Police ask for a Social Security number in order to get aOne
permit, when many applicants are undocumented. Then there's the price,
with legal carts costing from $8,000 to $12,000 ― plus $1,500 in
license fees. Crowded Mission sidewalks leave few spots that would comply with
the space requirements, and carts can't offer any food available at an
existing brick-and-mortar establishment within two blocks, prohibiting
just about every dish in a neighborhood glutted with Latino eateries.
of Vendedores Unidos' main concerns is ensuring they get a piece
of the growing zeitgeist of street food in San Francisco. "With the
emergence of cart vendors, they are no longer exclusively low-income or
immigrant entrepreneurs," says Caleb Zigas, the director of La Cocina.
"It's people of different backgrounds. I think it's exciting, but I
think it shifts the conversation away from people who do this out of
necessity. I think people who do this out of necessity are very
interested in formalization."
Zigas says he wants to change local laws to legalize the sellers, create more locations
where they can sell legally, and even extend the curfew for late-night
sales. The program has already resulted in a few legit places for their
vendors. La Cocina contracted with the Rec and Park Department for a spot in
Dolores Park and Justin Hermann Plaza for their street vendors.
will hardly be unique to San Francisco. The hot
dog vendors in Los Angeles organized after too many were ticketed
by police. Rising Sun Entrepreneurs had success organizing food vendors in Oakland.
And City Hall has
shown interest in changing the status quo for the vendors here in San
Francisco. Supervisor Bevan Dufty hosted a hearing in the Operations and Neighborhood
Services Committee on the issue in March. After meeting with the Vendedores Unidos last week, Supervisor David Campos is
interested in introducing legislation to change the city's rules.
are bringing a vision of street vendor friendly zones similar to places
in New York City where there's a rich culture of having street vendors,"
says Sheila Chung Hagen, Campos' legislative aide. "Once things quiet down on some
other fronts, we'll be able to take a look at that."
Chung Hagen said they'd have to balance the needs of the street vendors with the
brick and mortar restaurants.
It sounds good to Lucero Munoz
Arellano, a Mexican native who grills hot dogs at 19th and Mission.
Munoz Arellano says the police have hauled her grill away twice, forcing her and her husband to have to fashion a new contraption each time. "I
don't want this to happen anymore. Let the people work, we're not doing
anything to anyone."
Muñoz Arellano's voice will be empowered by
those of several others if she can have her way. She's been attending
the first meetings of Vendedores Unidos and recruiting other vendors to
We have to wonder: Does a legal hot dog taste as good as an illicit one?