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Friday, October 8, 2010

Blue Bottle Site in Dolores Park an Issue at Rec and Park Meeting

Posted By on Fri, Oct 8, 2010 at 5:02 PM

click to enlarge Rendering of the Blue Bottle trailer and its proposed site in Dolores Park. - BLUE BOTTLE COFFEE CO.
  • Blue Bottle Coffee Co.
  • Rendering of the Blue Bottle trailer and its proposed site in Dolores Park.
At yesterday's regular meeting of the San Francisco Rec and Parks Commission, one discussion item on the agenda attracted a heavy presence of Missionites. The item had to do with the location of the Blue Bottle pushcart ― a trailer, really. Earlier this year Rec and Park had chosen Blue Bottle to be one of two pushcart operators in Dolores Park. (La Cocina was the other; it'd chosen El Huarache Loco to operate its cart.) But, though the city had already approved permits for the operators, 11th-hour pushback from the community seemed to put vending plans in doubt. The item on yesterday's agenda focused narrowly on where Blue Bottle's trailer should sit.

Rec and Park had recommended siting the trailer near the kids' playground, as far as practical from the 18th Street corridor and its cafes. A community meeting at Dolores Park Church last month made it clear that opposition to park food vending was fierce, at least among some park neighbors. Opponents cited concerns about crowds, trash, noise from generators, and the shortage of bathrooms.

Blue Bottle's James Freeman calls yesterday's meeting contentious, as speakers opposed to park vending occasionally raised their voices. "There's a lot of talk about Blue Bottle being a national chain and that kind of thing," Freeman says. Last year the company launched a microroastery and café in Brooklyn. And though Blue Bottle took on an investor ― a venture capital firm ― in 2008, Freeman insists he has majority control of the business.

"It's easy to be very reactive and defensive," Freeman says. I would rather be judged to be too successful to be doing business in Dolores Park than not successful enough to be considered to do business there," he says.

Freeman says the Dolores trailer arrived yesterday. Its manager, Michael Hamm, is training staff ― Freeman says the cart might roll out in the park in as soon as two weeks. Is he afraid that opposition might somehow put Blue Bottle workers at risk? Freeman says he'd be foolish not to have concerns. Then again, he says, "maybe I was foolish in thinking it was charming and innocuous to have a cart in Dolores Park and that that would be the extent of it. Everything is harder than you think."

La Cocina's Julie Flynn says that,e ven though yesterday's agenda item was limited to Blue Bottle, the discussion revealed opposition to all food vending in Dolores. Still, she says, "my sense from the meeting is that most people are pretty supportive of La Cocina. A lot of the frustrations had to do with the permitting process and the infrastructure in the park not being adequate. My sense is that people are supportive of La Cocina in general, that there's not a lot of anger directed at El Huarache Loco and La Cocina."

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