This is a simple story. Jenny Perez, a pastry chef, in September 2014 went to see the city of Galveston Planning Official 1, responsible for concessions. This official gave Perez a list of requirements on a sticky note. Perez and Official 1 had many communications over where and how her potential food truck business could be operated. These communications led Perez and her husband to sink their life savings into a food truck so she could follow her dream.
I was contacted by a realtor to see if I was interested in leasing my property next to the jewelry store to the couple. My first responses confirm that they have approved the location with the city. Jenny stated what city official they were working with and after another conversation with this official Jenny informed me that she needed modifications in the lease based on months of operation after reconfirming the location was approved. I entered into a lease with them I guess because I related to her dream, as I started my business with $500 of gold jewelry in a cardboard box. This lease is inconsequential to me financially and actually has been one giant hassle since all this trouble started, but I believe in Jenny’s dream.
On Jan. 29, Official 2 got involved after the Perez’s attempted to turn on electricity to the lot. This official told them they had a serious issue, but there was a simple appeal process to the city manager. I’ve read this email.
At this point, I felt very bad for them. I made a mistake; I called the Director of Planning Rick Vasquez, instead of the city manager, and brought to his attention that his staff had caused this problem. I didn’t beat around the bush as we discussed the matter. He seemed totally oblivious to the whole situation. I was told the city has legal liability in this issue; the specific legal term is promissory estoppel.
The Perez’s after that told me they were working with planning to resolve the issues and were excited about opening. They sincerely thought all issues were resolved and I believed them. When I listened to the city council meeting held March 12, it was like the conversation I had with Vasquez happened in the twilight zone.
Call it whatever you like, but the fact is this problem was caused by city officials and needs to be corrected by city officials. I have no idea what individual council people knew or didn’t know when they discussed and voted on this issue. I was asked by a city councilman to write this to explain Jenny’s plight.
All of this could be fixed, according to Planning Official 2 in his Jan. 29 email to Jenny stating it can be appealed to the city manager’s office, but this official was probably as wrong as Official 1, who apparently caused the debacle in the first place. The latest fix they suggested — move to another location. Yes, planning officials actually are now recommending locations for food trucks. Jenny told me they are financially and emotionally devastated. Folk’s make some phones ring at city hall!