Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Stop the Commercialization Clarification

Hello Fayes patrons. I wanted to take this opportunity to clear up any issues around the wording of the petition we had at the store. I want you to know that it was penned by Chicken John and approved by a collective of neighborhood people, myself included.  In hindsight I understand why the wording could be seen in an awkward tone and why people were against signing. I apologize if any one felt mislead, but it was more a feeling of we had 5 days and we needed to get your attention. Many people still are unaware of the situation happening at the park. After last Thursdays hearing, Rec and Park are still moving forward with the idea of having two 8' x 12' food trailers, powered by generators in the park. Tomorrow night at 8:30 people are meeting at Dolores Park Cafe to express their views, wether it be for or against this idea. A list of commissioners, local merchants, neighbors, supervisors, and even James Freeman (the majority share holder of Blue Bottle) himself have been invited. There was a string of emails that transpired and I had not been getting much sleep the past weeks and I composed the following email. I hoe it helps in clarifying my point of view as I feel the local blogs are not reporting everything. I thank you in advanced for reading.
As ever, Mike. (co-owner of Fyaes)

10/9/10 4:22 am

Its 3am the night before open studios and I should be getting some sleep but somehow my mind will not stop as this issue with commerce in the park has been on my mind consistently for weeks. So excuse me if this seems to ramble, but I hope you continue to read,
 After having an email exchange with one of the commissioners (and I will say she alone has returned some faith in the political system and I want to thank her for so willingly converse with me) I realized that one of the main problems in this situation is all the grey areas and how one chooses to define something like the words public, national, and local. It also is grey because there is the issue of trying to define “what is commerce in the park?” and if you can define would you want it there? Then there is also the grey area of communication, was enough done to notify about the original RFP and once that RFP was out was the proper channels of communication carried out.

I want to call to the attention the idea that Blue Bottle was referred to as a National Chain. First most I personally would like to apologize for using the word chain as that would apply a series and in the case of NY currently there is only one location, but I will still stand by that they are a national company. Whether it is their own flag ship stores and operation or a wholesale accounts I hope we all can agree that they have a larger then just the Bay Area presence. And I also hope that with all due respect to Mr. Freeman he can understand that once one reads “Kohlberg Ventures invested with James to expand this model to new cities” and the SF and NY ones have been established that they would assume there is intent to continue to grow even larger. Similar to our once local Peet’s Coffee and Odwalla, who is now owned by Coca-Cola, Inc.

I would also like to say that Mr. Freeman should not be faulted by his success to run a great business but at the same time I don’t think someone like myself who has chosen to remain small, local and independent should be faulted as well. We all make choices in our lives and I can only speak for myself, and I have chosen to have a business that allows me enough free time to concentrate on my passion for creating art.

Though Mr. Freeman’s success may come into question in one of those grey areas of does it makes a good fit for a public park? I think the slippery slope you could run into is by setting a precedent of what is a viable business for the Rec and Pak program. Fortunately Blue Bottle was able to afford the $25,000 trailer equipped with a $15,000 espresso machine (I admit that amount is hear say but know that espresso machines can be that much or higher), but will every vendor be able to?  Is it fair to alienate the original small vendors with pushcarts from obtaining such permits? For some of them $1000 a month is an enormous amount and could not afford this. Yet they are the ones responsible for creating this trend of food cart culture we all so love. With the current permits in place these small pushcarts are then in jeopardy of being reported if they try to sell in the parks. (On a side note: again I can only speak for myself but the question of those vendors who already sell in the park came up as examples of commerce and I think it was a valid point, But I also think it is valid to point out that they do not have a daily dawn to dusk presence, nor do they operate on generators. And if there was an easy permitting process maybe there would be also an easy way to have them contribute to the Rec and Park?) It seems that with Bevan Duffy trying to create a policy to make it more accessible for these small vendors to obtain permits and operate that this Rec and Park program is premature and may cause complications in that process and with future applicants to the Rec and Parks RFP.

Speaking of that RFP that brings us to another grey area. It was stated that this RFP was well known and well publicized, that it was sent out to 1000 possible candidates who may have interest. My question is if this is to be true, why is there a resounding, “I’ve never heard of this” and why did only 18 people of those1000 notified apply? Also what were the criteria to be notified? I don’t think any other coffee house in the Mission Area knew about this opportunity at all. I would also like to point out here it is this very thing that may have sparked the accusation that James Freeman and Phil Ginsburg have an already established personal relationship. I think that issue at some point should be addressed and clarified, as that may be a conflict of interest.

In this RFP it states, Before entering into permit agreement for the operation of a pushcart in any neighborhood park, the Department will conduct a community outreach process to determine the appropriateness of such a use in the park.”
It also states that the cart will be 200 ft from a bathroom facility for health code reasons and the vendors will be responsible for trash in a 150 ft (not 100) radius. So the one thing it seems that there is no grey area on is that Rec and Park did not conduct the proper amount, if any, community outreach and therefore I do not think should be honoring these permits. They said they were fully revokeable, they should be revoked and the process should be started over and conducted fairly with the proper outreach. Unfortunately Blue Bottle and La Cocina got caught up in the middle of a mess that could have been avoided, and hopefully temporary alternative urban/downtown (like the Portland model Nick Kinsey proposed) locations can be made so they can begin making revenue.

Thank you in advance for reading this… its now past 4am and I should say good night.

Michael McConnell (co-owner Fayes Video and Espresso Bar)

I also want to point out in my opinion this all seems counter intuitive towards the Mayors plan of making more public spaces. These pop up places in urban areas are great, but taking already green public space and privatizing it seems unnecessary.

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