Tales of the City: Blue Bottle Brouhaha and The Dolores Park Debacle

 
By 14 October 2010
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Early in 2010, San Francisco-based Third Wave flavor descriptor blowhards Blue Bottle Coffee were approved to set up a coffee cart in Dolores Park, located in San Francisco’s Mission District. This as part of “an effort to raise much-needed revenue by allowing mobile vendors in parks” across the city. BB’s J. Peterman-esque CEO, James Freeman, plans to roll out the cart in Dolores Park in around two weeks, in what amounts to a crown jewel in Blue Bottle’s wildly successful 2010. Investment was made to retrofit an 8×12 foot aluminum trailer for the Dolores Park project, with Freeman optimistically ensuring the Dolores Park neighborhood “we’ll prove we can be good neighbors.”

Apparently Dolores Park residents had no clue there was a Blue Bottle cart coming to their neighborhood, and they’re hopping mad about it. Community meetings are being held, open letters drafted, and now local rabblerouser/S&M erotic memoirist Stephen Elliott has joined the fight, fresh off his epic victory against opening an American Apparel outlet in the Mission. He’s gathered over a thousand signatures, gotten a ton of coverage in the Weekly, and started an anti-Blue Bottle website:

I’m writing this letter on my own but CC’ing other people affected by your decision to grant a permit for a Blue Bottle Coffee Trailer without alerting anyone in the Dolores Park neighborhood. Even Rachel Herbert who owns Dolores Park Cafe, a coffee shop only 30 feet from Dolores Park, was not alerted until you had already granted the permit. Surely she was the person to talk to first?

Yesterday in your meeting you admitted mistakes were made and you should have done more outreach to the community. It appears that prior to issuing the permit you didn’t do any outreach at all. You have just started holding meetings with the community but this is after the fact and not acceptable.

James Freeman, the owner of Blue Bottle, stated the trailer should raise $30,000 for the department annually. I believe you could raise that much in consultation with the businesses along 18th Street. That’s not enough money to really impact your current budge shortfall and certainly doesn’t justify the radical effect this will have on a dearly loved public park.

SFWeekly reports that Blue Bottle being “a national chain” with “venture capital investors” has been a frequent topic of discussion at several recent community events. It’s worth pointing out: the aforementioned Dolores Park Cafe currently serves something called Mr. Espresso , a company with a focus on “Ye Olde World” complete with a wood-fired roaster, while nearby Maxfield’s House of Caffeine were unable or unwilling to communicate coffee information with us over the phone.

In the SFWeekly, James Freeman writes an open letter to the community of Dolores Park:

Are we commercializing Dolores Park?
Short answer: yes.

Longer answer: I believe commercial enterprises in parks can be charming amenities. Some of my favorite parks around the world have commercial enterprises within that are beautiful, high-quality ventures that add a different layer of interest, put another set of eyes on the park, raise money for the park, and add to the texture of the community’s experience. I think of Madison Square Park in New York, Villa Borghese in Rome, or Kyoto Gosho, being some examples of the most successful integration between the commercial and the public.

What do you think? At Sprudge Headquarters, the only thing we can agree on is that everyone involved in every single step of this situation sounds like a total schmuck – the City, for not notifying residents well in advance and starting this dialogue months ago; Stephen Elliott, for electioneering and bloviating as publicly as possible over his latest “cause”;  and James Freeman, for needlessly place-dropping his undoubtedly fabulous and urbane travel experiences to SFWeekly, among other things.

We’re also willing to bet that if it were a pedal-powered Petal Power groovy “independent” coffee cart instead of a successful local business, the residents of Dolores Park wouldn’t be protesting, in spite of their supposed qualms over commerce.

Learn every single tiny detail of Dolores Park Debacle, exhaustively researched, over at  SFWeekly Online, whom we ripped off heavily for this story.

 
  • jpman says:

    pedal-powered Petal Power!

    Reply
  • greg says:

    Sorry, Jack. You don’t know SF.

    Half the city could burn down again in an earthquake-triggered firestorm, destroying every supermarket and corner market in its path. And even among the residents living on piles of ash, there will still be a number of vocal nose-pickers who will bitch, moan, and protest against a corner grocer moving back into their scorched-earth neighborhood. That’s how we roll. It’s a San Francisco thing.

    Reply
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