Off the Grid hopes to score with food trucks at Joe DiMaggio Playground

Gil Riego Jr./Special to the S.F. ExaminerThe Joe DiMaggio Playground is the proposed location for another Off the Grid event.

Off the Grid could be coming to North Beach’s Joe DiMaggio Playground as part of a plan to increase the food truck event’s presence at public parks.

Since 2010, Off the Grid has staged weekly gatherings at Golden Gate Park and Civic Center Plaza. The Recreation and Park Department, which manages both sites, has received $100,000 in rent and revenue from those events, and now it wants to expand the program to the North Beach playground.

As many as 15 different food purveyors could converge on the site for the event, which would take place every Wednesday from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. in the summer and 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the winter. The department would earn at least $860 a month in rent from April to October, and $548 between November and March, under a proposed three-year contract. The department would receive a bigger cut if 40 percent of gross revenue sales from the event exceed those minimum rents.  

Off the Grid agreed to the proposed site after persistent lobbying from neighborhood groups, including the Friends of Joe DiMaggio Playground community organization, said event founder Matt Cohen. He said he expects the weekly gathering to feature eight to ten food trucks, none of which will include Italian options, since North Beach is renowned for that cuisine.

“There seemed to be a real strong push for Off the Grid in this neighborhood,” Cohen said. “Hopefully we can provide some more food options for the residents.”

However, Jon Golinger, president of the Telegraph Hill Dwellers, a neighborhood organization, said he didn’t know of any such clamor. “North Beach is not a neighborhood that’s exactly hard-pressed for great food choices,” Golinger said. “That kind of makes it a funny place to bring in this event.”

Golinger said the event could adversely affect local restaurants and he questioned the use of a small public playground for a food-related event.

“Where are the kids who shoot hoops at the playground going to go every Wednesday afternoon?” he asked.

The department said there is no formal opposition to the plan, and Albert Adams, a manager at the nearby café Mario’s Bohemian Cigar Store said local restaurateurs don’t think that the event will have a major impact on their sales.

“I can’t see this being a problem, if anything, it will bring in more foot traffic to the area,” Adams said. “We’ve got very cool restaurants here in North Beach — if people want to eat here, they’re coming to come to us.”

On Wednesday, the agency’s operations committee will vote whether to recommend the Off the Grid contract. If recommended, it would go before the Rec and Park Commission later this month.

wreisman@sfexaminer.com

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