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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Meeting Gives Foes of Dolores Park Vendor Plan a Chance to Vent

Posted By on Tue, Sep 28, 2010 at 1:17 PM

Opponents say food vendors in Dolores Park could generate more trash, more noise, more public peeing. - BRIANNA H./YELP
  • Brianna H./Yelp
  • Opponents say food vendors in Dolores Park could generate more trash, more noise, more public peeing.
For opponents, last night's community meeting on Rec and Park's plans for food vendors in Dolores Park was an exercise in futility. Dolores Park Works organized the meeting earlier this month, after Commissioners delayed signing off on permits for Blue Bottle and La Cocina to operate trailers in the park. Some neighbors and nearby merchants accused Rec and Park of failing to do the proper outreach, starting a year ago, when the agency issued its first call for vendor RFPs. Or that it failed to enlist community input on choosing vendors and negotiating contracts.

Last night's meeting at Dolores Park Church gave Rec and Park an opportunity to admit, publicly, that they underestimated neighborhood resistance to the plan. But while Rec and Park GM Phil Ginsburg acknowledged that his department had screwed up, it was clear that that wasn't enough to halt the vendor plan. Which, clearly, pissed off some in the 50 person audience.

Besides Ginsburg, Rec and Park had assembled a phalanx of officials: park service manager Eric Anderson, property manager Nick Kinsey, director of partnerships and resource development Nicole Avril. RPD Commissioner Gloria Bonilla was in the audience, and the Mayor's Office of Economic and Workforce Development sent Todd Rufo to talk up mobile vending as an enhancement to existing brick and mortars. And La Cocina director Caleb Zigas and Blue Bottle's Mike Hamm looked like they were just hoping to survive.

Rec and Park's apparent strategy: Let Ginsburg paint a picture of budget-cuts devastation ― a rationale for the approximately $70,000 in annual revenue vendors are expected to raise for the department ― then scuttle off to another meeting, letting Avril take neighbors' blows. They came in the form of concerns about increased crowds in the park, about the lack of places to pee, an uptick in trash, and the rumble of generators.

Avril bullet-pointed all the ways RPD plans to enlist the community for any future park vendors. But as for the current contracts with Blue Bottle and La Cocina ― set to be approved by the Commission when it meets again Oct. 7 ― one neighbor asked the question some had clearly come to ask: "Can we stop it? Is there a procedural way we can stop this plan?"

The answer, though Avril didn't use the word, was no.

RPD's Kinsey tried to ameliorate critics by describing how the agency had scaled back vendors' original plans. La Cocina was first offered a contract to operate a second pushcart in the park (now it has one, which it'll lease to El Huarache Loco). And Blue Bottle's contract was trimmed from five years to two. Kinsey stressed that both vendors would have permits revocable on 30-day notices.

Blue Bottle's Mike Hamm made a plea that the coffee company would prove that it couls be a good neighbor if given the chance, including donating to park nonprofits. That didn't seem to be enough for some in the audience. "We already have too many people coming into our park that we're not accommodating," said one man with bushy grizzled hair and sideburns. "Why should our bushes have to pay for your philanthropic ways?" He suggested both vendors should have to install Porta Potties.

But the real ire was directed at Rec and Park. "Nothing you have said tonight convinces me that you guys have thought this through," said one speaker to Avril and Kinsey.

And that was the real effect of last night's meeting: Letting RPD know how pissed off some had become in the past three weeks, since word of the vendor contracts had grown through the neighborhood like the Sunday lines at Bi-Rite.

"You screwed up and now you're hearing it," said one woman at the speakers' table. Then, turning to the audience, she said, "You have to accept that now you have these two vendors."

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