By Susie Steimle

PLEASANTON (KPIX 5) – There is an emotional battle heating up over a long-running neighborhood taco truck in Pleasanton.

The owners say a dispute with a nearby business could shut down their operation.

For 18 years, Nelly Ramirez has operated Nelly’s Taco Truck on Vineyard Avenue at the edge of Casa Real Event Company at Ruby Hill Winery.

Now the city is ordering it to stop doing business at its spot on Vineyard Avenue after complaints from Casa Real.

In January, Ramirez said someone from Casa Real approached her and said she needed to move.

“…they said my customers are dirty looking people, poorly dressed, ‘it’s making my business look bad, my business dropped because of all these people,’” she said.

Knowing she was on public property and having the proper permits, Ramirez chose to stay. That’s when the city got involved, saying her truck was causing traffic problems.

“This was the first time, I had never had complaints from the city before, nothing,” she said.

Reluctantly, she moved across the street, which she says will put her out of business as parking in rainy months is impossible here since this field turns to mud.

Livermore resident George Mount was biking by on Friday and said, “It really was a hazard.”

Mount says he didn’t complain to the city but he’s glad someone did.

“They were in the paved part of the lane, made it so you had to go out into traffic so I support them moving out of the bike lane,” Mount said.

Casa Real would not provide someone to go on camera but released this statement: “We do not wish to see Nelly’s taco truck’s business harmed by this event. However, we do feel the need to protect the safety of our property and guests who visit us.”

Casa Real has been at the location for 9 years.

Ramirez’s supporters worry she is getting pushed around. “Here you have someone with some influence in the city forcing someone to do something that’s not right – vacate public property,” said Pleasanton resident Randy Frost.

Nelly says she doesn’t know where her truck will ultimately end up.

  1. Randy Frost says:

    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.
    A recent decision by the city of Pleasanton has now placed this business in jeopardy.
    On June 30, 2017 the city of Pleasanton ordered Nelly Ramirez, owner of the taco truck, to cease doing business at her longstanding location at 402 Vineyard Ave. in Pleasanton on the grounds that her truck was obstructing traffic. Ms. Ramirez told me she does not understand this because there had been no complaints about traffic obstruction over the past 18 years.
    When I first learned from Ms. Ramirez of the city’s plan to shut down her business on June 21, I contacted the city of Pleasanton about this matter, and was directed to the head of the code enforcement department, Mark Dennis. When I spoke to Mr. Dennis that day, he explained that Casa Real at Ruby Hill Winery, in front of which the truck sits, had complained to the city about Ms. Ramirez’s truck being there, even though the truck had been doing business in that location for much longer than Casa Real had been in existence.
    Mr. Dennis told me he did not know why Casa Real wanted the truck moved, and he directed me to Beets Hospitality Group in Pleasanton for more information about the nature of the complaint. Beets is the event management and catering company that operates Casa Real. The company’s website goes on to say that Casa Real got its start in 2006 as the result of a partnership between Read Phillips, the current owner of Beets, and local property developer Mike Callahan.
    My inquiry to the Casa Real booking website that day about the nature of the complaint went unanswered.
    According to Ms. Ramirez the dispute with Cass Real dates to Jan. 24, 2017 when two managers from Casa Real accompanied by a woman who identified herself as the wife of the owner of Casa Real (developer Mike Callahan) came to the truck. This woman reportedly told Ms. Ramirez she would have to move the truck, even though it was on public property (with all necessary city and county permits to operate there), and not Casa Real’s.
    Ten days later (on February 3), Clay Jackson, corporate sales director at Beets Hospitality Group, came to the taco truck. He had a letter giving Ms. Ramirez 30 days to relocate her truck. According to Ms. Ramirez, Mr. Jackson, who had been a longtime customer at the truck, had tears in his eyes as he presented Ms. Ramirez with the letter. Mr. Jackson offered his apologies, saying that his boss had insisted that he give it to Ms. Ramirez. The letter was dated November 11, 2016—seven months earlier than the date that it was presented to her. Mr. Jackson told Ms. Ramirez that he had held the letter since November, not wanting to give it to her.
    On April 24, another individual from Casa Real (reportedly named Taylor) came to the truck with an interpreter (Don Nicolas). Taylor mentioned the letter to Ms. Ramirez and asked why she hadn’t moved her truck. Ms. Ramirez replied that her truck was on public property, and that it did not belong to Casa Real. According to Ms. Ramirez, Taylor told her that he had many friends in the city of Pleasanton, and that if she did not comply with his request move the truck, the city would order her to do so, his specific objection to the truck being there being that the people who bought meals at the truck were poorly dressed (many of Ms. Ramirez’s customer—but not all—are working class Latinos.)
    The next day, April 25, Ms. Ramirez arrived at her business location at 6:00 am (her usual arrival time). There she found two large trucks belonging to Casa Real parked in that location. There were no vehicles in the Casa Real parking lot. One of large trucks was driven by the same person (Taylor) who had come to her truck the day before. Taylor claimed the property was his (although as Ms. Ramirez had noted it was actually public property). Ms. Ramirez was now in tears, and she told Taylor that she needed to support her family and therefore needed the location for her business. Taylor reportedly said he didn’t care. Ms. Ramirez then threatened to call the police because she was being ordered off property that did not belong to Casa Real. Taylor then backed down and moved the two trucks. Nelly was able to work without further interruption that day.
    According to Ms. Ramirez, however, there was additional harassment from Casa Real. She told me, for example, that one of the managers who showed up at her truck on Jan. 24 later returned with a blower that he used to blow loose dirt (dust) into the lunch truck. Ms. Ramirez immediately picked up the phone and started dialing (the police) and the manager left.
    On June 22, after more than an hour talking with Mr. Dennis trying to learn whether there were any conditions under which the city would allow Ms. Ramirez to continue to do business in her longstanding location, Mr. Dennis finally told me that there were five conditions that would have to be met if she was to be allowed to continue to do business there. They were (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. The conditions did not seem particularly onerous.
    On June 27, I again visited the taco truck and found Mr. Dennis parked approximately 30 yards behind the truck. He was engaged in taking photos of “violations” of the agreement. Ms. Ramirez had by then made a sincere effort to comply with Dennis’ set of rules by placing orange traffic cones in back of her truck to keep customers from parking there. A few customers did not yet understand the rules, however, and parked close—within inches of the asphalt–in front of the truck, and they were redirected to a more suitable location. But before this could be done, Mr. Dennis showed up with his camera and took photos of these so-called violations. As Mr. Dennis took his photos, he would say “two,” “three,” etc. Finally, after several hours sitting in his car, he presented Ms. Ramirez with a piece of paper showing that there had been five rule violations while he was there. In at least two cases, however, the owners of the cars had moved their vehicles immediately after being asked to do so.
    When I had spoken to Mr. Dennis a week earlier, I asked him whether there were any alternate locations for Ms. Ramirez’s truck that would be acceptable to the city. He mentioned two: some private property near Isabel and Vineyard Ave. and a field across the street from Casa Real that was under county jurisdiction. Given that the city had no authority to grant permission to use these locations, Ms. Ramirez found these offers disingenuous.
    The least objectionable site of the two was the county property across the street from her former location, in a plowed field. There were several immediate problems with this site: it had very little space where customer could park, it had no shade, and it was adjacent to part of the roadway that was expected to soon undergo major reconstruction. Because the site was unpaved, it would most likely be inaccessible in the winter. Clearly, this could not be a permanent location for her business—only a temporary one at best.
    I spoke to an attorney who has had experience with cases like these and he told me that often the situation is such that someone who supports the city (or members therein) gets special favors for that support. In the meantime, questions are being asked about the relationship between the city and Casa Real in the dispute as well as about the possibility of racial targeting by Casa Real.

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