Popular food truck event Off the Grid comes back to Burlingame

After a short hiatus, Off the Grid's popular food truck events are returning to Burlingame beginning Tuesday, despite objections from some local merchants.

Off the Grid's brief history in the city has been a source of debate since its promoter held the first Burlingame event in September. Broadway area merchants complained that the Thursday night street food markets made it difficult for their customers to find parking, and Broadway restaurant owners said competition from the food trucks caused a sharp downturn in their revenues.

Off the Grid responded to the controversy by temporarily putting its Burlingame operations on hold. The Broadway Business Improvement District proposed a compromise that would have moved the event from Thursday to Tuesday nights, and would have relocated it from the nearby Caltrain station to a section of Broadway that would have been closed to automobiles. According to the merchant group, this plan could have benefited brick-and-mortar businesses by taking advantage of the increased foot traffic Off the Grid would have brought to Broadway.

The merchants only got part of their compromise, however. Citing concerns about traffic disruption and other logistical issues, the City Council voted 4-1 to ask Caltrain to renew its lease with Off the Grid, but recommended moving the mobile food vendor event to Tuesday nights.

Still, concerns remained for business district spokesman John Kevranian, who said merchants will still suffer from lost business and receive no benefit from the switch to Tuesday nights.

“Four of the five council members, plus Caltrain, threw the restaurant owners under the food trucks,” Kevranian claimed.

Councilman Jerry Deal said he opposed keeping Off the Grid at the Caltrain station because he has witnessed how the event created parking problems on Broadway, and he was concerned about the impacts on local businesses.

Diana Guerrero, who owns the Broadway restaurant Magda Luna, echoed Deal's sentiment. She said she'd been forced to send employees home on Off the Grid nights, due to lack of business.

Councilwoman Ann Keighran said moving the event to Broadway was not feasible because the street is a major traffic corridor. She said the move to Tuesday night was meant to lessen impacts on businesses, and many residents had offered support for Off the Grid staying in Burlingame.

Off the Grid founder Matthew Cohen said the move to Tuesday night was “a pretty big concession” on the event's part, pointing out how the Broadway Business Improvement District previously identified Thursdays through Saturdays as the most important nights for its member restaurants.

Off the Grid

When: Tuesday, Jan. 14., 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Where: Caltrain parking lot, California Drive at Carmelita Avenue, Burlingame

Info: offthegridsf.com.

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