Food trucks arrive on SF State campus

The brightly colored and uniquely designed food trucks that adorn the streets of San Francisco have now shown up on the SF State campus after a year of discussion and some confusion about their legality on campus.

The arrival of the food trucks on campus is a product of the collaboration of the University Corporation and the College of Science and Engineering to bring food venders to the area surrounding the Science Building, Hensill Hall and Thornton Hall.

According to Science and Engineering Dean Sheldon Axler, the area has been in need of a food vendor for at least 10 years, but building a restaurant or a cafe was found to be too expensive.

“We thought this would be more convenient,” said Axler. “We’re seeing a lot of different, high quality food trucks.”

A different, single food truck vendor shows up at the assigned space every weekday, but prior to their arrival, confusion abounded as to whether or not the mobile eateries were even allowed there in the first place.

San Francisco zoning laws like San Francisco planning code section 205.4, cite that food trucks are not allowed to operate on college campuses and hospital grounds, but do not apply to SF State, since the University is a state-run agency that operates on state-owned property.

Julia Yoon owns Korean food truck Seoul on Wheels, which has been in business for almost five years, and noted that although she has been looking forward to doing business at SF State for at least two years, she was deterred by these laws.

“When I tried to apply previously, I was told that food trucks were not allowed on campus as a regulation, and also in order to protect the campus’ onsite food vendors,” Yoon said.  “I’m really excited about this opportunity.”

Agnes Wong Nickerson, chief operating officer and chief financial officer of the University Corporation and associate vice president of fiscal affairs, said she didn’t remember if any food truck owners applied to operate on campus, but recalled incidents of some trucks operating on Holloway Avenue that didn’t have the correct permits.

“Picking an acceptable location for food trucks is the key here,” Nickerson said via email. “Even though SF State is exempt from city codes, it took us a few months to work with the campus Capital Planning, Design and Construction department, the State Fire Marshall and University police before we settled on the current site.”

Brass Knuckle food truck owner Shellie Kitchen was also skeptical about selling food on college campuses because she didn’t want to risk breaking any laws or getting her permits pulled.

“I didn’t want to be crossing any lines,” Kitchen said. “I didn’t want to deal with the red tape.”

It wasn’t until the SF State Fiscal Affairs department approached Kitchen about doing business at SF State that she looked further into the laws, but she says any time she has any doubts or questions, she calls the Department of Public Works.

Students who have classes near the Science Building and Hensill Hall and Thorton Hall are just glad have a place to grab a bite close to their classrooms.

“It’s like Christmas every day,” said Heather Smith, 25, a biology major. “It’s the best thing the University has decided to do.”

Zoology major Stephanie Hees is glad she doesn’t have to walk to the Cesar Chavez Student Center for food anymore.

“It’s nice to have something on our side of campus,” Hees said.

Not everyone has taken notice of the food truck’s newfound place on campus, however.

Donna’s Tamales, a food vendor that participates in the Thursday farmer’s market near the Humanities Building, hasn’t noticed a change in business.

“I didn’t even know they had opened,” said Donna’s Tamales proprietor Shirley Virgil.

Nevertheless, food truck owners have felt the love from the SF State community.

Anamika Khanna, part-owner of KASA Indian Eatery said the experience of coming to SF State felt like she was on a first date.

“They (the customers) kept asking ‘Are you coming back?’” she said. “(UCorp) seems pretty open and genuine on making it work for both parties.”

It is still unclear how campus restaurant owners feel about food trucks doing business at SF State. Allam Elqadah, who owns several campus eateries including Café Rosso, SFSU Station Café, HSS Café, Sushigo, the Village Market and Taza Smoothies and Wraps declined to comment.

The food trucks are going through a trial period which will last until the end of the semester, when UCorp will make a decision regarding whether the food trucks will return to SF State for the next academic year.

This depends on the response from students, faculty and staff and the food truck vendors.