Noise problems plague food truck pilot project

Noise problems have driven a food truck trial out of Woodbine Park.

Under a pilot project launched in August, the city allowed food trucks to serve lunch or dinner in five city parks. Championed by councillors Mary-Margaret McMahon and Josh Colle, the two-month trial aims to test out a more diverse range of Toronto street food without inviting any of the red tape that sank Toronto’s failed A La Cart program in 2010.

The trial requires no bylaw changes, no council votes and wraps up in October. But from day one, the food trucks that rolled into Woodbine hit a problem Beach drivers know all too well – tricky parking.

At first, the trucks were asked to park in the green ‘P’ lot on the south side of Eastern Avenue, just behind Greenwood Off-track Wagering.

Not only did the food vendors find

the lot starved for foot traffic, city staff didn’t want the food trucks tak- ing up any paid parking spots.

During the August long weekend, the trucks at Woodbine were asked to park on the brick pad at the south- west corner of Queen Street East and Northern Dancer Boulevard – an area that is right across the street from a residential building.

“They turned on the generators and it was just like an airplane had landed,” said Annie Borkowski, who lives on the ground floor.

Borkowski said her family is used to hearing summer music festivals at Woodbine, including the Taste of the Jazz Festival event that brought sev- eral food trucks into the middle of the park earlier this year.

The corner was just too close, she said. Several residents complained to the city about the noise, and the way the truck was blocking a footpath.

One resident photographed a vendor pouring what he believed to be grey water into a city catch basin, which breaks existing bylaws.

Borkowski said she likes the idea of a food truck pilot and will be first in line for one, so long as it’s parked in a better spot.

“I think we tried, there was an error, let’s try again,” she said.

Carleton Grant, a policy director for the City of Toronto, said the city pulled the Woodbine Park venue when it became clear the site was too close to the condo building.

“We haven’t put in prescriptive distances, such as 75 or 100 metres from a residence,” he said. “That’s one of the things we’ll look at from this, what those right distances are.”

Councillor McMahon, who was away when the noise problems occurred, agreed that the corner was too close, adding that vendors found it was still short on foot traffic.

Because parks along the busy eastern beaches are already under a long- term contract to another food vendor, McMahon said the trial can’t move there. She and park staff are looking at other possible venues in the East End, preferably in Ward 32.

“It’s a pilot, so wrinkles need to be ironed out,” she said.

In the end, McMahon said she hopes that when council reviews its street vending rules next spring, it can finally catch up to cities like Van- couver, St. Catherines and Hamilton, all of which have changed city bylaws to encourage street food that goes be- yond burgers and fries.

“As one of the most multicultural cities in the world, our street food doesn’t reflect that diversity,” she said. “I mean, if all those cities can do it, why can’t we?”

To take part in an online survey about street vending in Toronto, visit toronto.ca/licensing/streetfoodvending.htm.


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