Push to regulate food vendors 

The City is pushing ahead with legislation to expand the street food movement so that it can be a diverse and booming industry without crippling existing small businesses.

Supervisor Bevan Dufty recently held a public hearing at City Hall to begin unraveling some core problems involving street food vendors that have begun proliferating in pockets of San Francisco.

Dufty is crafting legislation aimed at carving out a niche for a thriving mobile food movement. That includes streamlining the permitting and regulatory process.

“There isn’t a clear process,” Dufty said. “We have businesses that operate with no oversight or that never get off the ground.”

Existing merchants complain the mobile food vendors are creating unfair competition and not adhering to the same rules and regulations as brick and mortar businesses that are required to follow The City’s wage ordinance and the paid sick leave ordinance.

What’s even more problematic is that many mobile food vendors are operating without permits and are not being inspected by the health department, said Richard Lee, director of Environmental Health Regulatory Programs with the Department of Public Health.

“We are concerned because we are not inspecting [food carts without permits] and we don’t know how they are handling their food,” Lee said. “People are at risk to food-borne illness. We want to work with them to get permitted.”

Lee said the Department of Public Health oversees inspections of 160 mobile food carts in San Francisco.

City officials talked about ways to help the street food businesses operate in a healthy and legal manner, including providing lots and spaces for them to clean and store food carts and trucks.

Hugh Schick, who’s attempting to open his own street food truck in the next few months, said he was encouraged by the meeting and The City’s efforts to help resolve the issues.

“I think some barriers are about to be made more lax,” Schick said.

esherbert@sfexaminer.com

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