PubliCola Adds Life

Taco Trucks and Tax Increment Financing

By Erica C. Barnett May 20, 2011

In Wednesday's PubliCola ThinkTank---this week's question: Should Seattle make it easier to sell food on the street?---green urbanist Roger Valdez manages to turn the question of whether we need more taco trucks into a smart discourse on land use and (no kidding) tax increment financing.

Thought-provoking stuff:

Too often folks in Seattle take a jaunt to some other city and see something like street food and conclude, wrongly, that the reason why that city is so awesome is because it has street food.

In the case of Portland, street food isn't the reason why Portland is moving in a more sustainable direction than Seattle. They have a stronger planning department, Tax Increment Financing, and they have a smaller city council.

Seattle has a tendency to think that if we create a big street food scene we'll be cool like Portland. That's not gonna happen. First, it isn't about street food.

Second, as will become evident in this Big Street Food debate, we'll kill this with process. Mark my words: the Council will create a pilot program, issue a limited number of permits with too many rules and reporting requirements, and then when the Street Food Program has problems they'll say "we tried but it doesn't work."

Street food is great. If the Council want this to happen then they should just do it. Let the market decide what happens next.

And then start developing a vision for land use and transit in the city so we get dense, walkable neighborhoods where we can enjoy our taco from a truck.

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