Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 8 / 22 February 2018

Castro Food trucks serve up controversy

Business Briefs

Manager-buyer Josh Ellman, owner Petyr Kane, and lead Kyle Snyder celebrated the opening of Citizen's new Castro Street location. (See item below.) Photo: Steven Kasapi.
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Since the opening of the Jane Warner Plaza parklet at the corner of Castro and Market, people have complained about a variety of visitors drawn to the new open space, including the homeless, nudists, and pigeons. Add to that list a new source of controversy: food trucks.

Recently the Chevron station at 2399 Market Street, which fronts the plaza, has begun hosting a succession of gourmet food trucks. Many customers of the trucks sit at the plaza tables to enjoy the mobile eats.

For Dennis Ziebell, co-owner of Orphan Andy's (3991-A 17th Street), this clearly violates the intended purpose of the plaza.

"The plaza is meant to benefit the entire neighborhood, the community. It isn't meant to become a food court providing cafeteria seating for food trucks," he said.

But Ziebell's concerns go beyond seating, to what he sees as negative effects on the entire neighborhood from the trucks.

"Most of the merchants in the Castro like food trucks and think they are a good thing ... in the proper locations. But the city has created a bad economic policy in terms of where they allow these trucks to operate," said Ziebell.

According to Ziebell, the ordinances covering food trucks were changed recently, making it much easier for trucks parked on private property to receive permits. Ziebell does not believe that the trucks at the Chevron station are operating illegally, but he thinks that the permitting process did not properly weigh the concerns of the neighborhood hosting the trucks.

"The trucks do not contribute to the neighborhood. They truck the food in and then they truck the money out," Ziebell said. "The original benefit of these food trucks was to provide food options in underserved areas, not to park in areas with lots of other restaurants and businesses."

The subject of food truck permitting was taken up at the Castro and Upper Market Community Benefit District's Services Committee meeting September 7. The CBD board meets tonight (Thursday, September 8) from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the Castro Community Meeting Room on the second floor of the Bank of America building (501 Castro Street).

"The question we are posing is this: Will the CBD board of directors speak up to ask the planning department, the mayor's office, and the Board of Supervisors to revisit and amend the ordinances as written and take into consideration the neighborhoods where these private property food trucks are operating?" asked Ziebell.

Ziebell is a member of the CBD board, but he made it clear that he was speaking as an individual. "I am speaking as a resident and as a business owner in the neighborhood," he said.

Complicating the situation is the fact that the owner of the Chevron station, Pat Sahagun, is also a CBD board member. Sahagun did not return a request for comment for this column.

Steve Adams, president of the Merchants of Upper Market and Castro and vice president of the San Francisco Small Business Commission, confirmed that the SBC has heard similar complaints about the food trucks from other neighborhood merchants, in particular in the Fisherman's Wharf and Mission districts. Adams said that he is organizing a hearing to clarify the permitting process for food trucks, especially for ones operating on private property.

When contacted for comment, Supervisor Scott Wiener , whose district includes the Castro neighborhood, said, "I am very supportive of the food truck movement, but it has to be done in a way that is respectful to brick and mortar businesses. We shouldn't create unfair competition and should have a transparent process. ... Regarding the truck in the Chevron lot, I will be speaking with the concerned merchants this week and others in the neighborhood as well."

Castro businesses in flux

As San Francisco gets ready for its warmest months, a number of Castro businesses are opening or facing other changes.

D and H Sustainable Jewelers (2323 Market Street) has announced the opening of Rose Cut Wine Bar, situated on the mezzanine at the rear of the store. In a press release, co-owner Lindsay Daunell said, "Rose Cut will feature a hand-picked selection of local and sustainable wines from a single vineyard that will rotate every few months."

Citizen men's clothiers celebrated the grand opening of its new location at 489 Castro Street with a party and fundraiser on September 1. Raffle tickets were sold to raise money for Project Inform (, an advocacy group for people with HIV/AIDS.

Gingerfruit (2029 Market Street) has a new manager, a new chef, and a new menu. According to new general manager Tina Lauchengco, who replaced former GM Henry Lamb, the Asian tapas menu, which launched the restaurant earlier this summer, has been replaced with a more traditional salads and entrees menu. Driving the kitchen makeover is Daniel Onedrea, who moved over from the recently closed Home restaurant, which is currently looking for a new tenant.

The grand opening of Bryan Roberts Salon and Color Bar was held on August 27. The salon at 561 Castro Street includes a full-service Aveda spa, and is the brainchild of co-owners Bryan McKay and Robert Lee .

Outside of the Castro, South of Market bar Truck (1900 Folsom Street) welcomes a new co-owner this month, Matt Mikesell. Mikesell, creator of the popular Bearracuda parties, will take over promotional work for Truck. A relaunch party is scheduled for Saturday, September 10 to welcome Mikesell onboard.

New music permit proposed

Supervisors Wiener and Ross Mirkarimi have proposed a new limited live music permit that would make it cheaper and easier for bars, cafes, and restaurants to feature live entertainment. The new permit would cover performances that cannot be heard outside of the venue and which end before 10 p.m., such as a guitar player in a cafe.

"The legislation will provide opportunities for businesses to create more interesting and vibrant atmospheres for their customers, without breaking the bank to get a permit," said Wiener.

The first reading of the legislation passed unanimously, and the second reading was scheduled for Tuesday, September 6. If all goes as expected, Wiener anticipates that the legislation will be signed into law by next week.

Music in the plaza

The final Sunday Music in the Castro event will happen this Sunday, September 11, from 1 to 2 p.m. at Jane Warner Plaza. Swing vocalist Belinda Blair will perform at the free event, sponsored by the Castro CBD.

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