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Tualatin council to consider relaxing food cart code

Current regulations don't provide for food trucks, larger carts

FILE - The Pupu Shack, a Hawaiian shave ice food truck, serves customers at the Downtown Tigard Street Fair in 2013.Tualatin's municipal code contains no provisions for food carts, food trucks and most other mobile food vending options, except for tiny pushcarts, which can only operate for up to 180 days out of the year, and only in commercial or industrial areas.

But the Tualatin City Council opened the door Monday to allowing a broader variety of mobile food vending in the city, with councilors saying the time has come to make the changes.

Monday's conversation followed on from a request last month by the owners of a local food truck for the council to reevaluate the code. The Pupu Shack began serving shave ice in Tualatin and neighboring communities in 2012, but its owners were told this year their truck is not permitted under Tualatin's rules.

“Let's really dive into this and look at it and do something meaningful with it,” said Councilor Joelle Davis at Monday's work session. “I've had citizens come to me about this for the last six years and say, 'Why don't we have this? Why don't we do this?' And I've said, 'We haven't been approached by anybody who's had an interest in it, and until that happens, we're not likely to take it on.' Well, here we are, people. Here we are. And I'm very happy that we're doing this, and I think it's great.”

There appeared to be broad consensus among councilors to loosen Tualatin's mobile food vending rules, with Councilor Frank Bubenik pointing to Beaverton's regulations as a potential model for Tualatin to follow. Beaverton allows larger food carts and food trucks to operate with permits, along with pushcarts and catering trucks.

But, Bubenik warned, questions over stationary food carts and whether Tualatin should allow food cart pods — like those seen throughout Portland — are more likely to create controversy.

“What's going to get us bogged down is the stationary carts, because that's what got Portland bogged down,” he said.

That much was clear in the work session. While Davis said she'd like property-owners to be able to start up a food cart pod in Tualatin, Mayor Lou Ogden said he feels that would bring down the city's aesthetic.

“We have very high building standards in this town … and then we throw all that out the window and let people line up these carts,” Ogden said. “Almost each and every one of them, in my opinion, on their own, is a high-quality cart. They're not junky. The ones I've seen are well-designed, kept clean — but you just have this hodgepodge of them all lined up, and it looks like a carnival. And I don't want our city looking like a carnival all the time.”

The city already does allow food trucks at certain events, such as the recent West Coast Giant Pumpkin Regatta, when they are covered under special event permits.

The council will be presented with a more detailed analysis as it considers how to address mobile food vending in the coming weeks, city staff said. In the meantime, the current regulations will remain in place.


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