By Mike Dunn

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A Philadelphia city councilmember trying to set up spots for street vendors in her district ran into a bureaucratic roadblock today.

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Third District councilwoman Jannie Blackwell wants to create a special business district on both sides of Woodlawn Avenue in West Philadelphia, between 48th and 58th Streets.  She says the district would allow struggling ex-offenders set up food carts.

“People are trying to bring it up from the bottom,” Blackwell (at left) said today, “and certainly we want to support them.”

But the city’s Department of Licenses & Inspections says street vendor spots are assigned by a neutral lottery, not by a neighborhood group, and L&I would have no way to control what could be subsequent chaos.

“We would have no way of enforcing this,” L&I’s Rebecca Swanson told the City Council committee.  “If this group decides who gets to go where, and then someone is in the wrong spot, and they call L&I to come out, what are we supposed to do?”

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Several residents who support Blackwell’s plan objected to L&I’s hardline stance, and they pointed out that local control of vending spots already exists in South Philadelphia — at the Italian Market.

“They had complete control of allocating Vendors’ Row locations for over forty years,” noted Jihad Ali.  “Think of what it did for the city as a whole!”

In the end, Blackwell agreed to table the proposal because of the Nutter administration’s concerns, and Swanson, of L&I, agreed to work out a revision of the plan that would more closely mirror the code that governs the Italian Market.


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