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Help the food truck owners

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FEBRUARY 26, 2013

The food trucks formerly located in front of Sproul Plaza need the city’s help. The trucks’ owners, who say they signed four-year permits with the city last year, were displaced after being asked to move in December due to construction in Lower Sproul Plaza. Now, one owner estimates losses of up to $30,000 per month — a situation the city must reverse.

While the city has said it is under no legal obligation to relocate the trucks or compensate the owners, it has a moral obligation to do so. First of all, Berkeley has fostered a commercial climate friendly to small businesses, as is apparent by the relatively high number of mom-and-pop stores in town. These trucks, at least one of which is student-run, fit that mold and deserve all the support Berkeley can provide.

The city should also feel compelled to help because it could have avoided the situation entirely. Plans for major construction to renovate Lower Sproul have been in the works for several years — the city should have been able to anticipate a conflict with the trucks’ location. Knowing that the location could eventually become problematic, the city, not the truck owners, should have been able to devise a solution in advance or limit the length of the permits.

UC Berkeley students are heavily impacted by the trucks’ disappearance. Coupled with the loss of vendors in Lower Sproul — also due to the construction — the lack of food trucks on Bancroft Way and Telegraph Avenue has diminished eating options near campus. The trucks provided a cheap, easy option as well as an alternative to campus-sponsored dining. Due to the closure of other campus eateries, they are needed now more than ever.

Because of this, the campus should also be more proactive in accommodating the trucks. An administrator told The Daily Californian that alternate spots were unfeasible due to concerns about visibility and emergency vehicle access, but it’s hard to believe that, on a campus as large as ours, there are no legitimate options. Given the trucks’ importance to students, the ASUC should advocate for an on-campus spot for the trucks to set up shop.

The truck owners cannot continue to struggle without assistance from either the city or the campus. Furthermore, the current campus dining climate proves there is a need for the trucks if they are able to find a suitable location to conduct business. Ensuring their speedy relocation will benefit students, other residents and the local business climate alike.

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FEBRUARY 25, 2013