Neighborhoods Balk at Seattle's Plan for Portland-Style Food Trucks

Getting this year 'round is proving difficult.
It may be awhile before we boast the legions of taco trucks you find in Portland. But not for lack of trying. As I explain over on DW the city is trying to change decades-old laws to allow food carts in the city. But even if they manage that, finding a place to put them is proving a challenge.

When the Department of Planning and Development tried to convince the Pioneer Square Preservation Board that mobile food should come to Occidental Park, the Board wasn't exactly receptive--ambivalent to hostile is probably a better description.

Board members expressed concerns that food carts would add crowds, congestion and general chaos to the streets of Pioneer Square and Occidental Park. Gallery owner Catherine Person said that allowing carts on streets or sidewalks would block small storefronts like hers, keeping people away.

DPD planning advisor Gary Johnson has been meeting with neighborhood councils like the Pioneer Square Board, armed with a survey from Portland that found 58 percent of business owners saw higher foot traffic when food carts showed up in their neighborhoods. (What he doesn't say is that restaurant owners have been pissed at the cheaper-to-open-permit-and-run food trucks undercutting their business.)

But in general, he says, people haven't been convinced.

"As the project is feeling more real to people, concerns - particularly in this economy, with retail businesses struggling - concerns are elevating," Johnson says. "I think people are, unfortunately, seeing it as a threat."

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