San Francisco street vendors camp out for new cheaper permits 

Several dozen vendors who make the street their workplace also made it their home last weekend, enduring a chilly sidewalk campout while hoping to obtain one of a limited number of cheaper mobile food facility permits that just became available.

Roughly 20 to 30 people awoke Monday in front of the Department of Public Works hoping to be among the first vendors to purchase new one-year permits.

Last year, the Board of Supervisors streamlined the process of obtaining a street-vending permit. Instead of requiring vendors to go to individual police stations, the ordinance set up the Bureau of Street-Use and Mapping as a one-stop shop.

The ordinance increased the number of permits from about 120 to 200, and dropped the price from $10,000 to $3,000. The new permits are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis.

Thus, Oakland resident Kate McEachern, owner of the Cupkates mobile cupcake truck, camped out to make sure she didn’t miss out on the action. She began a weekend-long stay on Stevenson Street on Friday night at 8 p.m.

“I am anxious to get home and sleep … and shower,” she said.

Three nights on the sidewalk earned McEachern an appointment for an application review. Although the process has been streamlined, it is not easy.

“It’s very extensive,” she said. “It’ll cost us probably around $5,000 to submit the application.”

Vendors must provide the location where they will sell food, and notify all residents and businesses within a 300-foot radius. McEachern said she has spent about $1,200 on postage alone notifying everyone within her work radius.

Applicants also must include their schedule, type of food and a diagram of their facility.

“It’s a lot of stuff,” said John Kwong, the department’s permit manager. “And if you’re not prepared, you might not show up.”

Most vendors in line Monday learned about the process through a workshop last month.

“It’s really great that San Francisco has recognized the barriers that surround people who want to start a food business,” said Daniella Sawaya, a development associate at La Cocina, an incubator for food entrepreneurs.

Once an application is filed, vendors will receive a set of regulations governing their business. They have a 30-day window to object to any provisions. Then the department will tentatively approve the location, pending further fire and health approval steps.

Existing vendors must renew their permits within 90 days.

Variety of eats

An ordinance added vendor permits:
Current permits: About 120
Future permits: Up to 200

Source: DPW

3rd annual SF Street Food Festival

- Saturday, Aug. 20
- Folsom Street between 22nd and 26th streets
- 50 to 60 vendors

Source: 2011 SF Street Food Festival

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