I’m reminded periodically that I’m not an investigative journalist, so I’ll leave that to the experts. Everything that I’ve been given by RPD is here for your own investigation. What I will do is disseminate information to you, provide my point of view, and hopefully, we’ll start a dialogue about it and figure out our collective POV.
Another situation of where to begin… I was recently contacted by Nicolas Kinsey with Rec and Park Dept (RPD) about Blue Bottle’s permit in Dolores Park. The commission meeting was just around the corner and he wanted my opinion. I told him that this is the first time I’d heard that Blue Bottle had been chosen. I asked about how neighbors were consulted about vendors in the park, if local business were approach to provide a proposal, and how waste was going to be handled. He addressed the waste management issue somewhat, but fell short on satisfying me on the others. So I followed up with him and Nicole Avril with RPD. This is what I’ve learned.
The meeting on February 9, 2010 was to approve specific pushcart operators in city parks (La Cocina and Blue Bottle for Dolores Park). The meeting on April 15 was to approve permits for specific pushcart operator permits (La Cocina) and the meeting on September 2 was to approve a permit for Blue Bottle.
According to SF Weekly, one of La Cocina’s vendors will be selling food seven days a week in a trailer and there is a second spot with pushcart vendors that will sell only on weekends. Blue Bottle’s permit was reduced from five years to two and the cart will be located somewhere along 20th and will sell 7 days a week from 8 AM – 4 PM. I assume La Cocina’s is still five years.
RPD’s outreach methods have consisted of: publication of the RFP on RPD’s website (I’m sure we all visit that regularly), placing an ad in the July 31, 2009 SF Chronicle, emailing all parties who expressed an interest in the program [I read that as potential vendors, not neighbors], emailing all department’s potential bidder’s database, responding to verbal and written queries from hundreds of individuals and businesses and articles in SF Examiner and SF Chronicle, plus blogs on SF Eater, SF Weekly, SFist, and Grub Street. It also says that we and other community groups and businesses were notified. (Source: RPC_090210_DoloresParkBlueBottle.PDF, page 2).
According to Nicole, “The funds go into a pool for operating funds, out of which all dolores park expenses are paid. Concessions at all parks, i.e. Golden Gate Park and Civic Center Plaza, go into this fund. Until now, these parks subsidized Dolores Park which did not raise any funds to contribute to the pool.”
I don’t know about you, but I don’t put Dolores Park in the same category as Golden Gate Park or Civic Center Plaza. If that’s the vision RPD has for our park, then I’m scared. Also, who decided Dolores needed to get a job to bring home the bacon for RPD? If they are going to have to work for it then, I think she (Dolores) should get some of the dough, no?
Let’s be clear: We love Blue Bottle Coffee and La Cocina! I’ve had conversations with Acting Executive Director Caleb Zigas about it and feel La Cocina would be a strong partner for the park. I’m sure Blue Bottle would be as well. This is not about them specifically, but rather RPD’s outreach process. The lack of proactive communication from RPD with the communities involved has been a reoccurring issue for our community and Dolores Park Works.
To be fair, I read about the La Cocina coming to Dolores Park months ago. For a while, my biggest concern regarding Dolores Park was keeping it clean. Our role as an organization has expanded and as the new Director of Advocacy, I plan to be much more ahead of the issues. That said, I assumed that outreach by RPD had already taken place. Why else would they have approved permits for vendors in our park?
Surely the neighbors were informed through a mailing or community meeting. Alas, we just learned that the process was moving forward without community input. Not everyone reads blogs. It’s strange, but I’ve even met neighbors that don’t even own a computer. Online media doesn’t work for everyone.
Dolores Park Works wasn’t even notified until last month. Considering this process started last summer, this is rather disappointing. Plus, I just spoke with Gideon Kramer of SafeCleanGreen, and he says he was never notified, despite what it said on documents presented to the commission on Sept 2. We haven’t time to reach out to our community and form a position. Dolores Park Works does not oppose vendors in the park per say, but there are big questions that need answering and this process has not allowed for it.
Are we commercializing Dolores Park or filling a void? Will established vendors turn Dolores Park into a fairground?
What’s the impact on the park’s infrastructure? The park’s trashcans are already overflowing. How will having vendors on site help or hurt this?
What about the local, off-permit vendors that make a living walking the park selling their goods? Does having RPD-sponsored vendors on site kill that culture that some of us have grown to love and appreciate?
How did it go from pushcarts to a trailer?
How much of the money raised will be dedicated to Dolores Park? Will it be guaranteed?
I don’t have the answers and that’s why I feel that this process is flawed. What we oppose is the lack of direct outreach to community groups, park patrons, and neighbors that are impacted by vendors in the park and adequate time to make decisions about whether we even want vendors in Dolores Park.
Nicole says the permitting process is “ongoing” and that RPD is reaching out to us “so they could express their feelings to the commission before the commission made a decision.” And here, I thought the commission had already approved the permit. This is so confusing. I’ve asked for clarification.
What do you think?