San Francisco Street Hot Dog Permitting is Bullshit

tl;dr: Getting a permit as a street hot dog vendor is really fucking hard.

Zach Bellay published on

16 min, 3008 words


Okay so I'm going to be going on a little rant here about street hot dogs in San

Francisco. So first of all if you don't know what it is in San Francisco people

on the street will you know they'll get like a grill and they'll post up set up

a operation where they are selling these delicious bacon wrapped hot dogs with

all these you know grilled peppers and onions and you know ketchup mustard

and whatever and they're great it's like six or seven bucks and they really

hit the spot you know so anyway I saw this tweet from the mayor London Breed

and she said we want food vendors to be permitted so we can ensure the food

being sold on our streets is safe and healthy San Francisco Department of

Public Health will continue to enforce our food safety laws that also continue

educating unpermitted vendors on how to get into compliance with the support

from the city okay and she's you know talking about how San Francisco is

cracking down on street hot dog vendors right so it's like okay number one I

mean I think it kind of goes without saying San Francisco has way bigger

problems than street hot dogs but I'll just you know steelman this argument a

bit so here's a tweet from the Department of Public Health right they

found somebody I guess selling these hot dogs and the way they were storing the

hot dogs was just in a box with no refrigeration on the street right which

you know that is pretty gnarly I probably wouldn't eat that if I knew that

that's how it was stored you know you probably you're pretty good I mean you

know decent chance you're definitely rolling to die here you might get sick

right you might get like you know the shits from this but you know that's why

they call it danger dogs and street meat right it's got a reputation anyway so I

saw this you know tweet from mayor London breed in this hackathon accelerate SF

was like okay well we would love to build a tool that makes it easy for to for

vendors to apply for permits at our hackathon this weekend so it's like yeah

that sounds great you know I can actually do something about this I'm a

coder so I could see if I can do something about it so I went and you know

did some research on it and tried to figure out you know if I'm a hot dog guy

if I'm the fun if I decide I want a career and you know selling hot dogs then

how do I do that legally right so you know if you Google San Francisco food

card permitting model come up is mobile food facilities right so click on that

and it says a mobile food facility is any vehicle or push cart used in

conjunction okay whatever so it's a push cart it's you know okay so now we know

that this applies to people that sell street hot dogs so we've got this flow

chart here I'm gonna open that up that's like okay so here's our flow chart which

as you might you know notice has a big food truck on it so this applies to food

trucks and to street carts so okay sure so let's see how you know I'm a law

abiding citizen I want to go apply for this permit and you know cross cross my

T's not my eyes whatever it's okay let's start so step one you know do your

research okay so it's kind of a lot of stuff but you know I guess starting

business isn't supposed to be you know easy per se so you know it's fair you

should probably do a little bit of research before you know what you're

getting into so it's like so it's like okay step really you know step two then

is choose a location it's okay that doesn't seem too unreasonable just find a

spot where you think you can sell out dogs okay step three draft a diagram so

let's see what this diagram looks like and it's like kind of complicated I don't

know if they want you to do it like this you know it seems like kind of a lot of

work for somebody that's I don't know if like a hand drawing is okay so I don't

know it's up in the air but okay whatever step four submit an application so

let's see this is the application a lot of it's like not too crazy but also this

is definitely more geared towards food trucks right like it says you know okay

so you have to get your business name mailing address you know proposed menu I

guess you know your hours of operation like I think a lot of these hot dog

vendors I think they kind of do it based on you know pop events and stuff that are

going on they just go to the hotspots you know Department of you know D&B

registration who cares that's not relevant so anyway okay so you felt this

form it's not like the worst thing in the world you know okay this thing is kind

of a pain in the ass it's sort of like a puzzle with this location or this location

diagram because now you got to like figure out all these constraints it's

like 12 feet from blue zone 8 from 8 from bus zone 7 from fire hydrant so

it's like you really got to like you know do all the stuff to like figure out

like how to optimize your location okay and then you know case you get some

other permits okay whatever so let's just assume we do all that you know we

figured out how to probably spent like the better part of like a day honestly

working on this diagram at least I probably take me that long and then now

we submit to public works and they review it now if they say no we're you

know back to square one really or square two and then if it does meet our

location requirement okay we're home free no we now need to do public

notification and for push cart so what does this mean basically it means that

we need to send people need to tell people within a 300 foot radius that

hey we're gonna set up shop right and I think this said that that's gonna take

takes 30 days let's see here yeah okay so then you have to set up this public

notification at the spot that you're gonna you know be posting up and you

also have to mail people that you're doing this and you know the Department

of Public Works will give you the mail but you have to mail everything now if

somebody objects you know you gotta okay number one a 300 foot radius in a city

is gonna probably have at least one person that objects right so there's

pretty good chance that somebody's gonna object and then they're gonna make your

come to your public hearing for your hot dog cart and then you're gonna have to

go to this public hearing they're gonna complain and it probably already took

30 days for that public hearing to be scheduled or whatever so again at this

point you're probably like three four months into this process and then you

know okay let's say they you know the director's like yeah you know your public

comment whatever we don't really care it's like not relevant or you know we

override you and you get approved great okay so we're finally at the kind of

almost last step you have tentative approval so now we just have to submit

you know insurance you got to get certificates from the fire department

Department of Public Health got a pair of fees which if you're like below a

certain income threshold they do wave a lot of your fees which is good and we

got to get a business license and then also I guess you know DMV doesn't really

apply for hot dog push cart okay let's say we do all that stuff then we complete

all that and then we get permit approved and then we have to renew annually

which got I hope this renew annually that's I didn't see that I hope that's

not as bad because this process is already brutal but anyway so this is the

process right it's like kind of a lot and basically if you look at the stats

here this is a like a report so this is like a report on street vendors in Los

Angeles so granted this isn't San Francisco but if we take a look at this

you'll see it says that of an estimated 10,000 sidewalk food vendors working in

the city of Los Angeles only 165 have received permits right so that's less

than 2% less than 2% of street vendors in LA have a permit which is just crazy

because like if literally in any system you had a less than 2% success rate you'd

be like oh yeah this is like clearly broken right so yeah obviously I mean

granted this is like for San Francisco but I would imagine it's probably pretty

similar if they have like such low success rates so yeah anyway pretty pretty

pretty bad there so what did we come up with at this hackathon so we kind of you

know whiteboarded this out a little bit as as one does so let me pull this up

there's a picture of our whiteboard we just kind of drew out our really that

flow chart into like a list and then we basically were like okay well maybe

there's ways technology could help like maybe we can automate choosing a

location and drawing the diagram and then maybe filling out the application

but like a lot of that information we kind of need to know regardless and then

we're like maybe we can do something about you know public notification like

maybe we can automate the mailing or something like that which that one's a

little harder and then last time we were like well maybe we could help automate

like applying for all these different certificates and licenses and you know

insurance and food safety or like maybe we could make like a website that makes

it easier to get all that stuff right but really really like thinking was like

okay in a perfect world right what would you want I mean really what you would

want I think is you only want a couple things you want like a business license

so you can get taxed basically food a handler is permit because I mean that

that makes sense and also yeah and then you want to buy approved equipment because

you know you don't want to get some sort of crazy real setup that catches

something on fire then you know so you want probably some sort of location

approval but I don't think you should have to draw these diagrams but basically

I think all this stuff should take maybe with the exception of buying the

equipment I think all this paperwork should take like at the most a day like

really should take like it should really just be like a trip to the DMV like it

sucks but it takes like half a day and then you're done right and then you're

on your on your merry way but you know obviously unfortunately we have this

crazy process here that takes like probably you know probably at the fastest

two months is what I guess I mean could you have to wait for this 30-day notice

thing so yeah anyway in it's just yeah so basically the reason why I even care

about this is another crazy thing is like in this report it says that you know

most those are most vendors toil in the hot sun for long hours bring home only

$15,000 per year now okay that being said right probably not all of these hot

dog vendors are this is probably not their only job like this is probably

supplemental income but you know let's say you are for whatever reason that is

your only job right $15,000 a year and then you're also getting hit with like

various fines and fees because like you're not permitted because like let's say

you know if you decide I'm gonna start a hot dog business because I just

immigrated from you know somewhere in Latin America because a lot of these

people that do these street carts are like you know Hispanic or Latin American

right and so it's like okay well you know honestly they're probably also

undocumented right so they probably can't work it like a minimum wage job that

has like regular protections so instead they have to take these like this

grilling job pushing around a hot dog stand and if they do want to get

permitted then they have to go through this insane permitting process which is

really catered I mean really this is just meant for for food trucks right

which are obviously much more well-capitalized than a street hot dog vendor so

you know it's basically what it is it's just it's just not fair right and

clearly the government has done a horrible job of actually getting any

sort of like permitting process set up for people that are just trying to make

me like eat a living out like so yeah I don't know you know if we're up to me what

I would do is really just streamline this I just get rid of a lot of this

bullshit I mean this is fucking crazy like you know like look at all the stuff

you had a gig I mean I mean the fact that you had to draw this diagram is

absurd like it makes sense for a food truck because honestly a lot of these

food trucks operate you know they got they have a lot more money you have to

buy as equipment I mean these food trucks are not cheap they probably cost

like four or five hundred grand from one of these food trucks right so you

probably got like I mean you know it's a lot of small business owners but you

you know you're in a lot better spot than if you're like somebody that's you

know selling hot dogs right so if it were up to me I would basically convert

this process down to like a couple steps where you basically just need to file a

business license literally just pick a location and be like it doesn't have to

be one location it can just be like maybe it's like your primary location or

whatever and then you just say you know here's my location and is a picture and

like a text description okay so that's easy equipment you know maybe the

government can actually approve some equipment which that'll be a little more

upfront work but there's just gonna be like a list of things that you choose

from and then the last thing would be you know the food handlers permit which I

did that in high school when I worked at the grocery store I think I did it you

know like two hours it was pretty easy so yeah I mean I think for a street hot

dog permit you mean all this stuff this is crazy you really only need like at

the most like half a day to do this paperwork and the current setup is just

way way way more than that so yeah man it's not fair you know it's oh here's

actually another thing so I talked to this gal who works for works at City

Hall and I was like hey we we actually ended up dropping out of this hackathon

because excuse me because we were like we don't think there's a technical solution

to this and so we messaged her and we basically you know in few words we're

just like hey we don't think this is actually let me just read this I said

at least as of right now we don't think there's really a tech solution to this

per se as much as it as much as it is new legislation that needs to be passed

or streamlined this process for street vendors and she says I think your

assessment is right the system is very complicated very onus for folks who's

trying to get by right so you know there's your kind of your I mean

confirmation right that it is in fact too complicated and that system just isn't

really geared towards towards people that are you know lower income so yeah

I don't know it's it's just yeah I mean obviously San Francisco does have a lot

worse problems than street hotdog vendors but it's still leaves a bad taste in my

mouth you know because these people these are hard-working people I mean it's like

I would say you try getting out there if you think it's easy you try getting out

there pushing a hot dog cart for 15k a year because I bet you you're not gonna

like it so yeah I think you know we should be at the bare minimum be not

penalizing people for doing this hard work and you know we should be bringing

them into the system so that we have more than a 2% permitting rate so yeah

anyway that's my rant yep thanks for listening

Categories: Politics