Turns Out, It Isn't So Easy Making It Easier to Let Vendors Sell on Downtown Dallas Streets

Not so fast ...
Not so fast ...

Here, as promised Friday, is the PowerPoint presented to the city council moments ago concerning efforts to make it easier for street vendors to set up shop in downtown. No surprise: For the most part the council members on the Quality of Life Committee were all for Interim Assistant City Manager Joey Zapata's presentation, though it didn't take long for them to turn a chitchat about downtown development into a larger discussion about getting folks to set up pop-ups around transit oriented developments citywide. At which point an assistant city attorney stepped in and said: Hold up, this is just about rewriting the Central Business District ordinance.

Fine, said Carolyn Davis, "but we gotta change this type of attitude. I support downtown, I really do, but we gotta change the language. Take Mockingbird Station, Royal Lane, there are nice TODs being developed. We continue to talk about business growth, and, yes, downtown needs to be the hub, but you can't talk to 15 council members and not expect them to want the same thing."

Angela Hunt, chair of Quality of Life, wholeheartedly agreed; expect transit-station vending on a committee agenda sooner than later. (And expect Dallas Area Rapid Transit to chime in too.)

But back to downtown.

Sandy Greyson said she can't understand some of the proposed restrictions -- like, say, why just one cart on one location? She wondered: Wouldn't it be more convenient to allow vendors to vend next to each other. And she's concerned about a proposal to allow the selling of plants, fruits and vegetables outside the Dallas Farmers Market. "It just seems like the farmers market is always struggling," she said. "I just wonder if that's a good idea."

Dwaine Caraway seconded that emotion: "I love farmers market, and I want to see how we can better drive folks there, and I don't want to take stuff away."

Davis wants to see a list of would-be vendors. "We can at least say: 'What about T-shirt vendors at Texas-OU?' Does it have to be food?" And she worries about vendors monopolizing "a commodity" downtown. "We need to be careful of that -- we don't have one person looking at every corner in the city and blocking it up."

This isn't about food, though; as Downtown Dallas Inc. told us Friday, this is about everything -- from hot dogs to T-shirts. And Zapata said: The new ordinance will establish a lottery system when multiple vendors apply for the same location.

Also: Right now vendors are given the boot after four years at a single spot. The new proposal eliminates that cap. But there may be some legal issues with that; the City Manager's Office and city attorneys will have to review that rewrite.

The longer the discussion went, the more issues the council members raised -- everything from regulating permits on private versus public property to the number of years vendors would be allowed to stay at a single spot. (Right now, they're given the boot after four years.) "I want to make sure there's no master control mechanism in place that would prohibit what we're trying to do and achieve here," said Caraway.

And Zapata reminded: He'll be back in February with further discussion concerning entertainment permits.

"Sidewalks are public property," said Greyson. "What if the building owner says, 'I don't want a hot dog vendor in front of my building'? Does he have any input in this process?"

Yes, Zapata told her. But: not veto power. Ah -- but what about "distance requirements"? Maybe.

But so much for the December 14 vote before the council: Zapata told Hunt that with the holiday schedule, this won't come before the committee till early next year. Hunt also said she wants to see how New York and Chicago handle this -- not San Antonio or Fort Worth

She promised Downtown Dallas Inc.: "We're gonna get this done as quickly as possible." Just not as quickly as it had hoped. "I think this could have areally great impact on our street life," said hunt. "They're so vacant, and I think it's the regulations" that are to blame. And they'll remain in place till at least the start of 2012.

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