MENU

Reason.com

Free Minds & Free Markets

Sriracha Plant Mulls Move, Providing Valuable Lesson to Government Meddlers

That's gonna leave a mark.Credit: Dave77459 / photo on flickr"I have had the bad luck to move into a city with a government that acts like a local king." That’s what David Tran, founder of Huy Fong Foods and producer of Sriracha hot sauce, said to the Los Angeles Times after the Irwindale, California, City Council last week unanimously declared his factory a "public nuisance" due to the alleged smell.

Baylen Linnekin wrote in December about the history of the factory’s issues and the regulatory troubles Tran has faced in California. Back then Linnekin wondered if the company might move out of California to escape its issues with regulators and the meddling government. The possibility seems more likely now. From the Times:

Huy Fong Foods' Executive Operations Officer Donna Lam said that Alabama, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, Kansas, Ohio, Georgia, Iowa, Arizona, New Mexico and West Virginia have offered to host factories. A cadre of local officials also have thrown their support behind the hot sauce maker, including state Sen. Ed Hernandez.

U.S. Rep. Tony Cardenas, whose district includes the San Fernando Valley, joined the chorus of voices clamoring to host Sriracha production on Wednesday.

It’s worth pointing out that Irwindale is a tiny, little industrialized cog in the greater Los Angeles area, with a population of less than 1,500. Yet 40,000 people are employed there. It is a place where people work, not live. From the city’s own demographic data, less than 1 percent of Irwindale’s land is used for residential purposes. By contrast, 43 percent of land in the city is used for industrial purposes and 31 percent of the land is open space. Roads take up more space in Irwindale than housing.

Yet, as of 2007, Irwindale boasted 134 city employees and its own police force of 27. According to its stats in 2007, the little town had a monthly payroll of more than $777,000. Dennis Romero of LA Weekly noted the odd relationship between Tran’s company and Irwindale:

It is a strange tale. As Tran has told it, Irwindale actually lobbied to get Huy Fong to move from its old digs in Rosemead to Irwindale, which it did in 2010. But when Tran got a bad feeling about initial odor complaints he decided to take preemptive action.

He was essentially paying Irwindale for $250,000 a year for 10 years to use the factory. But he surprised City Hall by buying it outright, depriving Irwindale of millions in future rent.

Most of the odor complaints have come from four nearby homes, one of which is occupied by the relative of a city councilman. That councilman, Hector Ortiz, recused himself from discussion and voting on the matter because, he says, he owns property near the plant.

At the same time, the city was looking to sell property it owns next door to Huy Fong to a waste-management facility, which could be ironic given the odors sometimes associated with those kinds of facilities.

Romero also noted that two current council members and a former council member face conflict-of-interest charges for using taxpayer funds for a lavish trip to New York City.

Now that the discussion of the Sriracha plant moving is taking on tones of actual possibility, Irwindale’s city attorney is acting confused about Tran's response:

Irwindale City Atty. Fred Galante said he was confused and disappointed by Tran's actions. Galante said Irwindale officials just want an action plan to be submitted, and Tran has not proposed any solutions for the city to reject.

"This seems very extreme," Galante said. "It's disappointing given that [air quality officials] have explained that there are readily available solutions."

He seems to have forgotten the fact that Irwindale is already suing Tran’s company. Maybe that’s the origin of Tran’s lack of trust?

Photo Credit: Dave77459 / photo on flickr

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • tarran||

    [Irwindale's city attorney] seems to have forgotten the fact that Irwindale is already suing Tran’s company. Maybe that’s the origin of Tran’s lack of trust?

    Ah yes, my ex suffers from a similar mental block. It's good to know she's not alone. :)

  • sarcasmic||

    He was essentially paying Irwindale for $250,000 a year for 10 years to use the factory. But he surprised City Hall by buying it outright, depriving Irwindale of millions in future rent.

    Ah ha! He deprived them of revenue! Run him out of town!

  • Sevo||

    "Now that the discussion of the Sriracha plant moving is taking on tones of actual possibility, Irwindale’s city attorney is acting confused about Tran's response:"

    Now, Mr. Tran, why are you focusing on the negatives? This is just a friendly discussion to show you how we can work together on this.

  • ||

    That is straight outta the pages of Ayn Rand. All her antagonists use that smug, obsequious tone.

  • Stormy Dragon||

    One big thing I don't see in any of these stories is anything on whether the odor complaints are actually legitimate or not. Too bad none of these newpapers hire anyone who's job it would be to go out to Irwindale and provide the readers a report on what's actually go on there.

  • Sevo||

    When this story first ran, there was a lot of discussion on that issue. As I recall, someone found a link that showed the complainants moved in after he had located there and then started complaining.

  • Stormy Dragon||

    I'm also wondering if the odor is of the "hmmm, someone is making chili" nature or the "OH GOD, MY EYES ARE BURNING!!!" nature.

  • Stormy Dragon||

    Okay, see, that's the kind of information that should be in the original article.

  • Steve G||

    Been waiting for just the right moment, have ya?

  • Scott S.||

    They currently aren't manufacturing anything so there's nothing to check right now. It can't happen until summer.

  • Brett L||

    But you obviously have a field trip planned, right. Maybe get Welch and Tooch and go bombing around that part of California, stirring up trouble?

  • Spoonman.||

    One of my contractor's assistants snuck a piece of cake out of my kitchen that my wife had made last night. Who the fuck does that? I fucking hate thieves.

  • Freedom Frog||

    Better make sure that's all that was taken.

  • UnCivilServant||

    And that nothing new got left behind.

  • John C. Randolph||

    Seems to me that the best place for Sriracha to move would be anywhere in Mexico. Bribes are cheaper than regulations, after all.

    -jcr

  • pan fried wylie||

    *just paying bribes is cheaper than bribes and regulations.

    Amazing, it only took two uses of "bribe" for that word to stop making sense in my head. Bribe.

  • Zeb||

    You'd think that this was the only company in the world making Sriracha based on some of the reporting about it. I always get the Roland stuff, which is quite good. I think it's made in Thailand or China.

  • sarcasmic||

    Same here. Don't know if I've ever had "real" Sriracha or not. Just the Roland stuff.
    Know what else is good? Chili garlic sauce. O M fucking G, if you ever see it, buy it.

  • Zeb||

    That does look good. Right up my alley.

    I'm not usually too worried about the authenticity of my condiments. If it tastes like what I want, that's good.

    One exotic condiment I would like to get some time in it's real, authentic form is Wasabi. I was disappointed to learn a few years ago that pretty much all "wasabi" paste that you are likely to have had is just green dyed horseradish and sometimes mustard. Wasabi is very expensive, has to be freshly prepared and loses all it's zing if it is dried. Unless it was at a very fancy sushi restaurant, you probably haven't had actual wasabi.

  • sarcasmic||

    I was aware of that regarding wasabi. Never been to a high end sushi place, nor do I think I ever will. So I'll settle for dyed horseradish and enjoy my blissful ignorance.

  • Edwin||

    you know, whole foods wasabi that they have for their sushi actually has real wasabi in it. And from what I remember, it wasn't far down on the ingredient list (which means it isn't in tiny amounts; ingredients lists go in order of how much of the material is there). I think I recall reading about how wasabi growing in America expanded, or maybe I'm just assuming that's what happened as it tends to do with this stuff and the price went down

    I ordered it once online a while ago and has it with sushi with my family. It was lighter, but honestly I'm a dull taster so I can't taste much of anyting so it didn't taste super different to me. If you really want to go all out you can order a traditional shark-skin grater.

  • UnCivilServant||

    Chili Garlic is a tempting blend of coarsely ground chilies and garlic

    What type of chilies? If I can't taste a sample, I want more information than that broad category.

  • sarcasmic||

    Just looked at the jar and it only says chilis. I'm guessing red jalapenos since is smells like sriracha and garlic making sweet love with one another.

  • UnCivilServant||

    Thanks for checking.

  • Zeb||

    I imagine it's your standard red Cayenne pepper.

  • sarcasmic||

    Could be. Either way it's awesome.

  • Edwin||

    Can't be sure it's the same; one of the key things with Tran's original sriracha is it's made with fresh, not-dried chiles, which are hard to source in such large numbers.

    I'm sure it's good, but not the same as sriracha if it isn't made with those fresh peppers

    Oh, and also sriracha is loaded with preservatives in the Asians - aren't - afraid- of -food -science style, so you can leave it out and it never goes bad

  • ||

    But he surprised City Hall by buying it outright, depriving Irwindale of millions in future rent.

    And here is the explanation for this whole fiasco. He didn't pay his protection money.

  • Brett L||

    But he was renting it from the city... How does that work? Did they put in a buyout clause that they didn't expect him to make use of?

  • R C Dean||

    Yeah, I'm confused by that. You generally pay rent to the landowner, who is also who you buy the property from. I'm having a hard time imagining the City renting him the property but not cashing the sales check.

  • UnCivilServant||

    The buyout was probably less than 2.5 mil, which would be why he exercised it.

  • Scott S.||

    I think that was poorly worded by the weekly. It didn't occur to me to correct it. He got a low-interest loan from the city to buy the building that he was paying back.

  • Brett L||

    Thanks for clarifying.

  • Invisible Finger||

    Poorly worded???!!!

    That's a HUGE fucking part of the story!!

    It's evidence that Tran is a public teat sucking asshole.

  • Edwin||

    oh come on,
    it's a reasonable place to start if you need a new facility, and the communities need the business, and the business owners could use the deals.
    Remember, not all of the things supressing industry and manufacturing in America are local level. A lot of it is fed level that neither entrepeneurs nor local fgovs can do anything about.

  • pan fried wylie||

    Googlemap Irwindale. It's mostly junkyards.

    Stay Classy Irwindale.

  • ||

    for the greater good he should move the company. make an example of Irwindale. because they'd make an example of him if they could. hot sauce for the gander.

  • Steve G||

    Move David, not just the city, but the state, then nuke it from orbit...its the only way to be sure.

  • Stormy Dragon||

    Tran responded Wednesday to the politicians and business leaders from 10 states and multiple cities in California who have offered to host the Sriracha factory. He invited them to tour the facility in Irwindale and decide if their communities would complain about the odors that arise during production.

    Who exactly authorized these officials to speak for those property owners as to whether or not they'd complain about something?

  • Stormy Dragon||

    Unless said election was unanimous I still don't see how they are authorized to commit individual property owners to a contractual agreement with the Sirachi company.

  • R C Dean||

    No agreement needed. Ordinary nuisance law should suffice.

  • UnCivilServant||

    If it's not a mendacious locale, they might have some insight on what the residents will put up with.

  • Stormy Dragon||

    If they're pink, fluffy unicorns, they might be dancing on rainbows too.

  • UnCivilServant||

    Locale, not official.

  • dinkster||

    Well it is better than nothing.

  • Marty Feldman's Eyes||

    Irwindale City Atty. Fred Galante said he was confused and disappointed by Tran's actions. Galante said Irwindale officials just want an action plan to be submitted, and Tran has not proposed any solutions for the city to reject.

    "This seems very extreme," Galante said. "It's disappointing given that [air quality officials] have explained that there are readily available solutions."

    This just screams Drama Queen. They feel ignored if the other person doesn't care to play their stupid games. Drama Queens never seem to figure out why their relationships don't last.

  • Spartacus||

    "Get the hell out of Irwindale" sounds like a perfectly good action plan to me.

  • Lady Bertrum||

    "Nice little hot sauce factory you got there."

  • Bardas Phocas||

    That brings to mind Dr Tran's Quiet Log Time.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UbyExPu8BRY

  • DRM||

    Advice, David Tran: Move out of California entirely. El Paso, Texas would be happy to have your business.

  • Invisible Finger||

    But only if the taxpayers of El Paso are willing to subsidize a loan for him.

  • dinkster||

    A loan he will pay in a lump sum apparently.

  • Edwin||

    Again, I recommend Houston. The warm climate should provide plenty of fresh peppers throughout the year, and strong ones too, and the business climate is of course better, and plenty of industrial space.

    The problem is even with various gov schemes to entice businesses to come, the gov can't also offer these businesses protection from complaints like this. Quiet enjoyment of your land or whatever is a common law tort that doesn't go away. There needs to be legislation of some sort that for population densities lower than a certain amount or whatever that the gov people can give out a writ or ticket or whatever that outright bans anyone from suing the business for odors.
    I remember recently reading about compost facilities in NEwe Jersey as I was researching for this business idea I had (large amounts of consistent types of vegetable waste would be a byproduct) that was taking supermarket and other wastes, and that's good for the environment. All that shit is such a big deal if you ask the gov people. But then people started complaining about odors, and they eventually had to move. But of course that's bullshit! Compost piles do not smell bad, certainly not at a purpose-built facility where they make sure to well aerate the piles.

  • Edwin||

    oh yeah, and Houston has shitloads of SouthEast Asian immigrants

  • Thomas O.||

    There's always Texas City. Plenty of other interesting odors to mask those coming out of the Sriracha plant. (I'd suggest my native homeland of Galveston, but I don't know if the city officials or residents would welcome it.)

  • ||

    Come ON people! This is IRWINDALE for God's sake....it has been crooked for the past 50 years that I KNOW of!

  • coma44||

    If I had the means I would help pay for the move myself.

    Wonder if this could be group funded for some free sauce!

  • ibcbet||

    Too bad none of these newpapers hire anyone who's job it

  • ResidentofDuarte||

    I think the City of Irwindale employees and the ones who lodge complaints are examples of people who have no common sense and waste our tax dollars. I have a similar situation in Duarte where I wanted to remove some lawn and improve a walled in courtyard which would decrease my water bill by $100 a month but due to one neighbor who said he does not like pavers, they are making an issue of is. It's at the point where they want details on the type of plants I plan to plant. I asked the City Planner is there a restriction on what type of plants and the response was no, they just want to know since I am planning to plant something before they approve. Seriously, if all gardeners had to notify the city of putting a flower bulb in the ground, that is a waste of time. I was planning on putting in fire retardant and drought resistant plants since the whole purpose of removing lawn in a courtyard that is not visible from the street is to save water in California. Because only one neighbor can see my yard from a certain angle complained, now I have to report every paver or plant I put in. What a pain.

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online