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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Chaac Mool Is Being Moved Out of Dolores Park Into the Street

Posted By on Tue, Oct 25, 2011 at 3:49 PM

click to enlarge Chaac Mool's trailer in Dolores Park. - DOLORES PARK WORKS/FLICKR

For such a little cart, Chaac Mool has been the target of a large scandal. More than a year ago, some Missionites began complaining about the SF Department of Recreation and Parks' decision to award food-vending licenses to Blue Bottle Coffee and La Cocina, which then sublet its trailer to Chaac Mool. The department currently licenses seven vendors to operate food carts or trucks in SF's public parks, most of them in Golden Gate Park (Off the Grid, which organizes weekly truck gatherings, has permits for several parks.)

The activists, spearheaded by people connected to Mission coffee shops, complained that these vendor licenses constituted a privatization of public space, though they exempted the stream of people wandering around the park selling paletas, beer, cookies, empanadas, and pot truffles from their complaints. (About Golden Gate Park they have remained totally mum.) The opposition worked, to a certain extent; Blue Bottle withdrew from the park, while La Cocina ignored threats of a puke-in and moved forward with the launch of the Chaac Mool trailer this spring. 

Now, it, too, is being moved off the park -- sort of.

Yesterday, the Examiner reported that Supervisor Scott Wiener had introduced a measure to move Chaac Mool onto the end of 19th Street where it dead-ended in the park, converting the nubbin of street into Rec and Park land. 

SFoodie spoke to Wiener this morning, who acknowledges the move is a concession to Dolores Park Works and other activist groups who opposed the trailers. "This is purely a unique situation that only affects Dolores Park, not a broader policy issue," he said. "We have a unique situation where we have this one area

[where the street] indents into the park, so that we can place the cart there and it's still effectively in the park."

"The other unique thing here," Wiener continued, "is that the vendor requested this location. The park is going to start a major renovation, which is going to be phased. This way, the vendor would not constantly have to move his cart around the park as the phasing happened."

"If you're taking all these steps to move Chaac Mool onto the curb, why shouldn't they just apply for a street food permit from the Department of Public Works?" SFoodie then asked Wiener. "That would be much cheaper than paying rent to the Parks Department."

"That wouldn't work," Wiener argued. "We all through it was important for Rec and Park to continue to earn income, especially in this budget environment. I don't think DPW would issue a permit for the edge of the park, since it's a residential area." Wiener claims there are no current street-food permit applications requesting curbside spots around Dolores Park.

As for Chaac Mool, spokesperson Margarita Hernandez says that owners Luis and Maria Vazquez weren't exactly excited about the move, as Wiener suggested. "We are willing to compromise," she says, diplomatically. "We're just excited to keep serving Dolores Park and the community. That's the most important part."

Apparently, everybody wins in this situation: The park is now a 100% capitalism-free area, except for the Hong Kong-like designated commercial zone at the edge of it. The Parks Department gets to charge rent to a vendor now parking on the street. And Chaac Mool -- well, at least we still get to buy its great cochinita pibil tacos to take up with us on the hill, where we can purchase everything else we need for a picnic in the sun from the activist-approved vendors roaming the slopes.

Follow us on Twitter: @sfoodie, and like us on Facebook.
Follow me at @JonKauffman.

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