The Ann Arbor City Council voted yesterday to let the city’s street food vendors stay on sidewalks for another three months.
During its twice-monthly meeting last night, the City Council voted unanimously to extend the vendors’ permits for 90 days while city officials revise a previously unenforced ordinance that prohibits vehicles from being parked on public sidewalks.
Michigan law defines vehicles as any device that can be pulled onto a highway.
Because their carts have wheels and are large enough, 12 city vendors could have been put out of business by the 1947 ordinance.
The part of the ordinance banning the carts will not be enforced during the extension, but vendors will be required to move their carts from the sidewalks when not in use.
Three vendors spoke during the meeting’s public comments period to oppose the revival of the ordinance, which has been dormant for sixty years.
The ordinance would have been enforced starting March 31.
Councilmember Stephen Kunselman (D-Ward 3), who initiated the ordinance’s enforcement, said at the meeting that he wanted to enforce the code because of carts being abandoned at night.
“I am very supportive of sidewalk vendors,” he said. “I just want to move forward.”
Sebastian Escalada, the owner of Hot Dogs on the Run, a stand across from Ulrich’s that has not been towed all year, was one of the vendors that aggravated Kunselman.
Escalada put a petition called “Save the Dog House” on the counter of his stand across from Ulrich’s on South University Avenue Wednesday. It has accumulated 135 signatures since then.
“I hear the students, the faculty, my customers,” said Beverly Salada, who has worked at the stand for three years. “They’re very against it, they want me to stay out here.”
Escalada was as short and direct in his comments to Council, tossing up his hands and saying that the ordinance should be enforced to “not just us.”
In an interview, Escalada said he felt that the ordinance was being unevenly enforced because other vehicles like FedEx delivery trucks and University repair vans frequently park and drive on the sidewalks.
“If you choose who you are going to enforce the laws to, you are discriminating,” he said.
Councilmember Sabra Briere (D-Ward 1) said revising the ordinance is only fair because its language is vague.
“That’s enough to tell us that we need to be much clearer to ourselves about our expectations, and to the public in general about what the rules really are,” she said.
Sylvia Nolasco, the owner of Pilar’s Tamales on the corner of South and East University avenues, demanded that the Council review the ordinance.
“It puts us in a position to be forced to radically change their business operations, or worse, to go out of business,” she said.
In a private meeting with two vendors last Friday, Mayor John Hieftje discussed his intentions to rewrite the ordinance so Ann Arbor’s current vendors can keep their carts.
After consulting with city administrators yesterday afternoon, Hieftje proposed the 90-day extension to allow enough time for City Council to deliberate.
LeRoy Whipple, owner of the Dog Days hot dog stand, said he was optimistic about the permit extension.
“Obviously it’s something that I’m excited about,” he said. “I’m just looking forward to seeing what the amendment is going to be.”