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Monday, September 20, 2010

Opponents of Dolores Park Vendor Plan Blame Rec and Park's Outreach Fail

Posted By on Mon, Sep 20, 2010 at 3:47 PM

click to enlarge Owner of the Dolores Park Cafe says Rec and Park failed to enlist community support for the vendor plan. - KEVIN Y./YELP
  • Kevin Y./Yelp
  • Owner of the Dolores Park Cafe says Rec and Park failed to enlist community support for the vendor plan.
Here's the thing, says Crystal Vann Wallstrom, co-founder and director of advocacy for the volunteer nonprofit Dolores Park Works: Not everyone who has concerns about the city's Recreation and Park Department's plans to bring food vendors to the park is a NIMBY.

Last week, a group of Mission organizations, businesses, and residents got Commissioners to put a hold on Rec and Park's plans to let food vendors sell in Dolores, putting the brakes on plans by Blue Bottle Coffee and La Cocina to roll out mobile vending units. Vann Wallstrom is spearheading next Monday's community meeting at Dolores Park Church to let park users and local businesses hear specifics of the plan, and give all parties a chance to weigh in.

And while reaction to the vendor plan has sparked passions on both sides (check out comments on SFoodie's Friday post), Vann Wallstrom defends critics of the plan. "Everyone likes to blame this on the NIMBYs, but not all neighbors are NIMBYs," Vann Wallstrom says. The problem, she says, stems from Rec and Park's total outreach fail.

"Our neighbors are really involved with the park. I don't think it would have taken too much effort for Rec and Park to find out who the players are and then reach out to us."

Dolores Park Café owner Rachel Herbert says she only learned of any concrete vendor plans about three weeks ago, after she got a call from Rec and Park's Nick Kinsey. Herbert says Kinsey called her days before the Sept. 2 meeting at which Commissioners were voting on final contracts for the park vendors, apparently to gauge opposition to the plan. Herbert says she'd heard what she calls "murmurings" about vendor plans from online reports (SFoodie and other news sites began reporting on Rec and Park's call for vendors back in July 2009), but didn't realize contracts had been all but nailed down.

"I basically said this is the first time I was hearing about it, and it would have been great if there'd been more outreach," Herbert says. She describes Kinsey ― whom she'd never spoken to before the call in question ― as "kind of aggressive about defending that there was outreach about it."

"He said they posted stuff in the Chron and the Examiner, and said, 'Well, we can't knock on everyone's door.'"

"I basically don't have a problem with food vendors in the park," Herbert says. "I have a problem with the process, and how Rec and Park has responded to the neighborhood." Given Rec and Park's well-publicized missteps under chief Phil Ginsburg, that's not entirely surprising. No one from Rec and Park has returned SFoodie's calls seeking comment.

As for Monday's meeting, Nicole Avril, Rec and Park's director of partnerships and resource development, has reportedly indicated to Vann Wallstrom that she'll be there. And what would be a good outcome for the meeting, as far as Vann Wallstrom is concerned? "I don't know, to be honest," she says. "Once everyone gets a chance to voice their questions and concerns, we'll see of there are still remaining issues." But she's not expecting everyone to walk away singing kumbaya.

"There's going to be people who leave the meeting who are really upset, and some who leave who are really excited."

Follow us on Twitter: @sfoodie. Contact me at John.Birdsall@SFWeekly.com

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