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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Alemany Food Vendors Could Extend Their City Contracts Up to Three Years

Posted By on Wed, Jun 17, 2009 at 12:07 PM

click to enlarge El Huarache Loco must file for a contract from the city's Real Estate Division. - LADYJAKE/FLICKR
  • ladyJake/Flickr
  • El Huarache Loco must file for a contract from the city's Real Estate Division.
Food vendors at the Alemany farmers' market who avoided the axe last week have an opportunity to operate under city contract for as long as three years.

Yesterday, Chron's Chuck Nevius reported that the city's Real Estate Division was allowing the vendors to stay, but only for a year, followed by an uncertain future. But John Updike, the Division's assistant director, told SFoodie that food sellers will be able to file for a two-year extension when the original contracts expire next summer.

The vendor controversy surrounding the Saturday and Sunday Alemany markets erupted two weeks ago, when the Real Estate Division released results of its Request for Proposal (RFP). Last week, Eater SF described the RFP's system for scoring prepared food vendors. According to Updike, the RFP's impetus was a mandate from the state's Department of Agriculture a year ago stipulating that, for health reasons, cooked-food vendors couldn't be situated among produce vendors as in the past, but were required to move to an area previously reserved for parking. But because parking was already scarce at the popular Saturday food market, the city decided to cut the number of vendors from nearly two dozen down to approximately 15.

When officials assessed the results of its scoring system, it notified some six vendors (including such longtime favorites as El Huarache Loco, All Star Tamales, and Sabores del Sur) that they'd have to pack it up. But, said Updike, a public outcry followed, primarily via petitions circulated at the market. "Customers started to make their views known -- it was a very impressive lineup of customers."

El Huarache Loco owner Veronica Salazar told SFoodie that Real Estate director Amy Brown stopped by personally last Saturday's market to inform her that she'd be able to apply for the new one-year contract on June 29. Salazar, a fixture at Alemany for nearly five years, had been told she'd have to give up her Sunday space. "I'm one of the most popular food vendors," Salazar said. "It was customer support that saved us."

The contract system is new. Previously, Salazar has paid for her Saturday and Sunday spaces on a month-to-month basis ($120 a week for summer-season Saturdays, and $100 for the smaller Sunday flea market). Updike described the new system as providing vendors with "a little more certainty." He said both the Saturday and Sunday markets were picking up six new food vendors to increase the diversity of offerings, including kettle corn and Greek food. But he acknowledged the backlash the division's original proposal had sparked.

"We've learned a lot from this process," he said.

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