Sunday, September 30, 2012

Sacramento's First Mobile Food Pod

SOMA Streat Food Park
I have a dream - of a mobile food pod in Sacramento. That dream will hopefully come true within the next six months. You can get a glimpse of the dream this coming Saturday, October 6th.

My most popular blog post over my five years of blogging has been "Mobile Food Pods Revitalize Neighborhoods". First written in August of 2010, this post first explained mobile food pods and how I could see them as being beneficial to areas of Sacramento (and any other city). There have been studies that show that mobile food pods improve property values, decrease crime, and improve neighborhood community by creating family oriented social areas.

Basically permanent food courts for food trucks, they are a common sight in Portland, Oregon and Austin, Texas. Usually the property owners just take a vacant parking or empty lot and rent out spaces to food trucks/carts. Sometimes they will add amenities such as shelters, bathrooms, and ATMs. A few months ago San Francisco opened their first permanent one, the SOMA Streat Food Park, which I've visited and posted on.This pod is significantly better in that the property owners built permanent structures and and spent a lot of money to turn the property into an inviting space.

Sacramento is close to allowing our first mobile food pods. Some of the ordinances currently being drafted by the City of Sacramento include a pilot of five mobile food pods within City boundaries. At the Law & Legislation Committee meeting on September 18th Councilman Jay Schenirer mentioned that he was aware of at least three that were in the works. Part of the upcoming ordinances say that the mobile food pods must be run by a mobile food association. So far, in Sacramento, there is only one formally filed association - the CA Mobile Food Association (CalMFA), publicly known as Foodmob


This Saturday you are invited to see the first food pod being planned by the CalMFA and property owner Skip Rosenbloom. Located in The Grid in the Alkali Flat area, it has the potential to be something really great.  Let me see if I can paint a picture for you because what you will see on Saturday is only the bare bone beginnings of a promising space.

Unlike any other mobile food pod I'm aware of in the country, this location incorporates the use of an existing building. The property consists of an old loading dock that takes up the block in the shape of a U. On Saturday you will find up to ten mobile food vendors in the center of the U. Around them are the raised loading docks which could be used in the future for stages for bands, booths, seating, or more. The buildings have the giant garage doors which roll up. Picture outdoor movie nights with movies playing up against them covered by a screen. 

The U-shaped building will gradually be renovated a bit in the future. First will be the seating in the left arm of the U. Here you will have sheltered seating to eat your food whether it be seeking shade in the heat of summer or keeping dry from the rain in the winter. Swamp coolers and heat lamps will be used to regulate the temperature. Also, the giant garage doors can be raised or lowered to help with circulation and temperature control. 

The other sections of the building will be developed at a later date. Parts of it are currently leased and arrangements need to be negotiated or arranged with those tenants on whether they decide to stay or not. One tenant, for instance, is a recording studio. But the hope is that the studio will stay and actually help in providing some of the musical entertainment.

For the other empty parts of the building the hope is that other similar or compatible businesses could become tenants. Imagine a wine tasting room or a microbrewery moving in. How about a charcuterie or a cheese monger?

Rosenbloom has been working with an architect for some time to plan out the development of the property in phases. The first phase is pretty easy, getting the trucks in and providing the basics of seating and bathrooms. Other phases will take more time. That's why you need to be able to picture it, as I do, of what the potential is for two years from now. I honestly believe that, once completed, this mobile food pod could be the envy of other cities. I can see it as a shining example of how mobile food, neighborhoods, and city governments can work together to create viable ways to revitalize properties that create economic opportunities for everyone involved.



The preview event is taking place Saturday, October 6th from 5-9 pm at 1425 C Street as a benefit for the Francis House, which is located across the street from the site. Francis House provides countless services for homeless individuals and families. There will be music, a beer garden, and food provided by CalMFA trucks such as Wicked Wich, California Love Truck, and many more. 
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