Thursday, March 29, 2012

Food Trucks

Today, I visit a topic that I am not 100% certain where I stand. I had a chance to visit the Food Trucks in the Arts District during a lunch hour. Normally, the Arts District lacks any activity during this period. The urban environment offers nothing for daytime activity.

So, in order to remedy that, the City, at the urging of some stakeholders and other interests, amended city code to allow food trucks to legally serve food in the area. I was amazed at the activity during what is normally an empty, dead area and time.

So that begs the question, do food trucks remedy the situation or do they exacerbate it? Undeniably, in this location, they at least highlight the design flaws of this area. If their presence can bring over a hundred people to the area every weekday, why wouldn't something more permanent? Some advocates say that the variety brings people in, since some food trucks are there one day and a different sort on another. True, but there is a permanent predictable variety on Main Street. Some say the lower price for lunch attracts some folks. Again, instead of opening a fine dining restaurant, why not open a lower price point menu. In response, I hear that rent is too high to offer cheaper food. There are cheap places downtown, and as long as the dominant and majority land use is surface parking lots, I don't buy it. A cheap restaurant doesn't need a whole lot of space. But, the built environment should have a place to accommodate them. On the other hand, will having these trucks visit this draw away any attempt at a permanent change in the build environment. I have no answer to these question. Other advocates say that the temporary nature of food trucks allow them to come when it is profitable and leave when it is not, saving money on wages and lights against the permanent restaurants.

One of the offerings when I visited this area on Tuesday. Great Quiche by the by.
I think some places are great for food trucks. Parks are a great example. I would want that to stay as recreational and open as possible, not cluttered by buildings. So food trucks there make sense to me. In the Arts District, however, I would rather that were built under the principles of solid urban design from the beginning.

That brings up another view. Do I judge food trucks on something out of their control? The food truck line made the Arts District better as it stands now. I am leaning towards them being bad in that area (though certainly not decided). But, if I were to change my viewpoint and accept the Arts District as it stands now, then certainly they are an upgraded feature.

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