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The Street Food Furniture Program

Who knew Toronto’s hot dog carts were such an eyesore of non-conformity? Yesterday, Mayor Miller put the kibosh to councillor John Filion’s proposal to borrow $700,000 to build 35 new-fangled street-food carts. The carts are part of the Filion-led charge to diversify Toronto’s street eats: different foods need different gear, so the hot dog carts won’t do. Now that Filion has lost out on the $700,000 loan, he’s looking for alternative financing. He’s determined to maintain control over the 35 prototypes. As he told the Star’s Vanessa Lu: “We don’t want a repeat with what happened with hot dog carts. We want a uniform look. We want something that’s good for branding the city as a food destination.”

Uniformity in diversity! Might as well ask Astral Media to design them so they match the city’s street furniture. I understand Filion’s concern: he is also chair of the Board of Health, and he needs to ensure the equipment is safe and the food is fit for public consumption. But just because the gear needs to be antiseptic doesn’t mean the carts all have to look antiseptic, do they? Filion says he wants to avoid the problem of garage-built carts, but why? Just put the standards in writing (materials, size, etc.) and make any license contingent upon the inspection of the applicant’s cart. Toronto ought to be clean, beautiful and safe, but it should also put its diversity on display. A little bit of variation among its stainless-steel vending carts won’t hurt. The more we insist upon public space conformity, the more the experience of walking city streets will resemble a walk through the mall.

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