LOS ANGELES - For generations of children, it is the pleasing sound of summer: the tinny, high-pitched rendering of "La Cucaracha" and "It's a Small World" coming from ice cream trucks creeping through their neighborhood. The music sparks Pavlovian desires for Popsicles, Bomb Pops, 50/50 bars and ice cream sandwiches.
For some residents of Long Beach, though, the repetitive - and sometimes competitive - warbling has become an annoying nuisance, more like nails on a blackboard.
The City Council this week took a step toward reining it in, drafting an ordinance that would require ice cream truck drivers to turn off the music when they are serving customers.
Council officials are getting a lot of national attention as a result, and not all of it is flattering. They have nothing against ice cream trucks, they say, but they want them to be quieter.
"I want to state for the record, I do like ice cream and I enjoy ice cream trucks," Councilman Dee Andrews said. "We just have to strike a balance of the needs of our neighbors for peace and quiet and the business needs to sell ice cream."
Ice cream vendors are worried about the regulations, saying the music is the only way to alert customers that their trucks are nearby.
"The music is what brings the children out. If they take that away, our businesses are going to be affected in a negative way," said vendor Ismael Hernandez, who has peddled ice cream in Long Beach for 13 years. "The music is vital for us."
Hernandez loops up to 16 different songs on his truck, although he said the most popular song - the surefire customer draw - is a song called "Hello," a riff on "She'll Be Coming 'Round the Mountain."
Even some vendors admit they can understand the residents' concerns. There is no coordination or assigned routes for the trucks. So some end up clustering in areas were there are a lot of children, such as around parks.
At the unanimous direction of the City Council, Long Beach will spend the next few weeks studying how other cities have limited the music played by ice cream trucks, Deputy City Attorney Amy Webber said.
In Fullerton, food-vending vehicles are prohibited from playing music while parked. They can play music while they're in motion, but it cannot be audible from more than 200 feet away.
The language is from "an old section of ordinance" that is rarely, if ever, used, said Kirke Warren, Fullerton's building and code enforcement manager.
"Honestly, I don't think we've ever had a complaint about music from an ice cream truck," he said.