Over the past five years, the San Francisco Street Food Festival has grown from a single-block party to a sprawling behemoth that draws thousands of eager eaters to the Mission for an August Saturday of eating. Unfortunately, it looks like the festival's popularity may well be the thing that kills it, as this year's event (to be held August 16) will officially be the festival's last in the Mission, if not its last ever. "The reality is that hosting an event that is good to vendors, great to customers and makes sense for an eight-person staff at a non-profit that has other outcomes to worry about, proves to be more difficult than just throwing a block party," says Michelle Fernandez, development and communications associate at the festival's organizer, La Cocina.
Fernandez says that the nonprofit, which spends most of its year helping immigrant and minority women start their own food businesses, has increasingly been consumed by logistics and complaints related to the festival, from 24th Street merchants citing decreased foot traffic and sales to long lines and lost parking spots for the neighbors. "La Cocina was born out of a community and into a neighborhood, and it is our obligation to listen to the voices of that community and of our neighbors."
With that said, it might not be curtains for the festival just yet. "We're looking for grander, and equally urban, settings to feed [diners] faster, better and with ever increasing attention to detail," says Fernandez. The Dogpatch's Pier 70, which has played host to the Urban Air Market, is one potential location; the La Cocina team is also open to alternate suggestions (here's their contact info). But if they can't find an acceptable new space, then they consider this year an opportunity to go out with a bang. "We love this damn festival, and would give the world to keep growing it, and we hope people will join us this year, just in case we don't figure that out," Fernandez says.
· The Menu For 2013's SF Street Food Festival [~ ESF ~]
· The 2012 SF Street Food Festival Guide [~ ESF ~]