Food trucks rally as city council considers new rules
Chris Kitching, CP24.com
Published Wednesday, April 2, 2014 8:57AM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, April 2, 2014 3:16PM EDT
Torontonians could soon have an easier time finding food trucks if city council approves new rules that are being considered at Wednesday’s meeting.
The proposed bylaw aims to loosen restrictions for street food vendors, who are fed up with existing regulations that keep them off the streets.
During the debate, some councillors expressed concerns about having too many food trucks in one spot, vehicle emissions, noise from generators, the loss of parking spaces for motorists and where customers will go when nature calls.
If council approves the changes, food trucks will be allowed to set up in a pay-and-display parking spot for up to five hours. However, they would still face a significant hurdle because they would be forced to remain at least 50 metres away from a licensed restaurant that is open and operating.
That leaves little space for food trucks on many streets in the downtown core. The condition would not apply when a food truck is parked on private property or in one of 58 licensed parking lots, however.
The proposed bylaw eliminates a 10-minute parking limit in licensed parking lots and it removes a limit on the number of vendors on the same street.
Mayor Rob Ford said restaurants and food trucks can co-exist without a buffer zone, but if council approves one it should be 25 metres.
"The restrictions from a restaurant shouldn't have anything to do with it," Ford told reporters while attending a "food truck freedom" rally in Nathan Phillips Square, where five vendors sold a variety of dishes over the lunch break.
Randy Kangal, who operates Randy's Roti & Doubles, urged council to nix the buffer zone. He said restaurants would benefit from the presence of food trucks because they help to attract crowds of customers.
"Food trucks and restaurants can work hand in hand," Kangal told CP24.com. "If our local council and business improvement areas give us an opportunity, it creates a vibrancy in the city. Fifty metres away, where does that put us?"
City staff told council Toronto has 582 pay-and-display parking stations, each with an average of seven parking spaces, that are more than 50 metres from a restaurant.
A food truck takes up two spots.
To park in a curb lane that doesn’t have a pay-and-display station, a vendor must work with the local councillor and business improvement area to establish a suitable "mobile vending zone."
Previously, staff recommended a veto power for business improvement areas, but that condition was removed after protests from vendors. Staff also proposed a pay-and-display parking limit of three hours, but later raised it to five.
Under a harmonized bylaw, permit fees would be $5,000 for mobile food vendors, $4,500 for sidewalk vendors on a major road, and $525 for ice cream vendors.
Kangal said the fees should be reduced because Toronto charges much more than cities that have booming food truck scenes.
If approved, the rules would go into effect May 15.
Council’s licensing and standards committee gave its blessing to the proposal at a meeting in March.
Some members of the city's restaurant community turned up at the rally to show their support for food truck operators.
Mitchell Stern, who is part of the team behind the pop-up business Hot Bunzz, said he understands the concept of a buffer zone, but it hasn't been a point of contention in cities where food trucks are thriving.
Plus, he said, food trucks are mobile and they don't stick to one location.
"They're not going to be (in the same spot) every day," Stern said at the rally. "It's about the customer and giving them more choice."
Mayoral candidates weigh in
In addition to Ford, mayoral candidates John Tory, Karen Stintz and Olivia Chow attended the rally, where they expressed their support for food truck operators.
Tory said the buffer zone should be 25 metres from a restaurant, not 50.
“What we want to do is make sure these can be available in as many places as possible,” said Tory, as he ordered a grilled cheese sandwich from Caplansky’s Delicatessen.
Council's regular meeting began Tuesday, with all of the focus on the proposed expansion of Toronto's island airport. Porter Airlines is seeking to use jets at the airport, but that would require a 400-metre extension of the runway.
In a unanimous vote, council allowed city staff to enter into negotiations and further studies with the Toronto Port Authority and Transport Canada. A final vote on the proposal is expected next year.
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