Last night I went to a park that only a few years ago wasn't a spot where anybody lingered unless you needed a spot to sleep in or you were selling drugs. Now it's a gathering place for a vibrant and diverse community--gorgeous men playing basketball (my personal favorite), children and their parents, couples relaxing together on the grass, groups having picnics, and in the evening an outdoor movie being played on the wall of what looked like a large utility shed.
One of the assets that makes this spot a focal point is food--there's a huge amount of reasonably food encircling the park and a weekend hotdog cart inside. And I began to wonder how we could reclaim the streets of downtown Seattle as a place everybody would want to be in the same way people gather in this park.
I thought of cities where the streets are magnets for everyone and I immediately remembered their food carts. If we allowed reasonably priced, fresh, good food to line our sidewalks, people would come to eat. With enough people filling a block, it would no longer be an attractive spot for a drug market.
With a few exceptions, Seattle's streets in the downtown core are empty, except for bus stops and entrepreneurs of the worst kind. I see this from my apartment window all the time and think longingly of how a dozen food carts could change that in a week.
Our country is absurd--we regulate the things that could make life more pleasant and fail to provide solutions for that which makes life untenable. Loosen the restrictions on food carts and watch incarceration rates drop? Naive? Irresponsible? I don't know about you, but I'd risk a case of food poisoning once in a while if I could enjoy walking in the area around Third and Pine--or down Third at all, for that matter.