If I had a comfortable job at the Seattle Times, I’d be interested in any regulatory barriers that blocked low-cost competing business models like Craigslist or PubliCola. If I ran an encyclopedia company, I’d be supportive of regulatory hurdles to operating an organization like Wikipedia. And if I were an established restaurant owner, I’d probably advocate for unreasonable restrictions on food carts:
Specifically, council members are considering imposing street food curfews and wider setbacks from restaurants, stadiums, and schools… Council Member Tim Burgess called the lack of curfew a “huge problem,” adding, “Why wouldn’t we… just say [vendors] can’t operate after 11:00 p.m. or midnight or something?”…
The proposal also replaces a 1,000-foot school setback rule with 200 feet, which a school janitor’s union denounced would be an “absolute nightmare” to clean up after.
I understand the industry interest, but I’m not sure why anyone on the Council would be swayed by these arguments.
The Stranger has a copy of the proposal and reports that a Council vote will likely occur in late July. This legislation is going through the Committee on the Built Environment. Slog super-commenter Fnarf summed it up nicely in a comment, reproduced below the jump because it’s awesome:
I sent this:
As a frequent world traveler I have seen an endless series of cities that are more vibrant than Seattle. We like to talk a lot about increasing pedestrian interest but in reality this city works hard to stamp it out wherever it can. Even compared to our West Coast neighbors our downtown blocks are dull and lifeless. Compared to forty years ago, yes, Seattle is “lively”, but compared to LA, San Francisco, Vancouver, or even Portland our town is gray, corporate, and uninviting.
One of the reasons is STREET FOOD. Street food is one of the great joys of urban living. I’ve enjoyed amazing Thai noodles on the street in Portland, fantastic roasted nuts in New York, fish and chips in Liverpool, and absolutely astonishing tacos al pastor in Mexico City. There’s nothing comparable to that here, aside from some of the street fairs. Have you had a slice of Veraci pizza at the Fremont Sunday Market? THAT is what city living is all about.
The most exciting trend in Seattle in the past decade has been the advent of taco trucks. My wife and I gladly drive all the way down to Burien or up to Shoreline to seek out new ones. This is some of the best food in the city, and more than that IT IS A KEY METHOD OF ENTRY INTO THE ECONOMY FOR POOR IMMIGRANTS. Unless you are happy seeing Seattle ossify into a bedroom community for rich white people like yourselves, who drive back and forth to their suburban campus jobs, you need to do everything you can to inject life and culture into Seattle.
I encourage you to pass the most liberal street food ordinance you can come up with. Go ahead, block the sidewalks! Busy sidewalks are GOOD for cities (see the work of William Whyte on this subject). Simplify the permit process.
And especially NO CURFEW. I’m in bed most nights by 9:30, so I don’t care, but there is no reason on earth why food cart vendors themselves can’t decide when a good time to shut up shop is. Late night food is a world tradition, and will actually work to pacify sometimes unruly bar crowds late at night.
Do the decent thing. Say yes to street food.
–Fnarf (Steve Thornton)