By Morgan Landers

Happy New Year All! I look forward to the New Year and hope you do to! Talk about New Year’s resolutions, here is one for city agencies across the country, starting with Denver.

Create integrated flexible codes and process to enhance urban environments!

You may think that I am just talking about zoning codes, but a successful urban environment is about the experience. Personally, I appreciate the little quirks and surprises that you can find in a city. One of which is the unique cuisine offered by various street vendors and the activity that they generate. Food Carts have become all the rage in many cities, including Denver, which is home to the recently formed Justice League of Street Food (can be found on Facebook). This tight band of gourmet travelers roam the streets of Denver and provide employees, residents, and visitors with the tastes of cupcake treats, BBQ, comfort foods, and much more! Sad to say, the great people of Denver won’t be getting their cupcake fix in the near future.

Now normally I am proud of the progressive efforts Denver makes toward creating a successful urban city. Let’s not forget the new form-based zoning code, Greenprint, and Blueprint Denver; B-Cycle; FasTracks; the Mayor’s Energy Office; and hundreds of other non-profits focused on sustainable urban living. Kudos to those efforts for sure!

However, I would like to focus away from the big picture items and lean in toward implementation. I am very pleased as I drive westbound on Highway 6 and see the new light rail tracks and get equally excited when I see tens of bike commuters on a cold winter day. But I am sad to say that they won’t be getting their sweet treat on their way in because the permitting process for food cart vendors is not only confusing to operators, but confusing to the city as well. One of the most well-known food cart vendors, the Cupcake Truck, has been forced to close their doors pending directions from the City and County of Denver.

This fantastic Denver asset thought they had complied with all permitting requirements from guidance by the City. However, months later with permit in hand, they were informed they were in violation and told to shut down operations.

I ask Denver, and cities across the country (as I am sure this is not the only city where this comes up) that Departments like Planning and Zoning, Health Department, and Business Licensing check and integrate the process by which these types of urban assets are permitted. If we are to keep the hustle and bustle of a successful urban environment growing in Denver, these processes need to be simple and easy to understand the first time around. I am hard pressed to believe that food cart vendors are the only urban component that has run into confusion when it comes to permitting and licensing!

Please see the Denver Cupcake Truck Blog for their posting on this issue:

I don’t know about you all, but working in the real estate industry, I need a good cupcake every once in a while! Cheers to the New Year and may it be off to a great start for everyone!


Morgan Landers has a Bachelor of Environmental Design from CU Boulder and a Master of Urban and Regional Planning from CU Denver. She currently works as the staff planner for a brownfield redevelopment company in Denver. Her interests include infill development, community outreach/involvement, and environmental planning. As a member of the DenverUrbanism Team, she will discuss a variety of topics about living and working in urban environments.