Decision on food trucks is about the kind of city we want


Here’s the prepared version of my presentation today at the Finance & Corporate Services committee about the rules for food trucks to operate in Kitchener. It reflects my proposals to open the doors for food trucks and the thinking and conversations I’ve had since I wrote that post. 

If you’re interested in this issue, see also what Kitchener City Council is considering at its meeting on Monday night.

Why have I been advocating for food trucks for years? Why should I care so much about your decision? For me, it’s about what kind of city we want.

Do we want a city that embraces opportunities to develop vibrant streets and successful public places? Or do we bog them down with bureaucracy and cautiously tip toe towards them?

The answer affects the city’s economic development strategy. Are we serious about attracting and retaining people who contribute to a strong, diverse economy? Will businesses invest in an Innovation District in a city that so slowly responds to a major change in a service industry?

An important voice is missing from the food truck report being considered this morning—that of the citizens of Kitchener. So I am here to have those voices considered as you decide the fate of these popular businesses.

You’ve heard from the restaurant lobby and finally the food trucks have been consulted. The result is a much better report. Unfortunately, it does not open the doors to food trucks in Kitchener.

I’m here to share my perspectives as a resident of downtown Kitchener.

The proposed rates are much too high especially for the limited opportunities granted. Based on the city’s own logic, the most any food truck should be charged is $778. Even that rate though is not competitive with Waterloo next door or the nearby market of 500,000 people living in Hamilton.

As a downtown resident, I am especially disappointed that the report keeps food trucks as a novelty not only in the downtown core but anywhere in Wards 9 or 10. Making food trucks a special attraction that is heavily promoted is what isn’t fair to downtown restaurants.

Let’s pilot one, two or three food truck locations in or near the downtown core. Making them a part of the daily downtown experience gives restaurants a better sense of what it’s like to have food trucks as part of the downtown mix.

Restaurants have many advantages over food trucks. There’s room for both—and we’ll all end up spending more at restaurants over a year than any of us will at food trucks. They are not competing with each other.

The real competition for restaurants? Other restaurants. There’s been a boom in the number of restaurants in the downtown core over the past few years. Yet the city is not moving to restrict anyone from opening a new restaurant.  That’s a good thing.

I’m a big fan of restaurants too. For about a year, I co-lead #KitchenerEats where we organized meals at Kitchener restaurants and it was important to me that at least ½ be in downtown Kitchener.

Downtown Kitchener needs the vibrancy provided by the people food trucks put on the streets. People especially those living in downtown neighbourhoods or working in our core want food trucks. Don’t let the people in the downtown Wards down, give them a choice.

As Jane Jacobs wrote, “Downtown has had the capability of providing something for everybody only because it has been created by everybody.”  So hear the voices of the citizens of Kitchener in making this decision.

Let’s open the door to food trucks operating in Kitchener!

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