "We had one merchant call in to say a baby was kept next to the tank," says Tampa. Add that to the 60 and more of the larger carts that could be out at the same time--smoke was drifting everwhere.

Merchants like Henry Amir, a shop owner in the area for 17 years, was an early critic of the all the carts. "The smoke from the onions started at 8:30 am" he said curbside outside his store. "The smell stayed in my merchandise. Now . . . it's all good," he says, even as a cart was taking a parking spot nearby.

Child and Cart

Hot dog vendor Rosenda Ibanez owns two of the Cushman carts, and nods while saying it's "mas limpia...much cleaner,' pointing to the wiped-down chrome and covered food. Gina Wilson, who came in from Rancho Cucamonga to shop in the Fashion District, stopped for a dog at Ibanez's cart. The new mom said "These are better. The other ones made me sick once."

There will those who will seek the bacon-wrapped dogs, and they can be still found around Downtown. For now, in the Fashion District, everyone agreed to a solution so other problems can be solved.

Like what we saw near the hot dog cart. Someone was selling another potential foodie favorite; illegal DVD's of Ratatouille.

Above: Randall Tampa in front of a now legal cart. Below: Gina Wilson with daughter Hailey next to a Cushman cart kept cleaner, according to Tampa, after a cooperative effort between vendors, the city, the county and LAPD. Photo: EF

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