Photo by V. Alexandra de F. Szoenyi

Since La Cocina’s Caleb Zigas got the go-ahead from city officials several months ago to move a commercial food cart into Dolores Park, he’s been waiting for a less official — yet more important — nod of approval from Mission District groups still grumbling about vendors selling in the park.

“We’re basically ready to go,” said Zigas.

That was a couple of weeks ago, when Zigas was stalling, hoping for the negative air to clear — but that now looks unlikely.

So despite one-time mayoral candidate Chicken John Rinaldi’s latest tactic to scare away park vendors — a manifesto asking those who oppose commercialization of the park to join him in puking all over the trailers at 2 p.m. on Saturday — Zigas confirmed that his client Chaac Mool, purveyor of the popular Yucatecan tacos and tortas, will enter Dolores Park on Saturday, April 30.

Not oblivious to Rinaldi’s plans for the puke protest, La Cocina’s owner has decided to have a soft opening this weekend at the Hayes Valley Proxy Project.

When asked by Mission Local whether he would puke on the trailer, Rinaldi said, “You’ll have to come and see.”

Rinaldi is determined to put a complete halt to La Cocina’s plans “by any means necessary.” So, to add urgency to his battle cry and bring attention to the matter, he decided that threatening to puke on a trailer might just do the trick.

“We have to lower ourselves to threaten to puke,” he said, noting that there’s also a Take Back Our Parks Petition that business owners and residents should read and sign.

For the last six months, a heated philosophical debate about the privatization of parks at the hands of commercial vendors has made the whole ordeal messy at best. After spending a year securing the necessary permits to set up a trailer at Dolores Park, Oakland-based Blue Bottle Coffee bowed out. Not local enough, said some, so owner James Freeman decided his energies and investment were better spent elsewhere.

In an email earlier this month, Rinaldi said he has never threatened La Cocina, but that he would organize against any cart in the park.

“What we are so pissed off about is that there is no public input,” Rinaldi wrote. “That RPD [Recreation and Park Department] is selling out our parks and there is nothing we can do. The Commissioners are a rubber stamp.”

So taking note of the continued opposition, La Cocina, an organization that supports local food startups and considers itself a good neighbor, decided to proceed with caution.

With a finger on the pulse of the neighborhood, Zigas and Chaac Mool were essentially waiting for the moment “when we’re sure the park is the right place to be.”

It was unclear exactly when that would happen.

Michael McConnell, co-owner of Fayes Video, said the timing may never be right. He’s not so much on Chicken John’s side. This, he said, has less to do with losing business and more with upsetting an already chaotic environment of traffic, people and little amenities.

“I love Blue Bottle, I love Caleb from La Cocina,” said McConnell, “but there are no porta-potties at the park. It just doesn’t make sense. Fix the park first.”

(The Recreation and Park Department recently rolled in five new porta-potties.)

Zigas said he’s in continuing talks with residents and business owners, and acknowledges that some have expressed hesitation about the project. While stressing that he is sensitive to these sentiments, he points out that food carts are businesses, too.

“They are well served by finding places to sell where there are consumers.”

La Cocina finds itself in a balancing act as it also tries to build excitement about Chaac Mool dishing up tacos in Dolores Park.

“We want it to be the equivalent of bringing in a slice of pie,” said Zigas.

That slice of pie has cost thousands of dollars. La Cocina has invested $30,000 in the venture, in addition to storage costs and the $1,000 a month it has been paying the park department since March. Add to that the $14,000 that Chaac Mool’s owners have footed.

“It’s been rough on our client,” said Zigas, noting that he also wants to protect Chaac Mool from any backlash.

Despite the difficulties, La Cocina remains undeterred. They hold a permit and are intent on making their way into the park.

“I hope everybody was clear that we’re moving forward,” said Zigas.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was previously published without John Rinaldi’s comments about the puke protest, and has since been updated to reflect that.

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Housing, property, and space in general are prized commodities, especially in San Francisco. Nancy López gets to cover the stories that inevitably grow out of the cracks in the vacant storefronts, aging buildings and limited affordable housing - to name a few of the issues - found throughout the Mission District. She welcomes any story ideas readers may have.

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  1. oh please, save your puke.
    The renovation of Dolores Park already has vouchsafed ‘wichcraft’ restaurant and new bathrooms. Get over it.

  2. I’m sorry we’ll be out of town this weekend, but we’ll be sure to support La Cocina. This will be a great addition to Dolores Park. I can’t wait. We never go to Faye’s store anyway, and now we don’t have to leave for lunch tacos. yay.

    1. how will this be a great addition???? There are like a dozen restaurants within a block. Its totally unecessary and in my opinion a wrong-headed approach to funding the park system. Why not just privatize everything, that it will cost less… Why not brand-name the park “AT&T Dolores Park,” that could kick-up some dough. I mean where do you draw the line?

      I draw the line with private businesss on public parks… Its a very easy line to draw…. I don’t want private businesses taking up space on a private park….

      This is classic case of pritvatizing a public good. The profits go to the business and the externalized costs go to us (i.e. more traffic, more trash, louder less relaxing environment, less actual space because the truck takes it up, etc. etc.)

      1. There are plenty of private business in public parks that work out well because they provide services that people need and want. They have hotdog carts in Golden Gate park, there are boating concessions, etc. And come on… an organization whose goal is to cul­ti­vate low-income food entre­pre­neurs is HARDLY AT&T. I can only speculate that you must be from the “progressive” camp, where some idealistic vision or public vs private precludes the pleasure of being able to grab a bite to eat in a public park, while supporting business opportunities for low income San Francisco residents.

        1. @TINA – do you even know what is going on with the boat concessions at Stow Lake? The Parks and Rec JUST gave the lease to a Corporation/chain from New Mexico rather than continue with the proprietors/family that has been running things for years!
          So, uh the Parks and Rec don’t really care about cultivating anything local, or low income, or SF residents.
          Get informed.

          1. @whatupwiththat

            I suggest you take a bit of your own advice and get informed — the discussion here is about La Cocina in Dolores park — which you suggest is akin to branding the park under a corporate moniker. So, uh, if you know were slightly informed about La Cocina — the organization about which I was speaking when I mentioned a Dolores Park concession that benefits low-income entrepreneurs, you would know that it is, well, uh, an organization that benefits low income entrepreneurs:

    1. Especially if he pulls this — since he’s very close with Eileen, owner of Ritual; which will be operating a for-profit venture in a park this weekend, along with the La Cocina’s Soft Opening…

  3. Hmmm. I would like to respond to a few things since I’m mentioned in this article.
    1. It is called Fayes, there is no apostrophe, and Halle I don’t even begin to understand why you felt the need to comment if you come to our shop or not.
    2. I never said I wasn’t on Chicken John’s side. I said that CJ will do his thing, and that being a shy person is not my style, but he is effective- he is actually being successful in creating a conversation about the park matters, and I applaud him on that.
    As I expressed loudly in my talk with Mission Local this is about RPD not about La Cocina, Blue Bottle or Chaac Mool.
    it’s about privatizing public space without community input.
    3. I also want to point out that no one answers us why can’t the truck be on the curb and not in the park?
    4. I also went on to say that people are only reporting half the story, and that actual journalism really happens these days and the writers need to research their stories. As my conversation ended on the phone, i was asked a question that RPD only could answer… i simply said, why are you not asking them?

      1. @FNF – what a strange comment. Just because someone has an opinion about the park, runs a business near the park, and uses his own name.. you wish that he go the way of Blockbuster?
        How about this: I don’t like your opinion or comment, I hope that your testicles go the way of Lance Armstrong’s testicles and/or you loose your job, at Blockbuster. double douche

        1. I don’t own a business by the park but I support everyone one of them. Fayes Video rocks and their coffee is awesomeness! F*4k La Cocina for piggy backing off super cool businesses that pay a fortune in rent and are super cool to boot.
          La Cocina should support neighborhoods that actually need help since his claims scream altruism. Fayes will be the only place I get my videos and coffee for now on!

  4. oh and I never said there were no port-a-potties, I said not adequate restroom facilities for the amount of traffic Dolores Park gets.

  5. I am convinced that one food cart will trash Dolores Park far less than all the self-entitled people who leave their trash all over the place and let their dogs run around without a leash.

    Chicken John is just a chicken who didn’t want any competition from Blue Bottle which makes better coffee than Ritual. That guy is a junior-high class bonehead.

    1. Convinced that one food cart (soon to be more) will be less destructive than self-entitled people? Sounds like you are using this issue to fuel your personal issues with , ‘self-entitled people’.
      Guess what ‘LS’, you don’t have a choice of ‘trailer or self-entitled persons’; you are gonna get both, at the same time. Double the trashing.
      Next argument.

  6. Hahaha, “soft opening in Hayes Valley?” Give me a break! Just fess-up that you were freaked out by the vomit threats…. I’m sorry these guys spent so much money, but perhaps they should have done their due diligence regarding interest and support for this venture on public property. Clearly there is a vocal minority totally against it.

    1. Who wouldn’t be freaked out by vomit threats? In fact, vomiting on someone is assault. It’s completely disgusting and it’s quite unbelievable that such a threat is acceptable for anyone to make… unless I suppose they come from the Chris Daly school of political discourse. Which, come to think of it, does make me want to vomit. But I’ll do that in the privacy of my own home.

      1. tina, where did you read anyone was going to vomit on anyone? Like actual vomit? Its gotta be fake vomit, which is more symbolic than threatening. I can’t believe you really believe people would actually be vomiting on others. Chicken John is crazy, but not gross.

        1. Would you really put it past Chicken John to put his fingers down his throat, given that he has threatened to do so, and promises to fight this “with any means necessary”?

          I think given the examples set by the “progressive” SF Board of Supervisors, where the tone is set by the likes of Chris “F-Bomb” Daly (who nearly got in a fist-fight with former Mayor Willie Brown), no — it would not surprise me if “Chicken John” went out to Dolores Park and puked on a food cart in protest.

          Where did I read it? Right here: I read it here on MissionLocal, in this very article:

          “When asked by Mission Local whether he would puke on the trailer, Rinaldi said, “You’ll have to come and see.”

          Rinaldi is determined to put a complete halt to La Cocina’s plans “by any means necessary.” So, to add urgency to his battle cry and bring attention to the matter, he decided that threatening to puke on a trailer might just do the trick?

          By any means necessary. Threats of violence are not much more palatable than violence itself.

          1. Tina, we sent email’s to La Coucina with information and photos of novelty vomit that we bought. They knew it was just a joke. Everyone did as well. But you. You took it seriously. Remember when I ran for mayor, for second place? Took out all those ads in the paper? It’s all just jokes. Activism can work with comedy, satire and hyperbole. You took it seiously. Even funnier. No one is going to hurt anyone. No one is going to projectile vomit on anyone. This is media manipulation. If you’ve never seen it before, it can be quite odd!

            Saying things like “By any means nessessarry” is just the way people talk about politics. There is no hate here. There is only debate. Don’t get stuck. Just posturing. We all have to share this city, even when this debate is over.

            And this debate will be over when I have won!!!!!! MMMuuuhhaaaaaaa!!!!!!!

  7. Boycott the Ritual Coffee chain. Every dollar that you spend at Ritual Coffee is a dollar spent supporting dirty business practices, blatant gentrification and very warped capitalist “values”. Don’t be a sheep. Ritual Coffee and John Rinaldi are only concerned with stealing a short term profit for themselves at the expense of San Francisco’s working class.

    1. Can you explain this? What are the dirty business practices? What are the “warped capitalist values”? How is having a cart in the park against the “working class” — particularly when one of carts is for low income business people?

      1. oh chicken john is buddies with the ritual people..

        now it REALLY all becomes clear.

        so pathetic.

  8. Zigas said he’s in continuing talks with residents and business owners, and acknowledges that some have expressed hesitation about the project. While stressing that he is sensitive to these sentiments, he points out that food carts are businesses, too.

    “They are well served by finding places to sell where there are consumers.”

    Zigas if pretty much full of crap. Basically, find the most well attended neighborhoods that other businesses built up from scratch and roll in off their backs. Why not go to underserved areas that actually need fresh businesses. Take it to the very people you claim to be helping. Not enough profits in that? Coward. Caleb is not only one of the most arrogant people, sensitive to others is not exactly how I would describe that business man!

    1. The businesses around Dolores Park didn’t build up the attendance of the neighborhood, it’s the other way around. The park is what draws the crowds. And in fact, there’s hardly anything good to eat near Dolores Park, unless you want to walk all the way down to Valencia St. to grab a snack (and yes, I know Dolores Park Cafe is right there). Or I suppose you could grab a piroshki at the corner of 19th and Guerrero).

  9. Chicken is a charlatan and should be ignored at best and probably investigated for fraud and corruption. I know, I was manipulated and taken advantage by him. Chicken is the scourge of the Mission.

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