Street Eatin'

City Council Committee Adopts New Street Food Legislation

The full council will consider the measure on Monday.

By Christopher Werner July 13, 2011

More of this street food stuff in Seattle? Maybe!

A vibrant street food community in Seattle is one step closer to becoming a reality. On Wednesday morning the City Council land-use committee unanimously approved a long-percolating measure that would allow mobile vendors to park in designated spots citywide.

The vote came after reps from the Department of Planning and Development reviewed a handful of amendments made at the behest of the council. These called for increased parking fees; upping the buffer between sidewalk vendors and business entrances/exits (from 10 to 15 feet) and schools (now 1,000 feet, before it was 200 feet); and notification of nearby property owners. Previously vendors were to notify all owners within 100 feet of their site; now they will have to inform proprietors on each side of the street, and, when within ten feet of a corner, those on the adjacent block. The legislation dictates no more than two merchants are permitted per "food vehicle zone." But if there is little or no commercial activity that number could increase.

The board also reviewed and supported stricter oversight and enforcement policies.

Members of the committee lauded the DPD team who helmed the proposal. Chair Sally Clark called it a "very logical" approach, and Tim Burgess noted, "Competition is a very good thing, and that is what this allows." He’s likely speaking of the very vocal community of restaurateurs who oppose the measure.

That group has suggested the city hand out slots using a competitive bidding process. And while that could bring in revenue for Seattle, Clark said this system would only "set the stage for deeper pockets," going against the entrepreneurial spirit of street food. The idea has received mix feedback from vendors, Clark added, and Gary Johnson (a long-time proponent of street food) said it wouldn’t allow for an eclectic mix of merchants. Instead, vendors will be able to propose sites, and in some cases the city will establish pre-designated zones. A lottery system will be used to assign spots.

City Council is expected to consider the bill at its meeting on Monday, July 18.

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