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Monday, September 28, 2009

Rec and Park Opens Up Golden Gate Park to Bids from Street-Food Vendors

Posted By on Mon, Sep 28, 2009 at 11:58 AM

click to enlarge Approved vendors in Golden Gate Park could begin selling in January. - KANSAS SEBASTIAN/FLICKR
  • Kansas Sebastian/Flickr
  • Approved vendors in Golden Gate Park could begin selling in January.
Late Friday, the Recreation and Park Department announced that its solicitation for proposals for pushcart food sales in the city's green spaces would apply to all city parks including Golden Gate Park, would cover taco trucks in certain cases, and extended by two weeks the deadline for vendor proposals.

In an e-mail that echoed a statement at Rec and Park's Website, Property Manager Nicholas Kinsey wrote: "The Department has amended the RFP [request for proposals] and will consider proposals to operate a pushcart concession in Golden Gate Park ... The Department has also clarified the RFP to indicate that proposals will be accepted for the operation of mobile food catering trucks and trailers in addition to pushcarts."

In July, when Rec and Park made its original call for proposals, it specifically excluded Golden Gate Park. The decision about whether or not to open up the city's most popular park to street food vendors was deferred till an unspecified date in the future. Friday's decision to include GGP in the proposal that would apply to the city's 200-plus other parks was the result of interior discussions, according to an unnamed Rec and Park source.

The issue of allowing taco trucks and trailers into certain parks was raised at a public pre-submittal meeting held late last month. At that meeting, Rec and Park made it clear that it would be seeking a single operator for each park, though the operator could be in charge of multiple concessionaires. Also raised at the August meeting: The question as to whether Rec and Park would reduce rent for vendors in the winter rainy season when park attendance dips. The Department said it was considering a possible reduction. It also raised the possibility that more than one operator could be approved for Golden Gate Park. From 2006 until June of this year, now-defunct street-food vendor Happy Belly was the sole operator in Golden Gate Park.

The deadline for submitting an RFP was also bumped back from October 1 to October 15. The Rec and Park source said the two-week extension did not reflect lackluster interest in bidding, but would give operators a chance to react to Friday's news about Golden Gate Park. The source called interest in park food concessions "significant," and said the Department had a number of proposals already in hand. A selection committee will evaluate proposals in November and December; winning vendors are expected be begin selling in parks in January 2010.

Caleb Zigas, director of La Cocina -- a nonprofit incubator of food businesses in the Mission -- called Friday's news "very interesting." He said that, while none of La Cocina's vendors was interested in submitting an RFP individually, La Cocina was looking into submitting a proposal to serve as operator in a specific park, with its vendor members acting as concessionaires. "The way I read the RFP, they're leaving it open for managers, not necessarily individual operators," Zigas told SFoodie. "Right now we're trying to figure out the finances of it, and working on getting our proposal together in two weeks." He suggested Golden Gate Park was probably too ambitious an undertaking, but that smaller parks were ideal. He declined to name specific parks La Cocina had its eye on.

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