Monday, November 19, 2012

Concerning the Fate of Food Trucks In Nob Hill

Here's my takeaway from the meeting regarding food trucks in Nob Hill. I won't claim this is exhaustive. I'll keep try to keep it unbiased but it's my personal take on the items discussed at the meeting.

First of all, this was a meeting of the Nob Hill Neighborhood Association. The major focus of the evening's agenda was concerning food trucks in Nob Hill.

If I had to guess, I'd say there were at least 50 people who showed up initially. It was standing room only. Some people took to sitting on the floor. One NHNA member noted it was one of the largest crowds outside of an annual meeting. It lasted nearly two hours. People were alloted at least three minutes to speak if they wanted, although there was a pretty comfortable conversation flow as each person added to the discussion.

The food truck owners were well-represented. I recognized a number of them from the many times I've ordered lunch from their trucks. There were a few members of the community. Nearly every last one was there in support of the food trucks.

I know there will be some who won't believe me, but if you were there and stayed through the entire meeting from start to finish, you'd recognize that there was no organized effort to ban food trucks from Nob Hill. I know you've heard otherwise from the news media. I think sensational headlines get attention but they don't always get to the facts. The purpose of the meeting could be better characterized as preliminary and it was meant to be a first look at the ordinances that apply to food trucks and what possible changes may or may not need to be made. Much of the discussion focused on how to accommodate food trucks, rather than ways to drive them away.

The current ordinances are outdated. For instance, if enforced, they currently stipulate that food trucks should close operations by 9 p.m. That's an ordinance that some of the owners were not aware of. I know I wasn't. And it's one that's likely to be changed in favor of allowing the trucks to remain open later. There are other ordinances concerning noise levels, garbage cleanup, and parking that need to be addressed. Some of it is common sense stuff like cleaning up after yourself. That's much more a matter of self-regulation rather than requiring outside enforcement. Another concern is the noise of the generators. That's a situation where the truck operators were able to speak specifically to the NHNA's concerns regarding which generators can operate within current decibel level limits and what alternatives are available specifically in Nob Hill. It might require further discussion, but they were already headed in the right direction by the end of the meeting.

The parking situation is among the more precarious concerns. Parking is a premium in Nob Hill. So in the interest of fairness, it'll be important to find appropriate solutions. Even though the meeting was preliminary in nature, there were a number of ideas proposed by NHNA members, business owners, and food truck owners. It seems there will eventually be an equitable agreement in the future.

Keep in mind, "in the future" could be a good ways down the road. Ordinances don't change overnight. Some at the meeting speculated that changes could be a year away. No final decisions were made tonight. That wasn't the goal of the meeting. There will be more steps as the food truck owners work together to more clearly define their goals and then present them to the NHNA to see what can be worked out.

Let's all remember, as concerned as many of us were upon hearing there was even the possibility that food trucks could be banned, our level of concern pales in comparison to that of the food truck owners themselves. As some of them pointed out, many of them have invested their life savings into these trucks. They're going to do everything they can to stay informed and work within the system to ensure they can to stay competitive in business.

But that doesn't mean they don't need our help. We don't need to get hyped up over sensationalized headlines, but we do need to support food trucks with our business. It's a classic case of "put your money where your mouth is." Get out there, visit the breweries, go to Talin Market on Wednesdays, find the trucks wherever they are and order lunch. Eat dinner. Get dessert. Leave a tip.

That's how you support the local food trucks.


Unfussy Epicure said...

Thank you so much for this, Eric! I wish I could have been there, but Ive been sick the last couple of days. I'm glad there was lots of representation and good, constructive discussion. So sorry I missed the chance to meet you!

Aaron Birenboim said...

I see many food trucks filling a great need. There are many areas where food trucks can operate, but permanent restaurants cannot, or choose not to. I love the trucks by Marble Brewery. I'd like to see more around ares like UNM (Nob Hill-ish) where convenience and more competition would be welcomed, at least by consumers like me.