City of Portland Releases Food Cart Study

June 26, 2008

It’s Official – the City of Portland Food Cart Study has arrived

Some things in the report are no brainers, there were a few surprises (people don't really seem to care about the design of the carts for example) while other issues, such as neighborhood complaints and tensions over the carts remain unresolved.

I’ve been writing about this study for a while now, and finally two weeks ago the City of Portland posted the final version on their website

Here’s a bit of background: The Portland Bureau of Planning teamed up with a group of urban planning master’s degree students to look at the state of food carts in Portland including the land use, economic, environmental and social impacts. This study was in response to a few issues including Portland’s rapidly expanding food cart scene, business and neighborhood complaints and issues against the carts, and questions on whether the City should focus some efforts in protecting the carts and/or if they are a good way to focus economic development resources towards potential future grants, loans and other funding. Despite the misguided reporting over at the Mercury
, this study is not a policy document, nor was it meant to address specific complaints or issues over specific carts. The study will neither start a city sponsored food cart program nor increase regulations for the carts. It was simply meant as a baseline study to help the City better understand the growing trend of food carts in Portland and to potentially guide future decisions regarding the carts and better help address land use and neighborhood complaints in the future.

As paraphrased from the study itself, The study looked these basic questions:
  • Neighborhood Livability: What effects do food carts have on street vitality and neighborhood life? What are the positive and negative impacts of food carts on the community?
  • Community Economic Development: To what extent do food carts serve as an entry-point into long-term business ownership? Do carts provide beneficial economic opportunities for residents of Portland?
With the following findings:
  1. Food carts have positive impacts on street vitality and neighborhood life in lower density residential neighborhoods as well as in the high density downtown area.
  2. When a cluster of carts is located on a private site, the heightened intensity of use can negatively impact the surrounding community, primarily from the lack of trash cans.
  3. A cart’s exterior appearance does not affect social interactions or the public’s overall opinion of the carts; seating availability is more important for promoting social interaction than the appearance of the cart’s exterior. development.
  4. The presence of food carts on a site does not appear to hinder its development.
  5. Food carts represent beneficial employment opportunities because they provide an improved quality of life and promote social interactions between owners and customers.
  6. Despite the beneficial opportunities that food carts can provide, there are numerous challenges to owning a food cart.
  7. While many food cart owners want to open a storefront business, there is a financial leap from a food cart operation to opening a storefront.
  8. Food cart owners do not frequently access small business development resources available to them, such as bank loans and other forms of assistance.
The study also provides the following recommendations: 1. Identify additional locations for food carts. 2. Increase awareness of informational resources for stakeholders in the food cart industry by connecting them with existing programs. 3. Promote innovative urban design elements that support food carts.

And that folks, is it for now. Whew, reading and recapping that study made me hungry. May a I suggest an ice-cold gelato or affogato from Spella Caffe

Portland Food Carts Study
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