Nervous 19th Avenue Neighbors Eye Agency’s Changes to Metro M-line
The San Francisco County Transportation Authority is studying changes to the light rail M line near Stonestown Galleria and San Francisco State University. Some redesign has been approved, but the study is examining the possibility of further changes that would, for example, eliminate the need for new travel and turn lanes along 19th Avenue/State Road 1.
“We ... know 19th Avenue is very congested,” said Liz Brisson, transportation planner, SFCTA, which is leading the study. Exploring ways to create a reliable transit connection to the Daly City BART Station is another of the study’s objectives.
“Behind all this PR barrage,” said a critic who wishes to remain anonymous, “don’t miss the main point - MUNI wants to take west side houses through eminent domain to benefit the Parkmerced expansion.”
Under the current options set forth in the study, the M-line would be moved to the west of 19th Avenue, some sections will be moved above grade or underground, and stops will be moved. The study area includes track from St. Francis Circle to the intersection of Broad Street and Capital Avenue.
People affected by the changes include San Francisco State University students and staff, customers and business owners at the Stonestown Galleria, Parkmerced residents, Mercy High School students and staff, and residents along the M-line from Ocean Avenue to the intersection of Broad Street and Orizaba Avenue. At least one option includes purchasing homes to allow changes to the line.
Photo: Option N1 shows undergrounding the northbount track and moving the southbound track to the west side of 19th Avenue
“Behind all this PR barrage,” said a critic who wishes to remain anonymous, “don’t miss the main point - MUNI wants to take west side houses through eminent domain to benefit the Parkmerced expansion.”
Sydney Mintz, a junior at San Francisco State, said that of the options for the southern portion of the study, she favors option 1 because it forces the fewest people to give up their homes.
Photo: Option N2 shows moving the both tracks to the west side of 19th Avenue
Fifty-five percent of all pedestrian fatalities in San Francisco take place on five percent of the streets in the City. Nineteenth Avenue is one of those streets. Many of the pedestrian crossings take place at 19th Avenue and Holloway, at San Francisco State University. One option put forth by the SFCTA is keeping the M-line stop along the east side of the university, but moving the stop midway from the north and south ends. Brisson said at least some students are in favor of this option.
Besides affecting the current populations of residents and visitors to the area, the population of Parkmerced is expected to increase 15,000 by 2040, according to information from the SFCTA. Parkmerced is just south of San Francisco State University. The study is looking at routing the M-line through Parkmerced.
The agency has divided the study into north and south sections, with three options for each. Option one for the northern section includes large sections of underground track. Brisson said this is the most expensive of the options for the north side.
The largest amount of funding for the study is coming from Caltrans, the California Department of Transportation. Matching funds are coming from Parkmerced, Stonestown Galleria, San Francisco State University and the SFCTA. The funding from SFCTA is being raised through a sales tax approved by voters in Proposition K. Photo: existing tracks
Besides reducing congestion along 19th Avenue, the proposals in the study would speed up the M-line. The average rate of speed through the study area is 8 miles per hour. Because of the benefits, the project has inspired a lot of community support, said Paul Rose, spokesperson, San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency.
The SFCTA has held meetings with the San Francisco State University Neighborhood Task Force, the Merced Extension Triangle Neighborhood Association, and Parkmerced residents. Mid-February, the agency held the first of two community meetings. The agency expects to hold a second meeting in spring 2013.
This illustration from the Parkmerced site shows proposed changes to the M-Oceanside rails.
The SFCTA manned tables at San Francisco State on February 20 and 21 to answer questions from students. A repeat of the first community meeting will be held at the Ocean View Branch Library March 2 at 1 p.m. Also, the SFCTA will be holding a meeting Wednesday, March 20 at the Merced Branch library, 7 p.m.
This spring the SFCTA will be looking at the tradeoffs among each of the three options. By summer the agency wants to have selected and refined one preferred concept based on the evaluation of tradeoffs and input from the public and organizations affected by the project.
Plans for the summer include identifying the steps, funding, roles of the agencies involved, and coordination for an environmental analysis, an engineering design, and construction.
Rose said the agencies conducting the study expect to finish it before the end of 2014, “in time for a preferred alternative.”
“This project is good for all modes [of transportation],” Brisson said.
Keith Burbank is a local journalist.
To see all the options go to: www.sfcta.org/19th-avenue-transit-study-outreach-avenue
New Italian Flare to Replace Café For All Seasons
Local businesses are pleased the former site of Café for All Seasons will soon be filled by a new restaurant
Opening in April at 150 West Portal Avenue, between The Village Grill and Citibank will be Trattoria Da Vittorio, serving southern Italian food. Owner Vittorio D’Urzo is spending nearly half a million dollars to open the family business.
Café for All Seasons was a favorite spot for locals when it was owned by Frank and Donna Katzl. After the Katzl’s sold the cafe, the new owners kept the name, but the business went downhill. The restaurant recently closed.
“Chi mangia bene, vive bene,” D’Urzo says, which means, “He who eats well, lives well.” ”
“It’s nice to have another business there,” said Richard Crain, owner, The Village Grill, which is one door down from the trattoria. “He will be such a great addition to the corridor,” said Mark Norrell, owner, West Portal Optical. Another local businessperson, who wasn’t aware of the change, said its great a new restaurant is moving in. “We can always use a new restaurant,” he said.Andy Moussouras, a general contractor doing work on the renovation, said the kitchen will be brand new, with all new kitchen equipment, including dishwasher. The plumbing will be new, the electrical will be relocated as needed, and the restaurant will be brought in line with guidelines for the Americans with Disabilities Act. “Everything will be new and fresh inside,” said D’Urzo. “I’ve destroyed everything that was old.”
“He plans to be open for a long time,” Moussouras said of D’Urzo and the Trattoria Da Vittorio. Moussouras has also done work for The Village Grill, West Portal’s Goat Hill Pizza, and Orexi, a recently opened Greek restaurant in the neighborhood.
Asked why he decided upon West Portal, D’Urzo said, “Because when I moved to the United States in 1998, …I moved to Twin Peaks. I used to work in an Italian restaurant in West Portal for one year. Then I lived on the Peninsula. I said one day I will come to West Portal to open a restaurant. It’s been 14 years.”
D’Urzo said he will be offering great food and great service. Much of the food will be homemade. The tomato sauce and the meatballs will be recipes from his mother, who is coming from Italy to help. The pasta, shortribs, ravioli, including lobster and artichoke ravioli, gnocchi, and pappardelle will be homemade. Other dishes may be homemade as well.
“Customers will see fresh fish and fresh produce each day,” and he will be using the best buffalo mozzarella cheese — “almost creamy,” D’Urzo said. His focus will be bringing a quality product to the people.
Restaurant work runs in the family. Two uncles have owned Piazza D’Angelo in Mill Valley for the past 30 years.
D’Urzo has 15 years of experience in the restaurant industry — from Rome, Italy, to New York, to San Francisco, and the Bay Area. His experience includes table service, kitchen work and management. For the past five years he has been a general manager at one of three Bay Area Italian restaurants: Locanda Positano, Limone, Acqua Pazza.
Trattoria Da Vittorio will have about 15 employees. D’Urzo said he will be hiring about ten. Of those already employed, “I have my strong team,” he said.
Besides authentic Italian dishes, such as spaghetti carbonara and eggplant parmiggiana, Trattoria Da Vittorio will also serve Naples-style thin crust pizza. Both pizza chefs, Antonio and Giovanni, worked with D’Urzo at Locanda Positano, which was rated best pizza in the Bay Area by ABC Channel 7, KGO-TV San Francisco within the last two years.
“We want to make sure the kids are happy too,” Antonio said. Mickey Mouse pizzas will be on the menu. Moussouras said D’Urzo is bringing a special oven from Italy for the pizza.
“Chi mangia bene, vive bene,” D’Urzo says, which means, “He who eats well, lives well.”
Keith Burbank is a local journalist.
Pacific Rod & Gun Club: Such a Deal
Who will pay for the cleanup still unclear
Who’s paying to clean up the $10.7 million in environmental damage at Lake Merced? It’s unclear. But the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission and the club negotiated a settlement agreement last month that will keep PR&GC at the Lake.
The disagreement that led to the settlement concerns the environmental damage caused by lead shot and a petroleum binder used in clay targets, Steve Ritchie, assistant general manager for water at the SFPUC said. The targets were used for skeet shooting. Both contaminants are no longer in materials used at the club. The club stopped using the lead shot in 1994, and the contaminated ducks in 2000, Ritchie said.
The SFPUC approved the settlement during a Closed Session on October 23, 2012. It was recommended by the Board of Supervisors Rules Committee November 15, at another Closed Session, and has to be approved by the full Board of Supervisors, where the opportunity for public comment is, again, unlikely. It will vote on the ordinance Tuesday, December 4, Supervisor Elsbernd said.”
But if the club does not pay for the cleanup, then the SFPUC may have to pass along those costs to its customers. It’s unclear if the insurance policies held by the gun club – in place in the 1970s and early 80s – may pay for some or all of the costs, Ritchie said. “The biggest question regarding the cleanup is how much funding the club can contribute,” he added.
The idea that the gun club may have to move would make at least one SF resident happy. “It’s a very strong noise disturbance …and they are not serving the public recreationally,” said Felicia Zeiger, who lives within walking distance from Lake Merced. Zeiger said the membership of the club has not grown at all, or not very much, yet the population in the surrounding area has. Zeiger has previously served on the Park, Recreation and Open Space Advisory Committee, whose focus is park, recreational, environmental, cultural, sports, youth, or senior citizen issues.
On November 6 the Chronicle reported “PUC General Manager Harlan Kelly said the new month-to-month lease, replacing the original that was signed in the 1930s, would protect San Francisco ratepayers from cleanup costs.”
“We disagree,” said Jerry Cadagan, founder of Committee to Save Lake Merced, “that SF rate or tax payers have been protected from clean up costs. We are not criticizing (reporter) Neal Riley at the Chronicle We have corroborated that that is what he was told.
“Here are the facts. 1. The Gun Club does not have the specialized kind of environmental pollution liability insurance that covers this kind of situation (although SF and the Gun Club say they are negotiating with an insurance carrier that provided other insurance). 2. The Gun Club does not have $10 million (SF’s estimate of the clean up expense) or $5 million (the Gun Club’s estimate) in cash or other assets. 3. SFPUC staff has told their own Commissioners that the rate payers may end up picking up the clean up costs. A staff report attached to the Commission’s May 8, 2012 agenda (Item 9) contained these words, “Also, the SFPUC may have to use $10.7 million in ratepayer funds to undertake remediation activities if the PRGC is unable to satisfy its financial obligation to remedy the site contamination.
“The recent temporary settlement does not change any of those facts.
“This is important because SFPUC ratepayers need to know that they may very well be on the hook for a $10 million pollution clean up job.”
The SFPUC approved the settlement during a Closed Session on October 23, 2012. It was recommended by the Board of Supervisors Rules Committee November 15, at another Closed Session, and has to be approved by the full Board of Supervisors, where the opportunity for public comment is, again, unlikely. It will vote on the ordinance Tuesday, December 4, Supervisor Elsbernd said.
The current lease, written in 1934, when the club first leased the property, granted use of 4 acres for “skeet shooting and flyfishing”, though the club now uses 10 acres and no flyfishing is in evidence.
Although the site located at 520 John Muir Drive is used by the gun club, the City and County owns the property, which is managed by the SFPUC. Prior to May, the SF Recreation & Parks Department managed the site.
Under the amended and restated lease and the November 2, 2012, settlement agreement the club can remain on the property on a month-to-month basis for two years. During the two years, “the SFPUC and the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department will begin the planning process for long term use of the premises after cleanup is complete for yet-to-be-determined unrestricted recreational uses,” Ritchie wrote in an email to the Observer.
“It does take time to work out these issues,” Ritchie said, adding that the city could extend the club’s two-year lease, though “highly unlikely,” he said. During the term of the lease, monthly rent is $5,000, and the rental deposit is $10,000. The club’s continued occupancy of the property will be governed only by the settlement agreement and the amended and restated lease.
District 7 Supervisor Sean Elsbernd drafted an ordinance dated November 5, 2012 to approve the settlement agreement. The ordinance states the new lease will provide “improved insurance, indemnity and other provisions in favor of the city.” It does not mention the cleanup costs.
A spokesperson for the gun club, Fred Tautenhahn, declined to comment for the story. Instead he referred the Observer to club president Mike Miller, who did not return calls for comment by press time. The club’s website says the club is “making steady and relatively positive progress” with the SFPUC. “We still have a long way to go to secure and ensure our long term existence at Lake Merced,” the website tells members, guests and friends of the club.
Keith Burbank is a San Francisco freelance journalist
Fire Destroys Squat & Gobble, Vin Debut, Neighboring Buildings Damaged
A fire burned Squat & Gobble, 1 West Portal Avenue, as well as Vin Debut, 9 West Portal Avenue, the West Portal Medical-Dental Building, 15 West Portal Avenue, and 823 Ulloa Street, a mixed use, residential and commercial building next to 1 West Portal Avenue, said Mindy Talmadge, public information officer, San Francisco Fire Department. The West Portal Medical-Dental Building is home to Warren Orthodontics.
Four days after the fire, with plywood removed from at least two windows on the north side of 1 West Portal Avenue, a passerby could see the fire burned the inside of the building and the roof. Little of the roof appeared to be intact.”
The Fire Department reported two minor firefighter injuries in the blaze. No civilians sustained injuries, nor was anyone displaced from a residence, Talmadge said.
A passerby reported the fire to the San Francisco Fire Department at 4:40 a.m. Friday, October 12, 2012, according to information released by the fire department.
The fire department estimates Squat & Gobble suffered property damage of $900,000 and content damages of $1 million. For Vin Debut and Warren Orthodontics, the fire department estimates property damages total $1.1 million and contents damages total $3.5 million. At 823 Ulloa Street, the fire department estimates $750,000 in property damages and $100,000 in content damages.
Squat & Gobble has been able to absorb the employees from the West Portal store into its other establishments in San Francisco. “Yes, we’ve already done that,” said J.J., the manager at the store on Fillmore Street in the Lower Haight. “We did that last week.” J.J. said he is aware of the fund to help employees of the West Portal store, and he said employees will be able to take advantage of the fund. But he said he doesn’t yet know how the fund works.
The San Francisco Fire Department’s media relations office has said the fire is still under investigation and the point of origin and cause may not be known.
Four days after the fire, with plywood removed from at least two windows on the north side of 1 West Portal Avenue, a passerby could see the fire burned the inside of the building and the roof. Little of the roof appeared to be intact. At 823 Ulloa, the City and County of San Francisco’s Department of Building Inspection had posted a notice on the window that said “enter the top floor with caution” and only “brief entry allowed for access to contents.” At 9 and 15 West Portal Avenue, metal gates surrounded the entrances, and little could be seen from the street.
A fire inspector was on the scene October 16.
Fund established to help employees
The West Portal Merchants Association has established an account with Bank of America to help employees of the businesses that burned in the fire at the southeast corner of West Portal Avenue and Ulloa Street.
“We’re not trying to sustain them, but trying to show them that we care,” said West Portal Merchants Association president, Maryo Mogannam, owner of The Postal Chase on West Portal Avenue. The name of the fund is West Portal Avenue Association Fire Fund. “Any teller can look it up,” Mogannam said. Donations can be made at any Bank of America branch; all the branches in Northern California received notice of the fund.
All of the employees have insurance and will be getting unemployment, but the donations are for gaps and surprises, Mogannam said. Mogannam said 60 to 70 employees have been affected by the fire; he is hoping each employee can receive a gift certificate of $25, $50, or $100.
The manager of the Bank of America branch in West Portal was unavailable before press time, so the number of donations made and the total amount donated is unknown at this time.
Keith Burbank is a free-lance San Francisco reporter.
OfftheGrid Reconsiders Food Truck Event for West Portal
In a surprise move, OfftheGrid has withdrawn its application to hold an event this fall in West Portal—the company will think about a permit for February or March 2013. “If you don’t want us here, then we won’t be here,” said Matthew Cohen, owner of OfftheGrid San Francisco, at a West Portal Merchants Association meeting in October. Cohen came to the meeting to hear merchants’ concerns about a proposed food truck event for this fall in West Portal. While some merchants see the event as a way to boost business, other merchants are afraid it will take away their business.
“People my age don’t know where West Portal is,” said Michelle Eichelberger, 27, owner of the Pawber Shop, a pet grooming store at 323 West Portal Avenue. “Those are people that will come” [to the food truck event].”
“We want to be respectful of everyone,” Cohen said a few days later by telephone. At the meeting Cohen said OfftheGrid is trying to take the least aggressive approach toward establishing an event in West Portal, and said OfftheGrid will be doing more to hear the concerns of West Portal shopkeepers.
Alison (Al) Werger, co-owner of Citipets on West Portal Avenue, said that people don’t know West Portal exists (see the September 2012 issue of the Westside Observer). Werger said the food truck event will help people discover the neighborhood. Another merchant seemed to agree.
“People my age don’t know where West Portal is,” said Michelle Eichelberger, 27, owner of the Pawber Shop, a pet grooming store at 323 West Portal Avenue. “Those are people that will come” [to the food truck event].
But Pankaj Shah, owner of Roti Indian Bistro at 53 West Portal Avenue, told Cohen, “You’re looking at your bottom line and not our bottom line.” Shah is concerned that a food truck event will reduce available parking in the area, driving his customers away. Shah said many of his customers come by car. If they cannot find a parking spot within a block or two, Shah said, they will turn around and go home.
Shah added that Cohen does not have any objective evidence the event will benefit the neighborhood’s merchants. “All I have is subjective evidence,” Cohen admitted.
One or two groups, including OfftheGrid, were planning to place sensors to count foot traffic in a few West Portal businesses. It is unclear if the sensors would count foot traffic before a food truck event, after, or during. But perhaps the sensors will indicate how the event will affect West Portal businesses.
Before the meeting OfftheGrid had modified its proposal to the West Portal neighborhood, including the location of the event. Rather than 14th Street, OfftheGrid proposed the parking lot located at 174 West Portal Avenue, plus sections of the street on either side of the lot.
“I’m sitting here in total shock,” said Linda Kapnick, owner of Ambassador Toys at 186 West Portal Avenue. Kapnick said her customers use that parking lot, and parking is a problem for customers of her West Portal store. Ambassador Toys is open until 6 p.m. Tuesdays, the night OfftheGrid considered hosting the event, and Cohen had planned to have the lot closed by 4 p.m.
Kapnick said that parents frequently tell their children to hurry up because the parents fear getting a parking ticket. Or customers ask Kapnick to leave the package at the door. “Parking is one issue that is so critical,” Kapnick told Cohen and merchants in the meeting.
An important consideration for Ambassador Toys and Roti may be the kind of customer each shop serves. OfftheGrid’s clientele are typically single professionals 20 to 40 years or age, or young couples 25 to 45 years old, with children.
“Seniors, are they your best spenders?” Maryo Mogannam, president of the West Portal Merchants Association asked merchants at the meeting. “Yes,” Kapnick said. “They’re the grandmothers....”
But some merchants at the meeting think that customers of an OfftheGrid food truck event will be good spenders, too.
In another neighborhood hungry for better business, Craig Becker, owner of Caffe Mediterraneum in Berkeley, said some restaurants lost business when OfftheGrid established a food truck event near his cafe on Telegraph Avenue.
Becker said business at Caffe Mediterraneum improved, but he said he doesn’t serve standard lunches and dinners as some restaurants do. Becker said business at Caffe Mediterraneum picked up after the food truck event closed for the night, as event customers stopped by for coffee. Caffe Mediterraneum is open until midnight.
So, the food truck event has gotten “a little bit of mixed reviews” on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley, Becker said.
Cohen said OfftheGrid wants to take everybody’s views into consideration. Thus OfftheGrid has withdrawn its application to hold an event this fall in West Portal. OfftheGrid has said it is sensitive to concerns about the event’s impact on holiday traffic. The company will think about a permit for February or March 2013. If the neighborhood had decided to host an event this fall, the event may have started November 6 and run for six weeks. Then OfftheGrid would have given West Portal the option of continuing the event.
Keith Burbank is a freelance San Francisco reporter.
Food Trucks are Coming and May Help More Discover West Portal
Food trucks, which may be bringing more business to merchants and restaurants alike, are coming to West Portal. The event will be hosted by OfftheGrid, which brings together food trucks for events in Hayes Valley in San Francisco and in North Berkeley, near the Gourmet Ghetto, among other Bay Area locations.
Supporters of the food truck event in West Portal, such as Alison (Al) Werger, co-owner of Citipets on West Portal Avenue, want to achieve at least two things by bringing food trucks to the neighborhood. One, improve business for all merchants, and two, make West Portal a destination neighborhood, similar to the Castro in terms of sales for merchants in the neighborhood.
…West Portal is not now a destination neighborhood, but everyone that lives here loves it. “What we want is for people to discover West Portal,” Werger said. That is the purpose of the food truck event. So that when they want to shop and dine they will think of West Portal and come here…”
Werger said that West Portal is not now a destination neighborhood, but everyone that lives here loves it. “What we want is for people to discover West Portal,” Werger said. That is the purpose of the food truck event. So that when they [people] want to shop and dine they will think of West Portal and come here, as people do in the Castro or other busy shopping neighborhoods.
Werger told The Westside Observer that OfftheGrid will not be bringing trucks with the same kind of food as that sold by West Portal restaurants, so as to avoid competition with restaurants in West Portal. Werger said that there are really great restaurants here [in West Portal], but people do not know they are here. “And I want people to know about them and how great they are, Werger said. For example, “I have asked people if they have eaten at Bursa,” Werger said. “And people reply, Where is Bursa? I want people to know where Bursa is.”
Evidence from other food truck events in San Francisco suggest the event is a success for food trucks and other merchants, restaurant or otherwise. For example, the food truck events are popular at other locations, such as the McCoppin Hub and Hayes Valley. In Oakland, near City Center, shiny green trucks glow as people from the State of California building choose which item to indulge in. And despite some initial reluctance, at least some restaurants in the North Berkeley neighborhood have reversed course and are welcoming the event.
For example, Saul’s, an established delicatessen on Shattuck Avenue, is welcoming the publicity it gets when the food truck event is happening, its manager said. And Gregoire, a gourmet takeout shop in North Berkeley, said it’s sales may have fallen a bit, but not considerably, when the food truck event in the Gourmet Ghetto first started. But now its sales have leveled off or improved, owner, Gregoire Jacquet said. “It does bring people,” Jacquet said of the food truck event. Jacquet called The westside Observer after the August issue was delivered to newstands last month.
Feedback: Keith Burbank
Will a Food Truck Event Benefit West Portal Restaurants?
“No, absolutely not,” said John Bedroussin, owner of the Submarine Center in West Portal for 32 years. “This neighborhood is clean. We have cleaned it up. One hundred percent not.”
Bedroussin was responding to a question about the possibility of a food truck event coming to West Portal one night a week.
The idea has West Portal merchants asking if the event will hurt or help restaurants in the neighborhood recover from the recession.
Off the Grid would bring six trucks to about one half of 14th Avenue, between the RE/MAX office and West Portal Avenue. Centered among the trucks will be some chairs, but not tables, and a quiet trio of musicians. Fourteenth Avenue would be closed during the event, except for the half closest to Portola, so a resident can park his car in the garage.”
Some West Portal merchants are in favor of the event because they think it will bring new people to the neighborhood. Supporters, such as local retailers, say these new people may drink or finish dinner at West Portal restaurants during the event or drink or dine at a West Portal restaurant at a night in the near future. Also, they say, the event will give people a reason to visit the neighborhood, reinvigorating the neighborhood business district.
But broker associate Art Belenson of Century 21 in West Portal, said business — at least among restaurants in the neighborhood — is down 30%, which is why the restaurants are opposed. They’re afraid the food trucks will draw customers away from them.
Robbie Connolly, co-owner of The Village Grill in West Portal, said the food trucks have an unfair advantage compared with West Portal restaurants, due to higher operating costs than the cost of operating a mobile food truck.
“We pay taxes galore,” said Esperanza Mahan, owner of El Toreador, a restaurant serving Mexican food on West Portal Avenue for 50 years.
The event would be set up by Off the Grid San Francisco, a company that groups mobile food vendors. Off the Grid owner Matthew Cohen said the West Portal Merchants Association approached him about the event. Off the Grid’s website says the goal of its events is to “allow neighbors to connect with friends and families to reconnect with each other.”
One supporter described the proposed event. Off the Grid would bring six trucks to about one half of 14th Avenue, between the RE/MAX office and West Portal Avenue. Centered among the trucks will be some chairs, but not tables, and a quiet trio of musicians. Fourteenth Avenue would be closed during the event, except for the half closest to Portola, so a resident can park his car in the garage.
Cohen said a similar Off the Grid event has been successful in North Berkeley, a neighborhood known for restaurants. The area nearby the food truck event has more than a few frequently-visited restaurants and is nick-named the Gourmet Ghetto.
Bedroussin is concerned the event will leave trash in the streets, and bring people who are homeless to the neighborhood. Also, people opposed are concerned about an increase in traffic congestion because residents will be arriving home from work as the event begins and there could be a lack of parking for the combination of visitors and residents.
Off the Grid has proposed the event for a Sunday, Monday or Tuesday night, from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., for one year. Cohen said perhaps 1,000 to 1,500 people will come to the event each week.
Another concern is restrooms. If the city does not provide portable toilets, some have asked what restrooms the visitors will use. Also, some people opposed asked if it will be too cold outside in the winter to draw any people to the event.
Mahan said 15 to 20 people from the neighborhood met at a community meeting about the proposal.
Connolly said, “Pretty much all of the food establishments are not in favor [of the food trucks], from whom I have talked to and what I understand. All the other attendees were in favor of the event.”
Mahan said she thinks the event will only benefit retail establishments. “We don’t know how expensive their dishes are. They don’t pay rent. These are the concerns we are facing,” Mahan added.
Past president of the West Portal Merchants Association, Marc Troy, said he thinks “selfish interests” are behind the idea. If a mobile truck to wrap and ship packages came to West Portal, do you think the local package shipper would be in favor of the proposal? Troy asked.
But Matthew Rogers, owner, Papenhausen Hardware said, “I think it would be very positive for the street. It would bring a lot of people to the neighborhood who are unfamiliar with West Portal. It gives them a reason to come here. In all likelihood, the food trucks will have no effect on my business. But in general, it would improve business along the street,” Rogers said. The food trucks would pull people from other parts of the city, besides the immediate surrounding neighborhoods. “It would be a shame if we missed that.”
“I’m totally for it” said Rachel Lopez Metzger, owner, The Desk Set, at 3252 Sacramento Street and 207 West Portal Avenue in San Francisco. “I support it. It will be a very family-friendly event. It will probably help all the small businesses that are there [in West Portal],” she said by phone from the Sacramento Street location. “I want it to happen.”
Keith Burbank is a free lance journalist