After two years of negotiations, San Francisco's food war between mobile vendors and brick-and-mortar restaurants appears to have come to an end with Tuesday's adoption of new regulations reflecting a compromise.
Amid the burgeoning mobile food movement, tensions mounted as restaurant owners fumed over what they considered unfair competition and began appealing nearly every mobile permit application. Meanwhile, food vendors extolled the virtues of a free market and the palates of their patrons who opted to enjoy the mobile delicacies.
Supervisor Scott Wiener stepped into this chaotic scene and spent two years negotiating a compromise with commercial building owners, restaurant owners and mobile food vendors. It appears he has scored a major victory, as the legislation was unanimously approved Tuesday by the Board of Supervisors.
Wiener said his regulations will create a more predictable permitting process based on fairer standards and open up more areas where the food trucks can operate while making it more difficult to do business in the already-crowded areas of Union Square and downtown.
The City began permitting mobile food businesses in 2011. Of the 717 permit cases listed on the Department of Public Works online map, which includes pending requests and suspensions, the area with the highest concentration is the Financial District with 127.
The new regulations do not impact permits issued before July 1, but new ones cannot be issued for sites within 75 feet of a restaurant's entrance and must be renewed every seven years. The permits will allow operation for three days within a seven-day period at one location, but operators can apply for more than one spot.
The legislation changes the planning code to allow food trucks on hospital and university campuses if such institutions choose to have them. And it relaxes a 2007 law that banned food trucks within 1,500 feet of middle and high schools. Under the new regulations, food trucks are permitted within 500 feet of middle schools and 750 feet or 1,000 feet around high schools.
The City's chain store restrictions would be extended to mobile food trucks related to chain stores by banning them outright in areas where there is an existing ban or a requirement for a special permit for chain stores. Illegal operations of food trucks in the field would be enforced by parking control officers.