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Monday, November 28, 2011

The Chronicle and the GGRA Go After Food Trucks

Posted By on Mon, Nov 28, 2011 at 8:42 AM

Nearby restaurants blocked Doc's of the Bay from parking at several spots it had applied for. - JOHN BIRDSALL
  • John Birdsall
  • Nearby restaurants blocked Doc's of the Bay from parking at several spots it had applied for.

The Chron story, which makes the owner of Chronicle-reporter watering hole Tempest Bar its primary character, reports that the spread of food trucks is harming restaurants, like Tempest Bar, that are located near the spots where the trucks park. 

The other major opponent quoted in the story: Golden Gate Restaurant Association president Rob Black. Black worries that the city's the newly revised permitting process, which switched control of street-vending permits over to the Department of Public Works and reduced permitting fees by 60 to 80 percent, is letting food trucks spread unchecked across the city.

Reporter Stacy Finz, however, doesn't quote any food truck operators in the story. And what her story also fails to report is that under previous president Kevin Westlye, the GGRA endorsed the current change to the regulations, which give brick-and-mortar restaurants greater --  not less -- power to deny food trucks access to a location near them.

The new process requires food trucks applying for specific street parking spots to notify businesses within 300 feet of each proposed spot. If anyone contests the location, a hearing must be held. (Food trucks who park on private land -- paying rent to the land owner -- do not have to seek approval from the city to do so.)

So there's a reason only 16 food trucks have passed through the permitting gauntlet in the year since the street-food permits have been revised, as even the Chron reports. The city has promised to revoke the street-parking permits of anyone who abuses their privileges, and a permit holder of a contested spot must undergo a public hearing every year, so the location is by no means permanent. 

The Tempest Bar complains to the Chronicle about how the 5M Wednesday-Friday Off the Grid gathering is killing his lunchtime business, but the OTG location he's protesting isn't even permitted through the new process -- Cohen told SFoodie it's considered a special event fee, permitted through the city's Interdepartmental Committee on Traffic and Transportation

What has been clear since the early days of the food truck movement is that trucks and brick-and-mortar restaurants have some reconciling to do. But falsely characterizing the city's restaurants as being powerless to stop competition from nearby trucks -- and characterizing the trucks as come-and-go, faddish businesses with few economic responsibilities -- is not going to ease tensions.

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Follow me at @JonKauffman.

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Jonathan Kauffman


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