It's official: Food trucks to be barred from downtown Tualatin
Starting on Jan. 1, 2019, if you operate a food truck and you're looking for a spot to set up, in downtown Tualatin, you will have to move right along.
The Tualatin City Council acted Monday, Oct. 9, to pass an ordinance prohibiting food trucks and carts — except for non-motorized pushcarts — from downtown commercial areas. The ban will take effect after next year, and it will affect Tualatin's only existing licensed food truck, a family-run Hawaiian shave ice business called The Pupu Shack.
The Pupu Shack has been setting up at the corner of Boones Ferry Road and Nyberg Street, about a block west of the Tualatin Commons, since the City Council voted last June to adopt a temporary ordinance allowing food trucks and carts in the city. Tualatin previously had no regulations on the books to allow mobile food vendors, so officials told The Pupu Shack's operators in 2015 they could no longer sell their goods in the city. About two years of debate, discussion and public outreach ensued after The Pupu Shack appealed to the City Council for help.
What Tualatin staff ultimately came up with this year was an ordinance that allows food trucks and carts on a permanent basis in Tualatin, but one that places considerably more restrictions on them than the generally permissive temporary ordinance. It creates a permitting process for mobile food vendors, as well as excluding most of them from the downtown core area.
The ordinance has the support of business groups like the Tualatin Chamber of Commerce and the Tualatin Commercial Citizen Involvement Organization. They have said they are speaking up for the interests of restauranteurs worried about competition from food trucks.
"We have a tremendous amount of diversity and a very rich and vibrant food scene now that didn't even exist 10 years ago," said Linda Moholt, the Tualatin Chamber's chief executive officer, at the City Council's previous meeting on Sept. 25. "And the amount of investment that these businesses have put into our downtown core (needs) to be protected. That's why this ordinance is so important."
The Boones Ferry Road and Nyberg Street intersection where The Pupu Shack has typically set up during the summer lies within the commercial zone in which food trucks and carts will be disallowed under the new ordinance. If it continues operating in Tualatin in 2019 or beyond, it will have to find a new place to set up in a more industrial part of the city, farther from downtown.
That didn't sit well with some members of the council, including Mayor Lou Ogden, who had originally been a vocal skeptic of letting mobile food vendors into the city.
Ogden was absent from Monday's meeting, but he criticized the ordinance at the council's Sept. 25 meeting.
"I was the most outspoken saying we've got to support our brick-and-mortar businesses. Having said that … we still have got these young (people) and their truck who can't do the business the way they were doing it if this passes," Ogden said on Sept. 25, adding, "Tomorrow, we have this ordinance, and these folks are not going to be able to do their truck, and the question is going to be, in the two years they've been doing their truck, what harm has been done? I don't think any harm has been done. … We didn't, in my opinion, accomplish what we set out to do at all."
Joseph Hall, who owns The Pupu Shack, appeared at the Sept. 25 meeting to speak in in opposition to the ordinance.
"These two forms of businesses are apples and oranges. People go to restaurants as a destination. People go to food carts as a convenience," Hall said. "If the foot traffic isn't there, they don't support (food carts), and Tualatin doesn't have the foot traffic in these central core areas to support it."
At that council meeting, a majority of councilors voted in favor of adopting the ordinance, but because Ogden and Councilor Jeff DeHaan opposed it, city rules required the council to hold a second vote.
"I just think we have an amazing restaurant industry going here that's doing really, really well," said Councilor Paul Morrison on Sept. 25, expressing support for the ordinance. "I think this compromise works for everybody. … I just think it's something that will work for the city. It gives businesses certainty. If you have a food cart, you can now come in and operate legally. You can invest in your operation, because you're now legal within the city limits of Tualatin. And if you're a restaurant-owner, you know that you're protected from unfair competition. And to me, it's a fair compromise to basically, hopefully make everybody happy."
This Monday's vote was 5-0 in favor of the ordinance, with both Ogden and DeHaan absent from the proceedings.
Until the ordinance takes effect in 2019, the temporary ordinance will continue to govern food trucks and carts in Tualatin. The temporary ordinance imposes few restrictions other than requiring mobile vendors to have a business license from the city and comply with health and safety regulations.
The council voted unanimously to extend the temporary ordinance, which was set to sunset at the end of the year, through 2018 at Monday's meeting.
There was no discussion at Monday's council meeting on either ordinance beyond a brief explanation of the process. City Attorney Sean Brady said that unless the council unanimously agrees to adopt an ordinance at a single meeting, it must be read and voted on again at a second meeting.