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Monday, February 20, 2012

New Food Truck Bill Could Kill S.F.'s Street Food Scene

Posted By on Mon, Feb 20, 2012 at 3:11 PM

click to enlarge If AB 1678 passes, food trucks won't be allowed to park within three blocks of a school. - LUIS CHONG
  • Luis Chong
  • If AB 1678 passes, food trucks won't be allowed to park within three blocks of a school.
ast Tuesday, Assemblymember Bill Monning (D-Carmel) introduced AB 1678, a bill intended to prevent students from eating their lunch at food trucks instead of the school cafeteria. As it's currently written, AB 1678 would ban food trucks from parking within 1,500 feet of any school. The state bill resembles a similar ordinance passed in Novato in December -- and at first glance seems similar to San Francisco's current street-food ordinance, which prevent food trucks from parking on public property within 1,500 feet of middle schools and high schools.

But the differences between current city regulations and the new bill, argues San Francisco Supervisor Scott Wiener, are considerable. In fact, he calls the AB 1678 "terrible." "The state law applies to elementary schools as well as middle schools and high schools, and that doesn't make sense," Wiener says. "I don't know any elementary schools that allow their students to leave campus for lunch -- and there are many more elementary schools in town."
Just to give you a sense of what we're talking about, 1,500 feet is about three city blocks. 

"We're having a map drawn now," Wiener adds, "but it looks like [expanding the limit to] 1,500-hundred feet from all schools would knock out the bulk of the city from having access to food trucks." Off the Grid organizer Matt Cohen adds that San Francisco's ordinance only covers food trucks parked on the street, while the proposed state legislation is written loosely enough that it might cover private property and parks as well.

It's clear that the legislation was drafted by someone who doesn't live in the second-densest major city in the county. In addition, critics of AB 1678 have already pointed out that fast food outlets are not subjected to the same 1,500-foot rule. 

Wiener is convening a working group of restaurateurs, food truck operators, and other interested parties in order to refine the city's street-food legislation. In fact, one of the items on his agenda, he says, is to relax San Francisco's 1,500-foot limit to a one-block ban.

SactoMoFo, a Sacramento advocacy group that throws food-truck events, is organizing a letter drive to petition Assemblymember Monning to re-examine the legislation. Cohen says that street-food groups around the state are mobilizing to respond to AB 1678, and Wiener hopes to ask, at minimum, for an exemption for San Francisco or other cities that have passed their own ordinances regarding food trucks and schools.

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