The Los Angeles Community College Board of Trustees has voted to negotiate a 10-year lease with a private company to operate most of the restaurants, food courts, trucks and vending machines on its campuses, but students and faculty at one of those campuses are trying to stop the district from ousting a popular local restaurateur.
The Los Angeles Daily News reports that the district's proposed lease with Pacific Dining Food Service Management of San Jose has enraged students and faculty at Pierce College in the city's Woodland Hills neighborhood because it would force Falafelicious Catering out of the college's food court.
Pierce College's 12,000-square-foot court, inside a new $50 million campus library and computer center, had sat empty for three years until Ofir Bass, whose Falafelicious food trucks had drawn lines of customers, took over the space last fall.
Bass signed a five-year renewable contract, invested $50,000 and moved 20 employees from two restaurants he closed in Encino and Northridge to dish out multi-ethnic offerings from five food stations in the Pierce College space.
“I took the risk," Bass says. "I showed everybody that this could make money and be successful. Now they’re taking it from us.”
A Pierce College petition to save Falafelicious has garnered nearly 5,000 signatures, Bass says.
In the interest of streamlining its comprehensive services, community college officials have opted to replace mom-and-pop food vendors with a single food service provider for all nine of its campuses. Pacific Dining, which beat out a half-dozen qualified bidders, will replace more than a dozen mom-and-pop vendors.
Administrators say the decision to hire a single vendor will improve efficiency, save money and provide consistent food service for 240,000 college students, staff and faculty.
Campus food trucks and machine vendors can remain at the discretion of campus administrators, says Vice Chancellor Robert B. Miller. But that autonomy does not apply to campus restaurants.
Bass says he plans to appeal the college's decision.
“I feel like they used us to prove a concept that nobody wanted to touch,” he says. “This building was vacant for years before I came. And the lights were on. All the refrigerators. The air conditioning. No vendor would touch it.