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Tualatin allows food trucks, carts on trial basis

Temporary ordinance to expire at year's end, as city explores permanent rules.

TIMES FILE PHOTO - The Pupu Shack serves Hawaiian shave ice in Tigard.Food trucks, carts and other mobile vendors will be able to operate in Tualatin for the remainder of the year, the Tualatin City Council declared Monday.

The council voted to approve a temporary ordinance allowing mobile food units to set up on private property in commercial and industrial areas of Tualatin, provided that their operators obtain business licenses from the city. The ordinance will automatically expire on Dec. 31.

The temporary ordinance came about after a Hawaiian shave ice truck called The Pupu Shack was determined to be operating in Tualatin in violation of city code last year, as mobile food vending was not allowed in the city. The Pupu Shack's operators appealed to the city last fall to find a solution that would allow their truck and others to operate this summer.

“Unfortunately, over the winter, we had some staff changes, so we weren't able to get this done prior to the summer,” said Aquilla Hurd-Ravich, Tualatin's planning manager.

Mayor Lou Ogden asked councilors if they want to have a sunset date for the ordinance at the end of the year: “Or do we want to leave it until we feel comfortable with more specific code, or until we recognize a problem and feel like we need to shut it down?”

Councilor Joelle Davis noted that the council could vote to extend or repeal the ordinance before the sunset date, while Councilor Ed Truax said he favors “a fairly short fuse” for the temporary ordinance, because it places few restrictions on mobile vending.

The City Council debated what permanent regulations in Tualatin could look like during a work session prior to Monday's vote.

Ogden spoke unfavorably of stationary food carts, referring to the carts that cluster near Pioneer Courthouse Square in downtown Portland as “junk wagons.”

“In my mind, it's an absolute mess,” he said. “Yeah, the food's good, people love it, they're lined up to buy it — I get that. … It's just junky. I can't think of a better term for it. I don't want that. I don't want those permanent installations that are that unsightly.”

Davis said she was “disappointed” by Ogden's stance.

“I think it's really dismissive of people that are working super-hard to develop a business and break out and do something on their own, and I don't know why Tualatin would not want to offer that kind of opportunity to people here,” she said.

Truax said he doesn't think Tualatin is an attractive location for that type of mobile food vending, at any rate.

“Maybe there's something I don't get, but I can't imagine us ever ending up with a pod of food carts,” he said. “Where would you put it?”

Truax and other councilors said they want to see a simple policy put in place.

“I don't want us to spend 400 hours of your planning time to develop a complex set of rules and regulations for a problem that I'm not sure we have,” Truax told Hurd-Ravich and fellow city planner Charles Benson.

He added, “We've got to come up with something simple that allows this to happen and we can try it … see how it works, and go from there.”

Hurd-Ravich said city staff will report back to the council with more findings next month as the city seeks to establish its permanent regulations for mobile food vending.

The ordinance adopted Monday is effective immediately.

By Mark Miller
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