September 26, 2019

The Board of Commissions are scheduled to vote Oct. 10 on an ordinance that would require operators of food cart pods to provide safe power, clean water, adequate trash and recycling services, control for rodents, plan for wastewater spills, and assurance that carts are set far enough apart.

Environmental Health Director Jae Douglas, PH.D., left, testifies before the Board Sept. 26 on proposed food cart pod ordinance.

People who wish to provide input on the ordinance can attend the Oct. 10th board meeting or submit written comments online.

“Portland is known for our thriving foodie scene -- we love to eat and drink in this town,” Chair Deborah Kafoury said during a first reading of the ordinance during Thursday’s board meeting. 

“Food carts offer aspiring business owners a way to get into the market, without risking big money. And it’s a business model that encourages diversity and innovation,” she said. “This is a vibrant industry we want to succeed. That’s why we need to have some rules to help that happen.”

If it passes, the ordinance would go into effect in January 2020, at which point pod owners and operators would need to obtain a license and come into compliance with the new rules. Environmental health will establish the license fee based on the estimated hours inspectors will need to conduct plan reviews and inspections. That fee is expected to be nominal, and would support inspection and enforcement of six public health concerns:

  • Access to safe drinking water 

  • Safe electrical power to food carts

  • Appropriate disposal of solid waste 

  • Wastewater spill plan for carts and diners

  • Appropriate setbacks between carts, and between carts and rights of way

  • Effective pest control measures 

The rules, more than two years in the making, were developed with input from food cart owners, pod operators, brick-and-mortar restaurant owners, health officials and consumers. 

“This has been a lengthy process. The formal process began May 2017, but we were working with the Food Service Advisory Committee a couple years before that,” Environmental Health Director Jae Douglas said Thursday. “We love our food carts, but some are run better than others.”

Commissioners expressed support for the ordinance, and praised Environmental Health for its outreach to stakeholders.

“Not only is it a great use of our regulatory authority, but it shows what the County can do to create solutions by convening stakeholders,” said Commissioner Susheela Jayapal. “And these food carts are entry points for entrepreneurs, many of them immigrants and refugees. It’s hard to get together to negotiate individually for these solutions.”

The Board also approved an increase in Environmental Health fees to reflect actual service costs. The fee increases will go into effect Jan. 1, 2020.