A neighborhood ice cream vendor dodged a $192 fine this week with the help of Mission residents.
The citation was reduced to a warning shortly after neighborhood activists angrily took to social media, saying that the citation was unfair — that In Chan Kaajal Park at 17th and Folsom was built for the community, and the vendor was doing no harm.
“We fought for eight years to get this park built for the people of this neighborhood. Now that it’s here [Rec and Park] has nothing better to do than stand around harassing and ticketing the ice cream man,” Nancy Pili, an educator at the Good Samaritan Family Resource Center, tweeted.
In an email, Rec and Park spokeswoman Connie Chan said the ranger, Raul Garcia, “had previously warned the vendor, in both English and Spanish, that he was not allowed to sell without proper permits, including a health permit to ensure food safety.”
Unpermitted popsicle (and other treat) sales are common in the city’s parks, including at Dolores Park, which accounted for 38 percent of vending citations citywide last year.
Mission Local was unable to contact the paletero. His name was not immediately released by Rec and Park, though we have learned he purportedly goes by “Sanchez.”
On Thursday, Rec and Park contacted Pili on Instagram, saying that the vendor’s citation had been “downgraded.”
“Through the Department’s citation review process, the Chief Park Ranger downgraded the citation to a warning,” Chan confirmed.
In Chan Kaajal Park opened last June, the city’s first new park in a decade. For some 17 years, community members rallied to convert the former parking lot into a green space.
“This is a community open space, and it’s inequitable to charge immigrant vendors at our parks,” said Merilyn Duran, a community organizer with PODER, a local environmental justice organization.
“It’s part of our community to have people vending on the street,” she said. “I mean, it’s ice cream.”
Duran said the incident highlights a double-standard in the Mission’s parks. She said she very frequently sees people letting their dogs run off-leash in parks. That’s the same level of offense under the park code, which says dogs cannot be off their leashes in public.
“We’re not saying we hate dog owners,” she said. “We’re thinking about the disparities between folks being targeted and fined.”