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Streamlined Rules for San Francisco Street-Food Vendors

The Board of Supervisors recently passed legislation that streamlines rules for mobile vending, making it easier and cheaper to be a legal street-food vendor in San Francisco. At the Tuesday meeting, the Supes took up rules changes that in past weeks were approved by both the Planning Commission and the City Operations and Neighborhood Services Committee, reforming rules for sales on both public and private property and making getting a permit less expensive over the long haul.

Supervisor Bevan Dufty had sponsored the legislation, which shifts the responsibility fo regulating street food from police to the Department of Public Works. “Ultimately this is about San Francisco having more understandable and thoughtful rules and regulations of mobile vending,” Dufty said at yesterday’s meeting. He called S.F. a “city of dynamic cuisines and opportunities,” and expressed confidence that the streamlined rules would better reflect that.

Dufty cited weekly Off the Grid events at Civic Center Plaza and at Waller and Stanyan as evidence that “mobile food activity can dramatically activate public spaces.” Though the restaurant community has sometimes been at odds with mobile vendors ― restaurant owners have accused street-food vendors of engaging in unfair competition with brick and mortars ― Dufty specifically acknowledged Kevin Westlye of the Golden Gate Restaurant Association as a supporter of the rule changes, which also open up to mobile vendors neighborhoods that have previously been off limits. “This will open up economic activity, add to the vibrancy of the food culture and food environment of San Francisco,” Dufty said, “and reflects the fact that it’s difficult for many people to step in and open a restaurant.”

Dan Sider, a senior planner with the city’s Planning Department, told SFoodie he was struck by the broad support the legislation had within city government and throughout the wider community. “It’s always surprising in city government when you actually get a broad consensus, and we pulled it off.”