Wednesday evening marked the first time Off the Grid food trucks came to downtown Menlo Park.
A San Francisco-based company that organizes weekly gatherings of food trucks, Off the Grid now has a yearlong permit that allows the weekly food truck event to bring up to a dozen food trucks near the intersection of Merrill Street and Ravenswood Avenue. The permit was approved by the Menlo Park planning commission at a meeting on January 13, despite some pushback from local restaurants and community members.
“There are concerns that [when] the economy is finally picking up, having these trucks coming in to the city might steer people away from traditional sit-down restaurants,” said Ben Eiref, vice chair of the Menlo Park Planning Commission.
Eiref noted that the planning commission gives the public a forum to voice their opinions and that the January meeting gave people a chance to express their thoughts so that the commission could make an informed decision about bringing Off the Grid to Menlo Park.
The meeting lasted past midnight after almost 20 people spoke.
“It was a lengthy discussion that certainly had conditions, but we’re happy with having the opportunity to move forward,” said Ben Himlan, Off the Grid’s director of business development.
Some conditions of the temporary-use permit included requiring each vendor to have a business license and a restroom agreement.
“There was a whole discussion about whether to have one Port-A-Potty or two,” Eiref said.
A few members of the community also raised concerns about noise, as the weekly market would have some live music, according to Eiref. On the whole, though, Eiref has received overwhelmingly positive feedback–during the meeting and via email–regarding Off the Grid coming to Menlo Park.
Eiref noted that the number of young families in Menlo Park has dramatically increased in the past few years, and block parties and concerts in the park have been “mobbed with kids.”
Many of the restaurants whose owners have expressed concern about the food trucks do not appeal to the same crowd that the food trucks will, Eiref said.
“There are some of the restaurants that cater more to the quick family meal, and they may be affected by this, but at the end of the day, the community has to be open to new ideas and has to evolve,” he continued.
The meeting last month ended with the planning commission in favor of the market. Off the Grid will have a temporary-use permit for a year with the stipulation that the company will be reviewed in six months.
Himlan expressed his enthusiasm about finally bringing Off the Grid to Menlo Park after nine months of discussion trying to set up the weekly market.
“I think we’re most excited about having the opportunity to come to Menlo Park and do what we do and create a really cool and unique experience for the residents of Menlo Park and the surrounding area,” Himlan said.
Eiref, echoing Himlan’s thoughts, said, “I think this will add another element of energy to the community that we just don’t have right now.”
Contact Samanatha at slynn2 ‘at’ stanford ‘dot’ edu.