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LA County Tentatively Approves Ordinance to Regulate Home Kitchen Operations

Action would impact Altadena, unincorporated areas of East Pasadena, but not City of Pasadena

Published on Wednesday, May 15, 2024 | 4:50 am

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors tentatively approved an ordinance Tuesday establishing a permitting process for people who operate food-sale businesses out of their home kitchens.

“The LA County ordinance would not apply to Pasadena,” Manuel Carmona of the Pasadena Public Health Dept. told Pasadena Now. “The City of Pasadena does not have a similar ordinance and the Pasadena Public Health Department is not proposing the City do so.”

However, it could impact Altadena and County-controlled portions of unincorporated East Pasadena.

In 2019, the California Health and Safety Code was amended to authorize “Microenterprise Home Kitchen Operations,” or MEHKO, which allow people to operate a “mini-restaurant” and sell food they prepare in their homes.

The ordinance given initial approval by the county Board of Supervisors Tuesday would require operators of such businesses to pay an application fee of $597, along with an annual health permit fee of $347, covering the costs of annual inspections and enforcement actions. The ordinance would also set a cap on gross annual sales of $100,000, with meals limited to 30 per day or 90 per week.

“Today, our board is examining a new ordinance that would allow home kitchen micro businesses to come out of the shadows and would put in place health and safety measures to regulate them,” Supervisor Janice Hahn wrote on X following the vote. “These home kitchen micro businesses can help get small businesses off the ground or bring in extra income for families, but I also am sensitive to the concerns I have heard from residents at our community meetings who are worried about noise and traffic in their neighborhoods.”

She called on the county Department of Public Health to “work hand in hand with cities to ensure these micro businesses are not only following county public health measures, but are also following city codes. I asked for regular updates from DPH as this program is rolled out.”

The ordinance, which still needs to return to the board for a final vote, would affect such businesses across the county, except for those in Long Beach, Pasadena and Vernon, which are overseen by those cities’ individual health departments.

Under the ordinance, a MEHKO could also be approved to serve as a commissary for up to two food carts, or Compact Mobile Food Operations. In such cases, the kitchens would be limited to 80 meals per day and no more than 200 meals per week. The gross sales for a MEHKO operating as a commissary would be $150,000.

Health officials said the ordinance was developed in consultation with jurisdictions including Imperial, Riverside, San Diego, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties, along with the COOK Alliance, an advocacy organization working to legitimize and support home cooking businesses.

Some speakers at Tuesday’s meeting raised concerns about the cost of the application and permit fees, while others pointed to benefits the ordinance would provide to small entrepreneurs working from home kitchens — including those who are using the operations to support their families.

The ordinance, if given final approval, is expected to take effect in November, with enforcement beginning in January.

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