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09/27/89 Triple A Services, Inc., v. Fred Rice

September 27, 1989





545 N.E.2d 706, 131 Ill. 2d 217, 137 Ill. Dec. 53 1989.IL.1509

Appeal from the Appellate Court for the First District; heard in that court on appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County, the Hon. Charles Freeman, Judge, presiding.


JUSTICE RYAN delivered the opinion of the court.


Plaintiffs, two mobile food vending companies and two mobile food salesmen, sued in the circuit court of Cook County, challenging the constitutional validity of a Chicago ordinance prohibiting mobile food vendors from conducting their businesses within a certain section of the city, almost entirely comprised of the Medical Center District of Chicago (District). Plaintiffs sought declaratory judgment, injunctive and other relief against the City of Chicago and Fred Rice, superintendent of the Chicago police department. The State of Illinois Medical Center Commission intervened as an additional defendant. Following an evidentiary hearing, the trial court ruled for defendants. The appellate court reversed, with one Justice Dissenting (174 Ill. App. 3d 654), and held the ordinance invalid on two grounds. First, the appellate court held the ordinance violative of due process and equal protection principles in that it is overbroad and is not reasonably related to a legitimate governmental purpose. Second, the appellate court found that the enactment of the ordinance constituted a revocation of plaintiffs' food-dispensing licenses, for which plaintiffs were entitled to, but did not receive, prior notice and a due process hearing. We granted defendants' petitions for leave to appeal (107 Ill. 2d R. 315), and now reverse the appellate court.

Plaintiffs Triple A Services, Inc., and Thunderbird Catering are mobile food vending companies engaged in the business of selling prepared foods to motorists and pedestrians within the District. Plaintiff Gilbert Vargas is a driver-salesman for Triple A, and plaintiff Nicholas Garcia is a driver-salesman for Thunderbird. Plaintiffs operate their businesses under mobile food dispenser licenses issued annually by the City of Chicago. The licenses permit plaintiffs to operate mobile food vendor businesses throughout the city, subject to Federal, State and local law.

In 1941, the General Assembly created the District by the Medical Center District Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1987, ch. 111 1/2, par. 5001 et seq.). The preamble to the Act (1941 Ill. Laws 304) explains that the District was established around a center of medical activity on Chicago's near west side. Because of the general deterioration of the area, encompassing a number of medically related institutions, the General Assembly sought "to maintain the proper surroundings for a medical center and to stabilize and retain therein large private investments in hospitals, clinical and research facilities" by improving the condition of the surrounding territory. The General Assembly also sought to facilitate the future development and growth of medical and allied activity in the area surrounding these institutions. The District covers approximately one square mile. The Act additionally established the Medical Center Commission to manage and administer the District. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1987, ch. 111 1/2, pars. 5002 through 5018.) A large and diverse aggregation of hospitals, clinics and research facilities is currently in operation within the District.

On September 6, 1984, the Chicago city council enacted the ordinance here in question. The ordinance provides:

"No person shall conduct the business of a Mobile Food Dispenser or Peddler, as defined in this code, on any portion of the public way within the boundaries of the Medical Center District, to-wit: Ashland Avenue on the east, Congress Parkway on the north, Western Avenue on the west, and a line co-incidental with the north line of the property at or near 14th Street and 15th Street owned or used by the Baltimore and Ohio Chicago Terminal Railroad Company for railroad purposes, on the south. Nor shall any person operate, stop or park any vehicle on any portion of the public way for the purposes of conducting any such businesses.

Any person who violates the provisions of this Section shall be fined no less than $50.00 nor more than $500.00 for each offense." (Chicago Municipal Code § 27 -- 269.1.)

Plaintiffs then brought these actions challenging the constitutionality of the ordinance, and seeking to enjoin its enforcement. The complaints were consolidated. The trial court denied defendants' motion to dismiss and held an evidentiary hearing, during which it heard the testimony of 15 witnesses.

Plaintiffs called three expert witnesses who testified to the effect that the operation of mobile food vending vehicles in the District has no adverse impact on medical activities in, or upon the essential atmosphere and character of, the District. Their testimony suggested that traffic in the District was moderate, and that the possibility of an increase in the number of hospital beds within the District in the foreseeable future is remote. Several employees and former employees of the corporate plaintiffs testified that neither mobile food vendors nor their customers obstruct the paths of pedestrians or emergency and other vehicles in the District. One of these witnesses testified that it takes approximately five or six years to establish a mobile food vending route. Plaintiff Vargas testified that he had operated his mobile food truck within the District for five years, and that he had not been given notice by the city that the ordinance would be considered. A former ambulance driver and attendant testified that the route of her ambulance had never been obstructed by a mobile food vehicle.

Plaintiffs called, as an adverse witness, an administrative aide to the Chicago city council committee on traffic control and safety. He testified that no studies or reports were received by the committee considering the ordinance, and that the committee considered the ordinance for "maybe three to four minutes." Plaintiffs also called, as an adverse witness, the coordinating planner for the city and the city's department of planning. He testified that planning objectives included the safe flow of traffic in the District and a "most professional looking environment for that Medical Center District." He added that mobile food vending was "primarily out of character with the Medical Center Commission's appearance and presentation to those coming into it."

Defendants called two expert witnesses. An urban planner testified that the protection of the investments of property owners in the District, who are "the major institutional base of hospitals and related facilities," was a consideration warranting the prohibition of mobile food vending within the District. He further testified that food vending did not fit aesthetically anywhere within the District. Defendants' other expert, who testified he had a background in public administration and planning, stated that the prohibition of mobile vending within the District would ensure the free flow of traffic to avoid or minimize vehicular or pedestrian conflicts, and to promote the security and appearance of the District. He further testified that he had ...

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