Oakland to vote on proposal for food truck program

The Oakland City Council will vote on a proposal to have a pilot program that would allow mobile food vendors to do business in parts of the city.

December 6, 2011 6:12:13 PM PST
The Oakland City Council will vote tonight on a proposal by council members Rebecca Kaplan and Jane Brunner to have a pilot program that would allow mobile food vendors to do business in parts of the city.

Speaking at a news conference at Frank Ogawa Plaza in front of City Hall next to three mobile food trucks that were set up for the occasion, Brunner said the proposal would allow "food pods" in four of the city's eight council districts -- districts 1,2,3 and 4.

"Some council members would be delighted to have the food pods in their districts but some don't want them," Brunner said.

She said she wants the food trucks because "Oakland is in a food renaissance and our night scene is one of the best in the country."

Kaplan said she wants to "support a new ordinance to create a permitting system for food events that are legal, regulated and have county health permits."

She said, "We are celebrating the growth of home-grown food and local entrepreneurs who are contributing health foods to neighborhoods that need it."

Kaplan said she and Brunner have tried to address the concerns of the owners of traditional brick-and-mortar restaurants by including them in the process of drafting the ordinance.

She said the food pods normally won't be placed in areas where there are existing restaurants and business owners will get advance notice and an opportunity to comment before the food pods are allowed to set up shop.

The proposed ordinance defines a food pod event as the clustering of two or more mobile food vendors on a temporary basis in a commercial, industrial or open-space zoning district.

A food pod event organizer would be able to apply for a special food pod event business permit for no more than one date per week and up to 40 dates in a year.

If the pilot program is approved, it would stay in effect until a permanent policy is drafted, which Kaplan and Brunner hope will happen sometime next year.

Brunner said she thinks a majority of council members will approve the pilot program tonight.

One of the vendors in Frank Ogawa Plaza today sold nachos and hot dogs, another sold hamburgers and black bean burgers and the other one sold Indian food.

Several Occupy Oakland protesters, who have set up a symbolic teepee in the plaza, interrupted the news conference by Kaplan and Brunner.

One woman said she wanted free food and complained that "we can't get no jobs."

Two men also said they wanted to have free food.

When Oakland Mayor Jean Quan showed up after the news conference to buy some food at the vendor that was selling Indian food she was verbally harassed by a man who said he was upset that police officers tear-gassed him when they raided the Occupy Oakland encampment.

The man yelled obscenities at Quan and alleged that she had allowed police officers to use tactics that have been outlawed by the Geneva Convention.

When an onlooker objected to the obscenities he was shouting at Quan, the man said, "Anywhere she goes, I'll be there."

Protesters also verbally jousted with Councilman Larry Reid, an Occupy Oakland critic who watched the news conference but didn't participate in it.

Quan didn't comment on the man's verbal attack but said she supports having mobile food vendors in parts of Oakland, saying the vendors "are part of the whole urban scene these days."

Quan said she thinks the food pods will be good additions in parts of the city that she said are "food deserts with not as many restaurants and choices" of places to eat.

The mayor said she also wants to ensure that the food pods don't hurt the business of more traditional restaurants.

The City Council's meeting is scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. in the council chambers on the third floor of City Hall.

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