During the City Council meeting yesterday afternoon, Houston Sustainability Director Laura Spanjian presented proposed changes to the controversial Mobile Food Unit Ordinance. Many believe the current ordinance is unduly hindering the progress of entrepreneurs and the vitality of Houston street life.
Spanjian was presenting on behalf of the Mobile Food Unit Houston Collective, who have been meeting for over a year in attempt to “further increase our city’s unique and affordable food options and business successes.”
The proposed changes included:
-Elimination of the required 60-foot distance between trucks.
-Lifting the ban on propane tanks within Downtown.
-Allowing food trucks the ability to park next to existing seating.
-Allow units to provide limited seating of their own, up to 3 tables and 6 chairs.
The proposals were met by numerous concerns from Council members regarding safety and competition with brick-and-mortar businesses. Several council members expressed fear that propane tanks could explode.
Spanjian reported that over 100,000 propane tanks are currently kept in the private backyards of Houstonians, and there has not been a single case of an accidental explosion within the city to her knowledge.
Houston Fire Department Chief Joe Leggio, who was in attendance to give professional testimony, also deemed the propositions to be safe. It was additionally noted that Houston is the only city in the country that prevents mobile food units to carry propane in their downtown district.
Council members also spent significant time discussing concerns about unfair competition towards current restaurants. These concerns were stiffly objected to, however, when during the following public comment period.
Over 50 individuals packed the Council Chambers in support of amending the ordinance. Vocal proponents included numerous independent restaurateurs, owners of established brick-and-mortar restaurants, and various interested citizens. Many restaurant owners reported increased business due to the foot traffic driven by food trucks. Support also shown from the Downtown Management District
The proposed new ordinance will be reviewed and amended in the coming weeks before going back to City Council for a vote.
The Mobile Food Unit Houston Collective is collecting petitions signatures in support of the changes. Sign the petition here.
Read more here from the Houston Chonicle.