The supervisors are weighing in on a state bill that would ban food truck from parking within 1500 feet of schools -- and it's really tricky.
Let's start with a bit of reality: My kids go to public schools, my son's in middle school, he rides Muni home -- and there's ample opportunity for him to buy some really nasty stuff. There's a 7-Eleven a couple of blocks from his school, and kids walk over there all the time and buy those disgusting 32-ounce sugar bombs. If a truck selling chips and soda and greasy tacos showed up at 3:30 p.m., the kids would be lined up to spend the money their parents though was going for a nice healthy lunch.
And the trucks would go there, if they could, the same way the ice cream trucks used to cruise through my suburban neighborhood in the 1960s (yeah, I'm old, old, old) in the late afternoon, when they could guarantee America's children would be hungry and ready to spoil their supper.
But they can't, see, because San Francisco already bans food trucks from within 1,500 feet of a public middle school or high school -- which is a pretty broad zone.
Now Assemblymember Bill Monning has introduced a bill that would make that ban statewide -- and would include middle schools and private schools. Sounds good, and some healthy-food advocates love it. But San Francisco's a little different than, say, Hayward or Fresno -- this is such a dense city that there are schools almost everywhere. If you ban food trucks from within 1,500 feet of all schools, then you ban them from about 80 percent of the city. Burrito Justice has a great set of maps that give you the picture (burritohibition!)
The maps also suggest the problems with banning anything from within 1,500 feet of a school in San Francisco. Pot clubs, liquor stores, sex clubs ... there are all sorts of places where you really don't want your kids hanging out, but if you make those broad exclusions, you force them all into a very few small areas (including northern Soma, the waterfront and Bayview) and that's not exactly fair, either. Should all the food trucks in the city be congregated in those crowded places that fit the 1,500 foot rule?
My 10-year-old daughter walks through the heart of the Castro, which is probably within 1,500 feet of her school, and there's some stuff in the storefronts that isn't exactly age appropriate, and we deal. She asked me once why people were walking around naked, and I said "because they like to," and she shrugged and that was that.My 12-year-old son knows that people smoke pot and that it's legal for adults to use as medicine; I don't think the notion of him walking past a well-regulated dispensary is going to make him any more (or less, god help me) likely to try some for himself some day.
So I'm kind of with Sup. Scott Wiener, who wants the city to oppose the Monning bill -- not because I want trucks selling Doritos out in front of Aptos in the afternoon, but because I think San Francisco already prevents that, and 1,500 feet is way too much for a city this size. Maybe amend the bill to allow cities to make their own rules, but have the state rules apply if they don't. Maybe allow cities beyond a certain density to change the distance to 500 feet.
Maybe think a little more about what it really means to ban things because they're close to schools. It doesn't always make sense.
PS: Actually, I'm thinking maybe we should ban all multimillion-dollar condos from anywhere within 5,000 feet of a school. Exposing the impressionable minds of small children to such graphic, disgusting, ostentatious displays of wealth has to be bad for them. Worse than seeing a sex club, anyway.