Vancouver is proposing more street food carts like this one on our streets
The Vision Vancouver city council is floating a trial balloon about another "pilot" project, this time involving increasing the amount of food sold by street vendors. However, local businesses paying high rents and property taxes are raising red flags over the competition. It would appear that they have good reason for concern, according to Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association Executive Director Charles Gauthier.
Gauthier makes it clear that he's not outright opposed to the idea of expanding the number of carts in the city for food, and he welcomes the city reviewing its policy on this kind of business. However, he raises a number of concerns on behalf of his members. "Right now to license one of these carts with the City is about $1000 per year, or about three bucks per day," comments Gauthier. "That pales in comparison to the amount of rent and taxes fixed location businesses have to pay."
"We've seen city council put forward these ideas and labeling them as 'pilot' projects, but feels more like a way to bring on permanent change," says Gauthier. "I have concerns that we're creating a 'pilot' that no one will be able to end."
He cites the example of food carts in Portland, Oregon, who charge vendors $800 per month and do not allow any sidewalk placement of the carts. Vendors can only park in surface parking lots, where they must pay a fee for their spot. "It's a great way to ensure you keep your spot," says Charles. "The City owns several EasyPark lots and they could be situated there, such as at Larwill Park. With crowds attending events at GM Place this could be a good spot."
Other issues about expanding food will have to be dealt with by City staff. Acting City Engineer Peter Judd told Gauthier that he was not yet in the loop about plans to grow street food choices, leaving the impression that Vision are floating a "trial balloon" to gauge public response.
When it comes to enforcement, the City appears to be low on resources. There are only 2 full time bylaw enforcement officers for the whole city on the food cart and busker beat, and they don't work past 4:30pm, according to Gauthier. Then the fines themselves might not be high enough to deter abuse.
While it seems that Vancouver might race to the popularity of making more street food available, for the sake of the city's retail businesses council should avoid rushing into implementing it without a good plan.
- post by Mike