The Mature Debate Surrounding the Commercialization of Dolores Continues

I still haven't heard a good argument in favor of leasing the parks over to private businesses. That's not to say there's isn't a case to be made, I just haven't heard one presented beyond “yay tacos!,” “Chicken John BAD,” and “it's more money for the park.”  No arguments with the first two, but $12k a year doesn't really seem like it's going to make a hole in the $6.8m Rec & Park deficit.  Plus, I'm not sure how permanently handing over a part of The Park over to a private business for so little cash is a good precedent.  Yeah, Chicken John might be nauseating (zing!), but can someone point me towards a good analysis of why these trucks are good for the public?


Comments (37)

I think you made the argument. Public gets easier access to tacos. Public gets $12,000 a year. Balance that against public losing approximately 100 to 150 square feet of park. $12,000 is not a lot of money, but when you think about how much that is a square foot and the fact that what is being rented is not even developed (i.e., just the right to put a truck there), it seems like a good chunk of cash.


Is Chicken John going to puke on the “Ganja Treats” man?

To be clear, I didn’t start this thread to talk about Chicken John, tacos, or pick a fight with the readers in the comments, but to see if someone had a good analysis of the issue supporting Rec & Park.

The only counterpoints would be that 12k a year is a pretty minor hole in the 6.8m budget deficit. And once you compare that to the multimillion dollar tax break Twitter got, the situation seems even more absurd (although I recognize that is a different issue entirely).

I’d also suggest that comparing a taco truck to a person walking around with a 6”x12” inch cooler over this shoulder could be likened to comparing Blue Bottle to McDonalds–they’re inherently different things. One is an institutionalized structure taking up green space that requires a generator, comes with a line, and is a building not used by the City/not freely available to everyone in the park, whereas the other is a person.

Anyway, thanks for weighing in. I’ve been interested to hear why people dig this so much.

The main idea behind licensing vendors in the park is to generate revenue for Park and Rec. Their budget has been decimated over the past few years and they are desperate to do anything to help close their 8M (in 2010) annual budget short fall. There are vendors in other great city, county, state and national parks all over the US so it’s not a very radical idea. I would guess that the low fees for the park are temporary until the park sees some receipts. Still I don’t see it being a big money maker for the department, unless this is done in many more parks in the city.

That said I personally can’t think of a good reason to have vendors in the park unless it materially helps with the Park and Rec. budget. There is convenience perhaps. The long lines at Dolores Park Cafe, Tartine and Bi Rite make them unusable to those with children but Dolores Park is not a children’s destination any more. It’s become a big carnival for big kids, who can afford to wait in line or simply purchase from the ad-hoc vendors winding through all the fallen bikes.

As for a Ritual Roasters alternative, Grand Coffee on Mission near 23rd. Great Four Barrel coffee. Super nice people. I have no relationship to them except I go there instead of Ritual now. I won’t give my money to a guy who destroys other people’s businesses with threats of a puking on them. I hope you won’t either.

Again, this isn’t about Chicken John, puking, or protesting, but why this proposal is a good thing. Most people were against this long before Chicken came along and hijacked the cause.

Two points: A) I’m not sure about all this Ritual Roasters hate. B) Chicken John is an activist/performance artist/circus-style showman and freelance instigator – how seriously can we take him?

It seems premature and a bit under-supported to claim this rather vile ‘puke-a-thon’ is somehow the doing of Ritual. Yes John Rinaldi has been (and I believe still is?) personally involved with the owner of Ritual. I have heard here and there that Rinaldi is an “investor” “co-owner” or otherwise a part of Ritual’s management, but I haven’t really seen anything to indicate that. I also have seen nothing to indicate that his current crusade is Ritual related: nothing indicates that he is in the pay of Ritual, backed by Ritual, supported by Ritual or anymore then casually connected to Ritual Roasters. He may have become aware of the vendors in the park plan through his personal relationships, and would likely not have been as gung-ho to protest a friend’s stroke of luck at getting a plum vendor opportunity - yet this is Chicken we’re talking about, he is opinionated and prone to hyperbole. If he was only in this as an agitator on behalf of Ritual’s purported bid for a space, why would he still be at it?

Point is: stop going to Ritual if you don’t like the line, the coffee, the location, decor, employees or patrons - but a purported connection to a local agitator doesn’t seem to a really valid reason to do so.

Furthermore, has the puke fest even happened, were the La Cochina operators covered in aging burner vomit? Was there debut opening ruined by the stink of bile? Yes, Chicken’s gotten press, hate and blog posts galore, but nothing has happened. It’s classic Chicken, something so bizarre, absurd and confrontational that stirs up publicity. I can’t really say the publicity is bad - the Chronicle and blog-o-sphere are discussing park use policy and privatization, that’s more then was happening without the (admittedly repugnant - but still only threatened) puke protest.

Point two is: I like the public discussion of land use and park privatization, and doubt it would that have happened without Chicken’s abrasive and objectionable tactics.

The problem isn’t with Ritual, it’s with Chicken John’s insistence that Ritual is in no way profiting on the “commercialization of public space.” I actually like Ritual a lot, but I don’t have to look very hard to find counter-examples to this assertion. There’s the coffee bike, the whole raft thing, and now there’s the Proxy Project on Octavia.

And yes, I agree that it’s good to discuss these things, but when the discussion is started by someone threatening to puke on a taco truck, the conversation isn’t going to be a serious, rational one.

Public space and city owned property are two different things. I don’t want to argue with you, I just want to give you facts. The Proxy project is city property, that was rented to a private entity for a parking lot. Then, the city wanted to do a building, that would rent out spaces to shops. That would still be city property, but never public space. Like a park or the library or City Hall, that’s public space. The city ran out of money to do the project, so the architect pitched on a temporary project: proxy. They asked Ritual to do the cafe, Eileen agreed. It’s on city property. But it’s not public space. It’s open to the public, but not the same as a park. The city sells property all the time. The city NEVER sells park land. The city buys property from time to time, or when a deed holder dies with no heirs, it reverts to the city. Proxy is not now, nor was it ever meant as public space. Public space is not being taken away for what they call “private enurement”. A private company, say Kragen Auto Parts for example, if they put a store in Dolores Park and paid the park rent, that’s commonly referred to as privatization: because it takes away space from the public and gives it to a commercial entity from the private sector. The public loses it’s rights to use that space.


The public gets the rent. So that is the argument. And this argument is heating up all over America as budgets get tight and we get more desperate for solutions.

In many situations, a black and white blanket argument fails. Like this one. I can clearly see both sides of the argument.


I’d echo the above. The fees collected in Dolores Park are not huge, but the strategy to fill the Rec Park budget shortfall is basically to fill the gap with smallish bits of revenue rather than being forced to make big cuts. In other words, every little bit helps, and not in a trivial way.

As for the commercialization angle, I’d add that a) it’s been part of the parks for as long as we’ve had parks, to the extent that b) once upon a time there was a casino and brothel in Golden Gate Park, fer chrissakes!

I respectfully disagree. The fees collected are so small, they insult other local business.

And you are mistaken, this is the first organized, legal privatization of Dolores Park. Privatization is what we call it when public space is given to a private company for a business purpose. In Dolores Park, this has not happened. I don’t live in the Sunset. The Mission is where I own a home and live. When privatization came to my neighborhood, I tried to stop it. I showed up. I made a mess. I went on a campaign to let people know what it is, why it’s bad and I left room for other people’s opinions to be voiced. Privatization came like a scumbag. A sneaky, sleazy, slimy scumbag. They steamrolled. They told us at the first public announcement that it was too late to stop. They pulled every slimy move in the book. Because that’s what privatize-rs do. Wall Mart. ATT. Nestle. On and on. The tactics used here in DP are identical to what bigger corporations do to get their way. Bullying. Pitting people in the community against each other. We call this carpet bagging. I’m not sure why.

I understand that budgets are tight. Close. A. Fucking. Golf. Course. They are hugely expensive and serve so few people. They are a affront to our ecology and we have too many. The money argument is off the table anyway because they just hired like 10 staffers at over $100G a year. Huh? Don’t we have a hiring freeze?

It all stinks. This General Manager Phil “fucking fire me” Ginsburg is a disaster. That’s my opinion. Thus, my actions.

Thanks for your words.


Let’s be clear Chicken John, your whole “campaign” against the “privitization” of the park is really just a proxy war waged by the People’s Republic of 18th St. Merchants to quash any and all competition. End. Of. Story.

No sir. I’ve been doing this same thing since 1988. Our first campaign against privatization was in Tompkins Sq. Park NYC. We know how that turned out. There ‘could’ be some merchants who think that their busniess’ would suffer from having a food court in DP. I can’t really see how because as it is on beautiful days in the park, the lines are all out the door. You simply can’t serve more people on those days. If that is true, they have not shared that info with me, although some commenters point it out as one of the many reasons to oppose this. I don’t give it credence because it’s a money issue. And this is not about money, on either side.

If I am one thing, I am a person who tries to live his life outside of commerce. I do not get paid for much of anything I do. As a result, I have zero money at any time. I live my life quite differently then most everyone I know. My intention is to not be controlled by money. Therefore, my politics do not involve money. I do not expect that everyone could do what I do. But just to give you a better understanding, I tell you this. If this was an issue about money, I would have nothing to do with it. This is an issue about not money. A park is not an ATM. It doesn’t have a price. It shouldn’t bring home any bacon. This is my thinking. The idea of opposing the privatization of the park is to oppose money winning the day, day after day. There are things that are more important then money. Our commons is not for sale for any price. Ever.

If there are ancillary benefits or detraction’s from opposing stores in the park, then there are. But don’t take a tiny % opinion and puff it up to be the meat of the matter. Nothing is perfect, but this thread is talk without hyperbole or angles, as Kevin has requested. Just straight talk. Unless you are the guy who thinks that I own Ritual, in which case you are not reasonable enough to talk to.


just a quick note, as i’m sure everyone noticed, the puke-in did not go down. there was no chicken john to be found.

It was postponed a week because Chac Mool’s postponed their opening a week.

I don’t think there’s a good argument either way. Is $12k enough to fix the budget? No, but it’s also not $0. So there’s that.

Maybe a better question – and one that’s not really being asked – is why the parks cost so much to maintain, and how we could either reduce the cost or find a good way to raise revenue. (I, for one, would not be opposed to an SF parks fundraiser party.)

Well, if we want to save about 2 Million dollars a year, we might look at the useless (other than hassling swing dancers and so on) SF Rec and Park Rangers which are led by a crooked cop from Oakland Housing Authority who makes about $150, 000 a year.
The Rec ansd Park Rangers used to be made up of 5 part timers, and ballooned in just the last few years to 20 full timers plus overtime.
We already have a professional police force in San Francisco, and the Park Rangers end up having to call the real police anytime something serious goes down.
Save some money and fire these overpaid and unneeded security guards.…

Its the dogs. Kind of suspect that the people against the park rangers are the same one who want the parks only for their dogs. The dogs rights over children folk.

The reason the parks are so expensive to maintain, is because of the extensive damage done to them by dogs.

nope, the people with dogs living around DP were the ones that turned the park around. The people damaging the park are the taggers and those leaving their cig butts, broken bottles, and random trash each and every day.

If you “kind of suspect” that, then you did not read the articles.
It’s about millions of taxpayer’s dollars wasted on a bunch of useless thugs while Rec and Park privatizes Dolores for a measly $12,000 a year.

No the park ranger have been an outstanding success. Because of them, there was enough safety and comfort for people to overcome the fear of dogs and dog dirt and return to the park. One of the best investment that Rec and Park has done is the Rangers.

San Francisco already has Animal Control and a very large Police Department filled with real police officers.
We already pay plenty for them, and they are fully capable of addressing any concerns with dogs or with violations of the law.
We also have a Public Health Department to help you with your irrational fear.

$2 million a year for security guards with bad attitudes whose main interests are demanding guns and shutting down swing dancers is a ridiculous waste of taxpayer’s money.

Your good at making false stuff up, but you bore me so, I’m done.

I think there’s an obvious solution to this. Don’t allow parking along on Dolores along the park during weekends. Any truck that wants to set up show can pay some (reasonable) fee on a per-day basis. If all the spots get filled up one weekend raise rates for the next weekend. Some spots can be reserved for non-profits/fund-raisers as well. I suspect the parks will get more money this way, not be seen favoring any business over another, and no actual park space will be taken up.

I like your idea but because it is across the sidewalk and on the street, it is no longer Parks and Rec property/ jurisdiction. We’d have to change the laws to get that revenue to support the parks dept. And I’m sure it would open a new can of worms.

Isn’t “yay tacos!” reason enough?

I don’t own Ritual or co-own or get paid or have anything to do with it besides kissing it’s owner when she’s not furious with me for dragging her into a shitstorm she has nothing to do with.

But my heart soars to hear that people are now starting to understand why I did this. I would never puke on anyone at anytime. Or hurt anyone. Or any bug. Ever. This is a publicity stunt.

34 blogs have written stories about the Puke In, not one of them… not ONE called me to ask me any questions directly. It’s all hearsay and gossip. I bought $750 worth of fake puke. Ha. 3 weeks ago, I coudn’t get one article going to bring the discussion of the privatization of our parks to light. No one cared. So I did this. I hope you can forgive me. I will also let you know that I let Caleb from La Coucina know that it was fake puke, sent him a photo of it ( and told him that my intention was to build a cardboard trailer, and do it all on the other side of the park while gathering signatures for my petition:

And now, I would like to participate (not hijack) this conversation…

I do not trust RPD, and know that once we start down this path we will never turn back. You can call it the slippery slope argument if you’d like, I think it’s the “I don’t trust Phil Ginsburg” argument. Do sidewalks have to pay for themselves? Just because we have sidewalks and they cost money to build and maintain, does it mean that they have to be self-sufficient? This thinking is fundamentally opposed to my view of how that should work. I will defer to other people who are smarter then me, can see a bigger picture then me and who know the inner workings of our civic apparatus better then me (which is probably anyone)… but I DETEST the feeling of being steamrolled. I downshift into this superhero douchebag mode and become THE DEFENDER OF JUSTICE! I was asked to champion this fight by some merchants on 18th street who don’t wanna have the bullseye on them. I’m over here, drawing fire. And that’s sad, kinda.

But that’s the truth. It feels good to be needed.

No matter what side you are on here, you must agree this is a serious issue. One not to be rushed into or taken easily. La Coucina is a force for good in the world and Chaac Mool has some of the best trailer food I’ve ever eaten. It would be an honor to have such culinary arts in the collaborative artwork known as Dolores Park, and I knew that I would only bring them attention, fans and customers and not hurt their brand or their sales. But we need to have outreach, and we need to have dialog. Sifting through idiotic comments is bringing this conversation to a gutteral level. My contributions worse then anyone’s… but I showed up. They came to privatize my park and I *did* something. Tried to make activism funny.

I couldn’t hurt a fly. I just wanted to get people talking. It’s good to talk.

chicken john

Chicken, thank you for your efforts.

I know it’s slightly irrelevant, but as i’m sure you know (since you are so fortunate to own real estate in san francisco) that when the sidewalks need to be repaired in front of your building, the city will make YOU pay for it. (Again i apologize for this detour, but you made the point of sidewalk self-sufficiency in your post.)

Essentially San Francisco has an extreme budget issue that is no where near being solved. Almost every person, organization, and institution will have to become more “entrepreneurial” as we work our way through the problems. I respect your concerns, but frankly applaud Parks and Rec for trying new ideas. I welcome a policy that specifically allows human scale, local vendors, performers, artists, and animals ) to generate revenue and contribute to the evolving atmosphere of an Urban Park. Like nearly everything we do together, it will take effort to ensure it functions fairly and openly, and there will be the occasional mistake. But I believe we should be open to new ideas when it comes to how we perceive and pay for the commons.


“I was asked to champion this fight by some merchants on 18th street who don’t wanna have the bullseye on them. I’m over here, drawing fire. And that’s sad, kinda.”

Ok, now we are getting somewhere! This statement brings into focus what is *really* going on here. And good on you for putting it out there!

I guess what confounds me most about all of this navel gazing and posturing is this: why isn’t anyone up ion arms about the army of people already commercially exploiting Dolores Park? They sell beer, pot, food, etc. all the damn day and with no accountability to the public who uses the park, or the city that struggles to maintain it.

Where’s the outrage about that?

Well, they are entirely different things, as explained above.

I’m a little confused, what does Ritual have anything to do with Chicken John?

As he said himself earlier in the thread, he’s dating the owner.

More importantly, why does Miss Sarah Lacy think Ritual has anything to do with Chicken’s puke-in?


Here’s a letter I sent to Chicken:

Dear Chicken,

Let me start by saying that I think the folks at La Cocina are great and I don’t believe for one second that they are the enemy (not to imply that you think they’re the enemy either). I think your suggested compromise of converting a parking spot for their use, or something like that, could make sense. Nobody really loses in that scenario. Right? But I think pretty much everybody loses when we start privatizing public space and commercializing our public parks.

The real enemy here is Phil Ginsberg, the GM of Park and Rec. This guy looks at public parks and public assets and sees nothing but dollar signs. Let’s be clear, he has no intention of stopping with one friendly food cart. Central to the philosophy of Ginsberg and his ilk is the notion that parks should pay for themselves – even make profits. I believe that most San Franciscans realize that this is not how things should be. I think most San Franciscans see the inherent value in public spaces that are free of commercial interests and private control. I think San Franciscans have shown they greatly prefer non-commercialized public parks to Sony Metreons, for example. (You been in there lately? The place is an eerie ghost town.)

Most of us who love Dolores Park don’t just see dollar signs. We see thriving community, culture, and freedom. Part of the reason there’s so much freedom in Dolores Park is because the place, and one’s experience there, are untainted by private control or commercial interests. Sure, people are walking around selling their homemade cookies and crafts, etc. This is cool. We like this. It’s ultra-local, sustainable economy. And sure, La Cocina is cool and local-economy as well, but Ginsberg doesn’t want to stop with La Cocina. Not by a long shot.

Like Michael Moore said a few weeks ago in Wisconsin: don’t believe anyone who tells you this country is broke. Likewise, don’t believe anyone who tells you we need to sell off our commonwealth to private interests. Privatization is an ominous global trend that almost never brings the public benefits its proponents promise it will and almost always brings a myriad of unfortunate consequences. The people who want to privatize your parks are the same people who want to privatize your schools, even though all the evidence shows it’s a failed concept. They’re also the same people who hate rent control and want a San Francisco with ever-escalating real estate prices that will gentrify you, and every other poor and middle income person, out of this city. And I’ll bet these people never even go to Dolores Park.

Just don’t ask me to endorse (fake) puking as the tactic that will most effectively get this message across!


“yay tacos! give me convenience or give me death!”

Puke In postponed, happy ending in sight, trailer to move to curb, victory for ALL!