Telegraph food trucks struggle to relocate

Food truck owners, Michael Koh, of Dojo Dog and Ann Vu of Healthy Heavenly Foods (pictured above) had to move off the property in December to make room for Lower Sproul construction.
Michael Gethers/Staff
Food truck owners, Michael Koh, of Dojo Dog and Ann Vu of Healthy Heavenly Foods (pictured above) had to move off the property in December to make room for Lower Sproul construction.

After being asked to vacate in December, the owners of the food trucks previously located in front of Sproul Plaza find themselves still rapidly losing money with nowhere to go.

The city notified Michael Koh, Ann Vu and Jack Huynh, respective owners of Dojo Dog, Healthy Heavenly Foods and Kettle Corn Star, to move off the property in December to make room for Lower Sproul construction.  The vendors are now saying that they will have to take legal action if the city does not find them alternative locations or compensate them for their business losses.

The city, however, is under no legal obligation to do so, according to Pamela Embry, spokesperson for the city manager’s office.

“I’m still waiting to come back to work,” said Vu. “If the city does not bring me back into business, then we will need to take legal action, because this is not right.”

Huynh estimates they are each losing a potential $15,000 to $30,000 a month while they remain out of business.

The owners, who invested in the trucks last year under a four-year permit program with the city, said they cannot afford to keep paying the trucks’ parking permits or insurance without the alternative locations or compensation.

Koh, also a UC Berkeley senior, alleges that the city must have known about the construction plans beforehand and failed to notify the owners before they entered the food-truck program. Heather Murphy, the city’s finance department manager, denied the allegations in an email.

Moreover, although an extensive search for alternative locations on campus was conducted in January, the city has stopped looking after not being able to find any new sites due to concerns from the university, Murphy said.

“In some cases, they were making accessibility and walking difficult,” said Beth Piatnitza, the campus’s associate director of physical and environmental planning. “(The trucks) block the visibility of the crosswalks for pedestrians, and there were concerns about access for emergency vehicles.”

Additionally, it’s difficult for the vendors to move to alternate locations due to the complicated permit process.

“To apply for permits,  we really need the city’s help,” said Koh. “You can’t just bring the trailer anywhere. Different locations have different permits.”

Embry was not able to expand on why the city has stopped searching for new locations, stating that she has “nothing further to add at this time.”

For the three owners, who depend heavily on the money earned from their trucks, the inability to relocate or find compensation bodes poorly.

“I am a student,” Koh said. “I still have to pay tuition and living expenses. The city’s attitude is, ‘I don’t care.’”

Alyssa Neumann covers city government. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @AlyNeumann.

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