Food trucks, eateries strike deal 

click to enlarge food truck
  • Mike Koozmin/2012 S.F. Examiner file photo
  • A food truck deal set to go before city supervisors would also limit the days per week a vendor could stay in one spot.

After years of tense negotiations, San Francisco is poised to approve new food truck regulations to address the frustrations of brick-and-mortar restaurants.

Supervisor Scott Wiener, who drafted the proposal, said the compromise will "allow food trucks to flourish but also take into account the needs of our neighborhoods and brick-and-mortars."

Since the rise in popularity of food trucks in The City, eateries with physical locations have complained that the trucks, which do not have the overhead cost of rent, put the restaurants at a disadvantage.

Under the legislation, future permits for food trucks would not be issued for locations within 75 feet of the front entrance of a restaurant. The permits would also allow for operations on only three days within a seven-day period for each location.

Existing mobile food permits, those issued before July 1, would not be impacted by the proposal and operators would be allowed to apply for multiple locations.

The legislation would reduce the areas in the Financial District where mobile food vendors could go, but would expand sites around The City where mobile food operators could do business.

The existing 1,500-foot no-food-truck zone around public schools would be reduced to 500 feet for middle schools and either 750 feet or 1,000 feet for high schools, depending on the location. And it allows institutional campuses such as universities and hospitals to have food trucks if they choose to have them.

Ken Cleaveland, a spokesman for BOMA SF, a group that represents large-building owners in the Financial District, said the group worked for more than two years on the legislation with groups that included the Golden Gate Restaurant Association and Off the Grid, a regional group of mobile street vendors.

"I think the legislation is a good compromise and will make a little more order on the streets with the current chaotic situation," he said

Still, Cleaveland said letting existing permit holders escape impacts is a source of "heartburn."

Despite the compromises made, not everyone is on board.

ShaSha Hassan, who operates a coffee and tea cart, has found herself caught up in the existing permit process and even subject of legal action from a business group at Fisherman's Wharf. She said Wiener's proposal is "too limiting" and will stymie "creativity." She said that, for example, three days per location a week will make it challenging to survive financially, considering startup costs that can exceed $100,000.

In addition to limiting where and when food trucks could operate, the legislation also calls for a limit on who may do so.

Wiener's legislation would extend The City's chain store restrictions to food trucks. Chain-owned trucks could be either outright banned in some areas or require a special permit in others.

The legislation is before Board of Supervisors Land Use and Economic Development Committee on Monday.

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