by Jesse Hirsch
At a meeting last week of Oakland’s Community and Economic Development Committee, members voted to push forward a resolution allowing for provisional mobile-food events while the city hammers out a long-term plan.
It’s an interim policy only affecting four districts, and this was merely a preliminary vote before it hits Oakland City Council, but you wouldn’t know it from the impassioned speechifying. Around a dozen people grabbed the mic, including new and old-school mobile-food vendors, representatives of the Oakland and California restaurant associations, nonprofit advocates like Rising Sun Entrepreneurs and the Oakland Food Policy Council, and event organizers Elizabeth August and Karen Hester.
Brick and mortar restaurant advocates (Mark Everton of the Oakland Restaurant Association, Paul Junge of the Chamber of Commerce, etc.) voiced a now-rote concern: ensuring that mobile-food vendors are subject to the same permitting requirements and regulations as their static counterparts. They also wanted to make sure food trucks couldn’t set up shop in, say, a restaurant parking lot.
Many speakers were in agreement that unlicensed rogue vendors hurt mobile and non-mobile vendors alike. And some, like Shelly Garza of Rising Sun, wanted to be sure that priority be given to Oakland-based vendors, especially ones with seniority.
Committee members batted the resolution around for a bit, with Nancy Nadel of District 3 piping up that she is jazzed for food trucks to visit West Oakland. Patricia Kernighan of District 2 wanted to know why a temporary resolution was even necessary when Oakland was clearly on the cusp of implementing a comprehensive long-term mobile food plan (mm-hm). Zac Wald, chief of staff to the resolution’s co-author Jane Brunner, countered that precedent has shown that it could be a long time before the city agrees on a permanent policy. In the meantime, Wald said Oakland shouldn’t be denied “these fun events that happen in other cities.”
Ultimately the resolution passed, with the caveats that a) priority be given to licensed Oakland-based vendors, and b) notification be given to nearby residents and retailers before a mobile-food event is permitted. The resolution will go before Oakland City Council on December 6.
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