Proposed legislation could lift ban on food trucks at SF State

SFSU food truck
Poking her head out a vintage Airstream Land Yatch, Sylvee Danger Eskimo takes a customer's order Saturday afternoon, Feb.18, 2012. Photo by Juliana Severe.

Food trucks have grown rapidly in popularity in San Francisco during the last few years, so it is no surprise that people throughout the city have requested more access to them. And they might have it soon.

San Francisco Supervisor Scott Wiener introduced legislation recently that would dismiss the planning code that prevents food trucks from selling their products on college and hospital campuses. This means that with the approval of the University, students may be able to visit food trucks on campus.

“All I can say at this point is that we’re working to bring food trucks and markets like Off the Grid to SF State,” said Horace Montgomery, director of programs and services of Associated Students, Inc. “Right now, I don’t know when it would happen or where on campus we might put it.”

Wiener said that as long as everything goes smoothly with the Planning Commission, this new legislation could go into effect within the next four to six months. The current planning code only allows mobile food vendors to operate in commercial areas. Wiener’s proposed legislation would make it legal for colleges and hospitals not located in commercial areas to rent to food trucks.

“I think food diversity and giving people more options of where to eat is a good thing,” said Wiener. “Food trucks provide the option of different, interesting and low-cost food. It used to be that food trucks weren’t very healthy food, but now there’s a lot of different kinds with better quality.”

Montgomery suggested bringing food trucks to the University two years ago as the farmer’s market started growing in success, but was told the competition between vendors would be too intense.

“The on-campus vendors already pay rent, so I can see how they would think their toes are being stepped on,” he said. “But as long as there’s no competition with the farmer’s market on Thursdays, I think it could be a great thing for students.”

Kevin Nguyen, a criminal justice major, has enjoyed grabbing lunch from food trucks on several occasions. Already tired of the restaurants on campus, he said the possibility of having more places to eat is exciting.

“The variety of food choices would be fun to pick and choose from,” he said. “The prices are also very cheap for a college student.”

Since it is illegal to have food trucks in many areas of San Francisco, the locations where they are permitted are often over-concentrated. Wiener said he proposed this legislation in part to prevent the overpopulation of food trucks in downtown areas. He acknowledged the growing competition that some restaurants may have with food trucks, but still believes people should have more choices of where to eat.

Erik Small, a food truck vendor at Donna’s Tamales, which is a regular at the weekly SF State farmer’s market, thinks it is important for people to have more variety, but it hasn’t helped his business in the past.

“When I worked at the Ferry Building on Tuesdays, it used to be just us and another burger stand,” he said. “Now there’s pizza, a Jewish deli and a ramen noodle place. We used to do pretty well there, but having these extra places has cut our business in half.”

Although the decision to add more vendors on campus is not definite, Small has considered what he might do if it affects sales.

“We usually sell out whenever we come to SF State for the farmer’s market, but if having extra food places here affects our business at all, we might have to pull out,” he said.