Portland City Council approves food truck pilot project to revitalize city

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Portland City Council adopted an emergency ordinance on Wednesday to launch a two-year food truck pilot program in the Central City Plan District.

The ordinance waives right-of-way city code that prohibits food trucks from operating within the district, and builds off of the Portland Bureau of Transportation’s Healthy Business Program, which allowed downtown property owners to request food truck services for their employees and tenants during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The pilot aims to revitalize downtown by offering more dining options for downtown workers and residents while expanding food truck operator’s reach to more customers. The program is only for mobile food trucks, not fixed food carts, officials said.

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Commissioner Mingus Mapps introduced the ordinance, explaining, “We get to start with some good news: More and more workers are returning to downtown Portland.”

“And we have some tough news: Unfortunately, downtown Portland’s food scene has not returned to pre-pandemic levels, so returning workers at some locations have limited dining options … the pilot project before us today aims to fill that gap,” Mapps continued.

“The pilot project will contribute to the vitality of some commercial areas, increase the walkability of the Central City Plan District and decrease the need for auto-oriented transportation,” Mapps added.

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David McEldowney, PBOT’s Right of Way Management and Permitting Division Manager, explained that Portland city code 14A.50.040 prohibits the sale of merchandise and services in the public right of way – including within 250 feet of library grounds, public park grounds, or any open business selling similar items. The pilot program will waive the code through the end of 2025.

If the pilot is successful, McEldowney anticipates asking city council for a permanent program with code and rule changes in the fall of 2025.

“I did want to make it clear that the waiving of this portion of Title 14 would not result in a chaotic wild, wild west situation in which any random person would be able to vend food from any parking space downtown,” McEldowney explained. “Instead, vending would only be approved at sites that were vetted through PBOT through a set of criteria – one of which would be that the adjacent property owner must invite this activity to occur.”

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City-owned locations, like parks, can also invite food trucks to serve those locations.

Under the pilot, Suburban Events will act as a coordinating permittee and will work with PBOT to evaluate the viability of potential food truck locations.

Restaurant owners and food truck operators who want to join the program can contact PBOT’s Portland in the Streets team.

Officials noted program fees include a $450 application fee, and a $400 parking fee; however, some fees may be eligible to be waived under American Rescue Plan Act funding.

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