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New Regulations Proposed For Food Trucks

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The SOMA StrEat Food Park. [Photo: garysoup/Flickr]

The food-truck business is about to get a lot trickier, thanks to new regulations Supervisor Scott Weiner has proposed for the industry. The bill, which went before the Board of Supervisors Tuesday but hasn't yet been passed, would create a 75-foot buffer for trucks around any existing brick-and-mortar restaurant, limit the number of trucks that could be downtown at any given time, and bar vendors from serving in any one location more than three days a week or taking up more than two parking spaces.

Permitting rules would also be changed, requiring mobile food vendors to get city approval to serve after 8 pm, operate in a new location, or change locations. And trucks would also be subject to the city's formula retail laws: any mobile business owned or operated by a vendor with 11 or more units, whether brick-and-mortar or truck-based, would be prohibited from serving in districts that ban formula retail operations. (Exceptions would be made for conditional-use permits, but anyone who's tried to do business in SF knows the deep, dark rabbit hole that those involve.) The intent of the latter law is to keep big chains like Burger King from penetrating the truck market, but could have consequences for quickly expanding locals like The Melt and Curry Up Now.

On the upside, the new legislation would end the stifling rules that forbid trucks within 1,500 feet of a public high school or middle school, which has been a particular issue in the Mission. The new buffer zone would be a much more reasonable 500 feet.

Weiner argues that the new regulations will protect brick-and-mortar businesses and force food trucks to get out of the downtown rut and visit underserved areas, but others are concerned. "I'm concerned this is going to dampen entrepreneurship," says Joshua Meadow of the SOMA StrEat Food Park. "Food trucks are a great starter business because they're much more inexpensive to get started than a full restaurant, and we haven't nearly satisfied all the demand for them. But the permitting process is already quite difficult, and I would hate for this to keep people from starting businesses. We get a lot of the new trucks here when they're first starting out, so I know how tough it is."

The bill is scheduled to be heard by the Land Use Committee on Monday, and if it passes, will go to the board on June 18. Those interested in expressing opinions for or against the regulations can contact Weiner here, or find and contact their district's Supervisor here.

· Wiener cooks up big menu of regulation for food trucks [Business Times]
· Trucks hit SF's chain-store wall [Business Times]