Portland will gather feedback on its food truck pilot program on the Eastern Promenade this fall as some food truck operators say it hasn’t been working and they’re looking for changes ahead of next season.
Interim City Manager Danielle West said Monday the city is aiming to launch a survey Oct. 3 to gather feedback from the public. The program, which launched this spring, moved food trucks from the promenade road to a parking lot on Cutter Street to better manage concerns about trash, pedestrian safety and traffic around the trucks.
“The food truck program was a pilot program,” West said at a City Council meeting Monday night. “We didn’t charge a fee and we were balancing a bunch of different interests, including those of all the different users of the park and the food trucks themselves. With that in mind, we will put out a survey and I encourage everyone to reach out to me and provide me with comment.”
Several food truck operators also spoke at Monday’s meeting, saying the program hasn’t been working and encouraging the city make changes.
“Within a week of being forced to relocate, we saw all that we had built vanish before our eyes,” said Jordan Rubin, owner of Mr. Tuna, a mobile sushi bar that has been operating on the Eastern Prom for the last few years . “The relocation of the trucks addressed none of the issues brought up and actually caused more issues with safety and parking. The sad truth is this move negatively affected small businesses like ours.”
Rubin said he has been forced to cut hours and staff due to a lack of foot traffic in the new location and asked the city to allow the trucks to once again operate on the prom roadway. “We as small business owners have been and are willing to work with the city to make the prom a safe, clean, beautiful destination for years to come,” Rubin said.
Joe Radano, owner of La Mega, another vendor in the program, said he understands the concerns about things like trash from the trucks, but he said he thinks a “happy medium” can be reached, and asked for the issue to be added to an upcoming agenda.
“Right now we just don’t have the same visibility we did before (when trucks were on the prom),” Radano said. “People don’t even know we’re there. They say, ‘Oh, we thought you were gone.’ It’s been hard for us.”
West said Oct. 14 will likely be the deadline for people to respond to the survey. “Then we would have some time to review all the material and make a staff recommendation,” West said. “Our intent is to review that in November with the parks commission and sustainability committee and ultimately formulate a program that could be in place prior to the next season.”
West also presented the council Monday with the results of a fiscal analysis she and staff conducted on the estimated $6.5 million cost for implementing a slate of citizens’ referendums and proposals from the charter commission that voters will consider in November.
Mayor Kate Snyder, who requested the analysis, said she did so because while such analysis is not required at the local level, it is part of the state process for putting citizens’ initiatives on the ballot.
“Since 2020, there have been questions about (the elections portion of city code), how we do this locally, whether we would benefit from any changes and will this cost us anything,” Snyder said. “So that’s why I asked. I hope this is helpful to us and helpful to voters.”
Councilor Tae Chong was the only councilor who spoke on the referendums Monday night. He said that while the fiscal note indicates a cost of $6.5 million to the city, the cost to the broader economy could be much more.
“It could be the number of tourist dollars that don’t come to the city because Airbnb (is restricted) or because minimum wage forces servers to leave if restaurants close, or because cruise ships decide not to come here,” Chong said.
In other news Monday, the council voted unanimously to approve an amendment to the city’s pesticide use ordinance – now renamed landcare ordinance – that would largely prohibit the use of synthetic fertilizers and require property owners to follow best management practices when using organic fertilizers. The council also approved an amendment to the ordinance brought by Snyder to postpone implementation for six months.
Sustainability Director Troy Moon told the council that if synthetic fertilizers are applied in greater quantities than necessary, they can be a major contributor to water pollution and that many are also made of fossil fuels.
“The intent of the committee is to focus on soil health and organic land practices, so adding chemicals to the soil does not generally promote improving the soil health,” Moon said.
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