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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Why Are Only Some Food Vendors Okay for City Parks?

Posted By on Tue, Oct 19, 2010 at 6:31 PM

Informal chestnut vendor in Paris. - ALARZY/FLICKR
  • Alarzy/Flickr
  • Informal chestnut vendor in Paris.

Our favorite morsel from the blogs.

So Blue Bottle won't be driving its Third Wave trailer into Dolores Park after all. James Freeman told us whatever benefit the company could scrape together from setting up in the park would be more than obliterated the shitstorm that's brewed for more than six weeks now (we paraphrase). Opponents like Stephen Elliott suggest parks are no place for commercial activity; we don't entirely agree. Sure, nobody wants city green space overrun with dreck shacks hawking kitty keychains, Wharf-grade T-shirts, or Whoppers. But parks are already sites of commercial activity, which is exactly how it should be. Back in the '90s, we spoke before the Rec and Parks Commission in support of bringing a farmers' market to the Panhandle. We lost, though the strip of pavement where farmers would have set up was already doing a healthy black market trade in paletas, sticky bud, and homemade tamales.

That's as it should have been. Good parks offer delights that go beyond the feeling of wet sneakers in the grass, or the sigh of wind in cypress trees.

Green space in cities much older than San Francisco are sources of pleasure beyond what cafes on surrounding streets serve up, some of them legal, some not. Take the kid at the edge of Paris' Bois de Boulogne one October, roasting chestnuts on a haphazard rig he fashioned out of a bowl and a brazier wedged into a stolen shopping cart. Or women selling some rudimentary moqueca from a plaza at Rio de Janeiro feria.

Food has the power to limn a place, provide scale and texture to the experience of being outdoors in the midst of dense urban space.

And if that's true, then why shouldn't San Franciscans be able to buy an espresso or a huarache from a trailer in Dolores Park? And why shouldn't we all be protesting the far more intrusive Off the Grid park events?

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