SW 9th and Alder Carts at Risk?

Food Carts Portland

Will many of the carts on SW 9th and Alder have to move? Will these carts have to shut down completely?

The SW 9th and Alder Parking Lot, Home to Many of Portland's Popular Food Carts.

The SW 9th and Alder Parking Lot, Home to Many of Portland's Best Loved Food Carts

I’ve been hearing mumblings from the cart owners for a few weeks now and it could mean big changes for carts on that lot.

The issue concerns a recent cap on electricity use by the carts as mandated by the site’s property owner, Greg Goodman. As reported in the Oregonian yesterday, the recent large increase in the number of carts on the property means there isn’t enough juice to go around. The cap, now mandated by Goodman at 20 amps per cart, is a big problem for many cart owners who need a minimum of 20 amps or more just to maintain operations. For example, Andrea Spella, owner of the popular espresso cart Spella, needs 20 amps just to operate his espresso machine, not to mention electricity needed for his other equipment. Andrea told me earlier this week that this mandated electricity cap might put him out of business.

While Goodman indicates his company is working to increase electricity to the carts, he also stated that some carts may need to move and/or he may need to charge the carts more. This too is problematic for many of the carts since many are stating they are already paying for more electricity as part of their agreement with Goodman. Brown Bag Bunny has already stated that as of next week they are moving to SE 12th and Hawthorne due to this issue. Who will be the next to leave?

I applaud Goodman for allowing the carts which add to an active and culturally rich street life on that block and make many many people happy and well fed on the cheap daily. The carts are certainly a much better amenity than just a big ugly parking lot filled with cars. However, I also hope Goodman and the cart owners can come to some sort of mutual agreement rather quickly. I would also suggest, if necessary, assistance from the City’s Bureau of Planning who have stated they support carts in Portland and are interested in issues like this one. They might be able to negotiate some sort of city permit discounts and other incentives that would allow increased electricity but still keep the model cost effective for everyone.

In addition, I’m just going to say it: why on earth would Goodman keep adding carts without looking into the electrical capacity of his property beforehand? In addition, why on earth does one parking lot need 4 Mexican carts and 3 Thai carts? Free market is good and I figure Goodman is bringing in at least $12K per month just from cart rent alone, but thoughtful planning and safety nets incorporated into free market is better.

If you care about this issue please feel free to discuss it with any of the cart owners at the SW 9th and Alder lot who can provide you with more information. In addition, you can contact Greg Goodman directly at 503-221-1666 to tell him your opinion.


  1. Thank you, for bringing this issue to the attention of your readers. It makes me sad to have to move from downtown, but I am looking forward to being at my new location. The power issues are affecting almost all of the vendors at this lot. The breakers pop at least 10-15 times per day. Each time that this happens someone has to run out and flip the breakers. The interruption of power affects food preparation as well as refrigeration temps. I chose to move because my refrigerator temp was affected by these temporary power losses. I want to serve my customers fresh and safe food. This started happening more recently with the introduction of several new carts. It is not really any single vendors fault. Though the parking lot management tends to pawn it off on some vendors, who may be using more than their fair share of power. In my opinion, the Goodmans, and the parking lot management care very little about the vendors at this lot. The vendors represent a paid parking lot space to them. Getting a straight answer out of parking lot management has been a challenging and fruitless effort. They issued a memo several weeks ago stating that as of October 1st, they would be capping each trailer’s use to 20 amps. I have not been at the lot since Monday, so I am unsure of whether they have done this. I suspect that they have not. I find it hard to believe that the Goodmans who own almost every parking lot downtown cannot afford to put in another box to support the vendors. I think that the carts are a wonderful addition to the downtown scene. I have heard from countless customers, that they love the carts. I think that some of the vendors do not want to complain, because they don’t want to rock the boat. Vendors are on a month to month lease at this lot. When I complained, I was told by the parking lot management that if I did not like it then leave. I could be replaced in a heart beat. I just don’t think that the small business person matters very much to big companies like PMC. I really hope that they find a solution at this lot. I hope to see some of you at my new location at 12th and Hawthorne. Thank you, for reading my rant. ~Bunny.

  2. We’d not heard any statements from the Goodmans that rent may be increased, (again this year?) or that vendors may have to move. The latter makes far more sense; the latest additions should have to relocate if there is to be any removal of any vendors. This certainly isn’t the fault of the most recent vendors – they had no idea the lot couldn’t accommodate them.

    Ideally a lot would be able to provide the same accommodations as an RV park with each vendor having their own electrical plug-in and water hook-up. Look inside the box just in front of the Loco-Loco Burrito cart, you can’t miss it as there is a constant hiss of running water. You’ll see a network of hoses trying to draw from one water outlet.

    We assume the cap has taken place since power has not shut off since last Wednesday, the 1st of October. Correction, the power for the Altengartz Bratwurst stand hasn’t shut off; I know some of our neighbors have had continued outages but they aren’t occurring as frequently.

    The Multnomah Health Dept had to temporarily shut down two carts as a result of the electrical issue. The vendors were unable to maintain correct food temperatures; it’s impossible to get warmers to their correct temperature when the power is constantly going off and on again. Another vendor relies upon electricity for their water pump and water heater which you have to have unless you set up an acceptable hand-washing station and find a commissary for doing dishes.

    This will be an interesting winter. Many vendors use heaters in their carts to keep warm. They won’t be able to do that now as they’ll risk blowing the circuits.

    We are one of the three original food vendors who set up business at SW 10th & Alder in 2000 and the only one of the oringal which remained. We’ve seen many changes over the past 8 -1/2 years and we’ve enjoyed the growth the lot has experienced. We’re hoping that our neighbors are all able to continue doing business this coming winter.

    We’ll see.

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