Sunday, April 15, 2012

SactoMoFo - One Year Later

They say the wheels of government turn slowly. Or, to use another analogy, sometimes your issue gets put on the back burner while the City Council deals with the boil-over pot on the front burner with the mess of the Kings and the arena deal.

Next Saturday is SactoMoFo 4, which is almost exactly a year after the first one. When my ex-partners and I created SactoMoFo, it was to bring awareness to the restrictive food truck ordinances in Sacramento. To do that, we held the first Sacramento Mobile Food (SactoMoFo) Festival at Fremont Park. 
Note: I left SacoMoFo last summer to pursue my own interests and truck advocacy under my other site, SacFoodTrucks.net. 
We knew that the best way to get the City's attention was to bring the new gourmet trucks together in one location. Next bring the citizens and the City Council and let them see the quality of the trucks and the food they provide as well as the popularity and the demand.


To say it was a success is an understatement. On a beautiful, sunny day there were about 10,000 people coming to enjoy the new generation of food trucks. And even though there were two hour lines and trucks that ran out of food, everyone was happy! The overwhelming feedback we got from the event was that it was a fun day and WE WANT FOOD TRUCKS! Even better, the restaurants in a one mile radius were also swamped from the overflow and had their best days ever.

Three days later Councilman Fong sat at City Council and directed City staff to start looking at revising the food truck ordinances. Hurrah!

And yet here we are one year later and NOTHING has been changed. We still have the 30 minute time limit and other restrictions. 

During the summer the City staff held a few meetings with restaurateurs, truck owners, and advocates. I can tell you that nothing was accomplished at those either. The (anti-truck) restaurateurs complained that trucks were unfair and would affect their businesses. (It should be noted that this argument is used by restaurant owners in every U.S. city that has food trucks. We are not alone.) The trucks provided the City their wishlist of what they would like to see change. After three meetings that were just repeats of the first meeting (as in no progress being made), the City said they would take the information they had gathered and try to revise the ordinances.

In November the issue was slated and then pulled when it became evident that City staff hadn't really come up with anything. Staff told us that they were talking to the Council members and felt that they still had no direction to base new ordinances on.

In March the issue was slated again with a few very minor ordinance changes to be proposed. Then it got pulled again. The reason (or excuse)? Assemblyman Monning's ridiculous bill AB1678 that would regulate the distance of food trucks from schools. The City Council's supposed thought process was that "we should wait to see what the State does before we change our ordinances" since State supersedes City. Even though Monning's bill was only focusing on schools, the City's stance was that bills get changed all the time as they go through the legislative process and so it could eventually evolve into something that would influence our requested changes.

In only a few weeks AB1678 was gone. Monning at first tried to alter it before finally giving it up altogether. The bill was ill conceived with absolutely no reliable data to back it up. But more importantly, the entire state rose up against it. I can't think of one publication that wasn't against it. With so much public outcry, there was no way for Monning to get support from any other legislator.

Now it's April and the one year anniversary of SactoMoFo. There are rumblings that there is some discussion in the Capitol to change the State regulations of food trucks. My opinion is that it would take a very long time and face a huge amount of opposition from the populace once again. People are now in love with their gourmet trucks and will fight to protect them.

That brings us to SactoMoFo 4 next week and another call to action. Once again it is important for people to show up in numbers to reinforce our stance - we want the trucks and we want ordinance changes! 

Don't be worried that it will be as chaotic and crowded as last year. This year it is in a bigger location, with more vendors, for a longer time. At SactoMoFo 3 last December, the crowds had decreased in the afternoon so that the lines were short or even non-existent. This time they are adding a beer garden and a stage for the music performers. There's plenty of parking in the area. There is really no reason for you not to come. Just remember the important things: bring plenty of cash, maybe a folding chair, and your appetite.

SactoMoFo 4 - under the freeways at 6th & W
Saturday, April 21 from 11 - 6
Bring food donations for the Sacramento Food Bank






















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