On a Proposed Ordinance on University City Street Vending

Since the early part of this century, vendors have provided a wide variety of food options for students, faculty, staff, and others. Vending is a tradition at the University of Pennsylvania; it is important to us, and we support it.

There has been, though, a proliferation of street and sidewalk vendors here, from fewer than 60 trucks and carts in 1992 to more than 90 today, because as other parts of the city have moved to address issues of public health and safety, sanitation, parking and streetscape--and successfully organized vending--the displaced vendors have moved to University City.

This "migration" west to our campus and its surrounding neighborhoods hasn't been good for us, and it hasn't been good for many of the vendors who have provided services for decades--and whom we have come to call our friends.

Issues of public health and safety, sanitation, parking and streetscape that have had a deleterious effect on the quality of life in Center City and other parts of Philadelphia in the past are now our problems. Alone, any of these issues would be cause for concern, and collectively they are serious, but safety is of paramount importance. The fact is, the situation around the entrance of the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania has become intolerable. Vendors block access to and egress from emergency rooms and the hospital; patients complain about an inability to walk unimpeded into the hospital. Vending trucks on the streets cause traffic bottlenecks and impede ambulance access.

It doesn't stop there. Vending trucks with propane tanks and generators present very real hazards; we avoided a near catastrophe a year ago when gasoline generator caught fire at 36th and Walnut streets. Students walking into Spruce and Walnut streets between vending trucks are always at risk; we have been fortunate that more haven't been hurt. And, vending trucks parked along sidewalks at night have become "cover" for criminals; four of our students can speak to that.

We have been working for more than a year to address these issues, with safety utmost in our minds, and to create a more stable environment for vendors who provide valuable services to us. Penn and other institutions in University City have worked to develop a comprehensive vending ordinance to improve, not eliminate, vending in our community.

The University City Vending Ordinance [scheduled for introduction at City Council Thursday, May 9] establishes a district with a maximum of 75 vendors located on public right-of-ways. Additionally, Penn will provide on- campus sites for approximately 16 additional vendors. The ordinance will provide for a total of 91 vendors, about the same number of vendors that now operate on city streets.

The ordinance will address our concerns by prohibiting street parking by vending trucks on certain designated blocks; vending trucks will be replaced by vending carts. It also will establish a code of conduct for vendors similar to those in place in other parts of the city.

The ordinance also creates an advisory board--composed of vendors, the business community, and neighborhood residents--that will establish vending sites on the right-of-ways and select vendors for those sites.

Vending is a valued Penn tradition; all who have worked so hard on this ordinance understand that. We have received considerable input from students, faculty, and staff regarding ways vending can be improved; we have welcomed this input, and many of the suggestions we have received have been incorporated in our thinking.

Vending will continue to be available at the University of Pennsylvania. We think this ordinance will do it better, and doing it better has been and continues to be our goal.

-- Carol Scheman, Vice President for Government, Community and Public Affairs


Volume 43 Number 33
May 6, 1997

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