Students rally against nonrenewal of food truck permits

Zainab Ali/Staff

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With the permits of three food trucks located at Bancroft Way and College Avenue set to expire at the end of March, students rallied Tuesday against their nonrenewal.

Permits for the three food trucks — issued nearly three years ago — noted that the licenses would not be renewed at the time of their expiration. About 30 students attended the Tuesday rally protesting the relocation of the food trucks — Healthy Heavenly Foods, Dojo Dog and Kettle Corn Star.

The food trucks’ presence has garnered complaints from surrounding businesses and the campus. Many students from the UC Berkeley School of Law, however, are upset by the planned removal of these mobile food vendors from the Bancroft Way-College Avenue location by the law school.

“(The city) has been fairly mum on other options,” said Misha Tsukerman, a third-year law student who organized the rally. “We deserve a choice on where to eat.”

The permits, originally issued to the three food trucks in 2013, were extended for two one-year periods. Councilmember Kriss Worthington previously proposed that the city help relocate the food trucks instead of simply letting the permits expire, which would disallow the vendors from continuing to operate at their current location.

Jordan Klein, the city’s economic development project coordinator, said he has periodically met with Ann Mylinh Vu, the owner of Healthy Heavenly Foods, since August 2015 to talk about potential alternatives to the College Avenue and Bancroft Way location, such as permanent brick and mortar buildings.

“We’ve reached out to the businesses all along,” Klein said. “They’ve known that this was coming for years.”

In 2002, the city acknowledged the campus’s right to expel mobile food vendors from the property. The campus moved the trucks from Bancroft Way and Telegraph Avenue back in 2013 because of construction of the Lower Sproul Redevelopment Project.

Campus representatives have previously said the food trucks impede the flow of traffic and potential emergency operations.

Surrounding business owners, such as Daryl Ross, the owner of Caffe Strada, have complained that the city mishandled the 2013 relocation of the food trucks.

“What I do have any issue with is any neighbor not being respectful of my business,” Ross said.

Ross has submitted letters of complaint saying customers who frequent the food trucks use Strada’s condiment counters, tables and bathrooms.

Klein said the businesses had made a number of commitments in their current licenses, including commitments to display signs requesting that customers respect neighboring businesses and refrain from leaving equipment in the public right of way. The mobile vendors have not complied with these stipulations, according to Klein.

“I don’t think we’re causing a nuisance,” said Rebecca Shih, who works at Dojo Dog.

Vu said the business is her family’s primary income. The Boalt Hall Student Association passed a resolution in support of renewing the food trucks’ permits with unanimous approval, according to Noah Ickowitz, the co-president of the association.

Tsukerman said Vu will lose her livelihood if her permit isn’t renewed.

“She is already supporting her disabled husband and a nephew who has recently immigrated from Vietnam,” Tsukerman said in an email. “Students have organized a rally … to show the City of Berkeley … the depth of support students have for Ms. Vu.”

Tsukerman said Vu and the other vendors provide “affordable, tasty, fast food options.” He also said students support Vu because she is an entrepreneur who is a woman of color and a refugee.

Tsukerman said he and Vu plan to meet with Worthington to discuss their options.

According to the city manager’s report on the expiration of the permits, the city could either determine that there are no suitable locations for the vendors in the Telegraph district or choose to issue new permits for a new location, an action that the report notes might “alienate” Telegraph district businesses.

Contact Shradha Ganapathy at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @sganapathy_dc

A previous version of this article incorrectly attributed the quote “She is already supporting her disabled husband and a nephew who has recently immigrated from Vietnam … Students have organized a rally…to show the City of Berkeley…the depth of support students have for Ms. Vu” to Noah Ickowitz. In fact, it was said in an email by Misha Tsukerman.