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Food Truck No-Fly Zone

February 21, 2012

For those with long memories, Burrito Justice pretty much got started because of the city’s rather ridiculous 1500 foot no-fly zone for taco trucks around high schools. But our friendly food trucks are being attacked again.

While we are sympathetic to the argument that food trucks are undercutting school lunch programs, the evidence and logic are thinner than a tortilla:

  • High school kids, presuming they can leave campus at all, can still go to convenience stores and restaurants that are often closer than taco trucks.
  • The students did not seem to be going to the taco trucks anyway.

But a new threat is on the horizon, more specifically from that not particularly useful part of Sacramento known as the State Legislature — a bill is in the works banning food trucks around ALL schools, elementary through high schools.

The esteemed data miner Brian Mount has been kind enough to create an interactive map showing the food truck banishment zone. It’s still in the works, but here’s a preliminary version.

  • light red circles show the existing SF exclusion zone around high schools
  • dark red circles show the proposed state expansion of the exclusion zone around primary schools
  • blue dots show location of food trucks

The aggregate area of all exclusion zones is 62 square miles, greater than the size of the our 7×7 city!

  • Note the circles on this map are 1650′ to account for the size of the schools themselves (assuming 300’x300′).
  • The legislation is vague, and it’s not clear if private schools may or may not be included — here’s a map showing both.
  • We’re looking to see what other data layers might be interesting (restaurants and convenience stores?)

We’re constantly editing the map, but this link will take you to the latest interactive version.

AB-1678 is a well meaning but poorly thought out law. None of us want trans-fat laden food trucks serving school kids. But 1500′ is complete overkill, especially in densely populated urban areas. There are ways to protect school lunch programs without punishing adults or killing off our vibrant food trucks. As a parent, I’m more upset at all the crapsicle push carts that aggregate outside elementary schools than the thought of a high school senior absconding with al pastor.

IANAL, but why not a more reasonable exclusion zone, similar to the 600′ for liquor stores, along with a ban on selling food to minors during the day?


Supervisor Scott Wiener comments:

I am seriously considering legislation to reduce San Francisco’s current 1,500 foot requirement for middle and high schools. There’s no reason for the distance to be more than a city block (approximately 500 feet on average). I also question why middle schools were included in the original legislation, given that San Francisco public middle schools are all closed campuses, which I confirmed with district staff.

Here’s a map showing the impact of a 500′ radius (actually 650′, assuming the same 300’x300′ school size):

And of course, here’s an animated GIF showing the difference between this reasonable proposal and the other unreasonable one:

Let the maelstrom pour forth in the comments.

21 Comments leave one →
  1. February 21, 2012 5:27 pm


  2. February 21, 2012 5:35 pm

    Since when are school lunch programs, purveyors of inedible institutional slop since time immemorial, something that we need to “protect”?

    • February 21, 2012 5:49 pm

      I’ll give the SFUSD credit — the high school lunch menu looks much healthier now than it did 3 years ago.

    • mark permalink
      February 21, 2012 5:59 pm

      @johnnyo it’s sad when they have to label shit as “healthy”… as opposed to all the other stuff that’s unhealthy?

  3. Herr Doktor Professor Deth Vegetable permalink
    February 21, 2012 5:40 pm

    I don’t think that there should be ANY exclusion zone. Most food trucks these days probably sell food that is better and better for you than school lunches.

  4. February 21, 2012 7:39 pm

    Wait, why is it only foodtrucks, and not restaurants, too? Most taquerias are just doublewide taco trucks on a pad.

  5. February 21, 2012 10:49 pm

    Thank you for posting this and for the map. I’ve asked City staff to prepare a map as well, and if there are any significant differences, I’ll let you know. Clearly, this map shows how ill-advised AB 1678 is. I intend to work very hard to defeat it or, at a minimum, to allow local jurisdictions to opt out of this very suburban distance requirement.

    In addition, I am seriously considering legislation to reduce San Francisco’s current 1,500 foot requirement for middle and high schools. There’s no reason for the distance to be more than a city block (approximately 500 feet on average). I also question why middle schools were included in the original legislation, given that San Francisco public middle schools are all closed campuses, which I confirmed with district staff.

    Stay tuned.
    –Supervisor Scott Wiener

    • February 22, 2012 1:11 am

      Scott Wiener!

      Thanks for bringing attention to the issue, and thanks for being a great successor to Bevan. I would love to compare this map to what city staff do, it should be reasonably precise but could benefit from a look by people with official reference sources. (In particular I remember coming across some datasets from a British GIS specialist working for the City that were very nice.) And if you can lean on them to publish their results to, we would love it.

    • Kevin Goebel permalink
      February 23, 2012 9:51 am

      Thank you, Scott. I agree that the legislation should be amended to be reduced to 500 feet, and only apply to high schools (the only schools where students can leave campus at lunch).

  6. February 22, 2012 3:22 am

    Just to give you an idea of what school lunches are like, and how once again our Supervisors and our “legislators” are fools only chasing soundbites, here’s a piece I wrote a while back about the abysmal state of school lunches, with a link (albeit dated I know) of what the SFUSD was serving at Lowell High just a few years ago. Trust me when I say the crap they were serving back then (crap that would make gas station hot dogs look gourmet) was a bigger threat to the Youth of America than a taco truck serving freshly cooked food.

  7. February 22, 2012 10:22 am

    Map updated to show different colored circles for primary and secondary schools. And it looks like the zone is defined from the edge of the school, not the center, so we assumed a school to be 300 feet wide and made the radius 1650 feet.

  8. February 22, 2012 3:34 pm

    Updated map, included a permalink, added 650′ foot map, and added an animated GIF comparing the two because, well, it’s an animated GIF.

  9. February 22, 2012 4:49 pm

    OK, that’s a MUCH better animated GIF.

  10. Matt Cohen permalink
    February 22, 2012 5:13 pm

    Weiner, u are the true idiot.

  11. February 22, 2012 5:31 pm

    How many food trucks fall in the boundries and how many fall out? I tried counting, but it’s too easy to loose track of those tiny dots.

  12. Jason M. permalink
    February 23, 2012 3:59 pm

    You know what would be wonderful? If instead of trying to ban something to save the children, the city gave something to save the children.

    Just imagine, if you walked into school and there was a big bowl of apples and oranges, for free. Students could just take a piece of fruit and eat it. How hard could that be? It would be fantastic! An apple-a-day and all that. It’d be cheap! Cheaper than a cop car on taco truck detail, that’s for sure. It’d be healthy! Hell, the Fillmore can hand out apples at shows, why can’t schools?

    Now that would be a positive change. Instead, it’s all ban this and ban that. Think of the effect on young minds when you say “can’t do that” versus “hey, have a piece of fruit.”

    We need a little more positive and a lot less negative.

    Wiener, when this comes up – suggest that instead of banning something, they try to implement a positive change.

  13. October 5, 2018 11:40 am

    I’m glad to see the no-fly zone was signifigantly reduced. If kids have the means to get food from anywhere other than their own cafeteria then they should be able to. California tends to be a tad bit over-legislative with certain issues.

  14. Marco permalink
    January 14, 2019 1:41 pm

    What ever happened with this?


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