Updated with revised start date of May 5th for the Farmer's Market
By Jonathan Goetz
Miriam Raftery also contributed to this report
March 30, 2018 (La Mesa) – La Mesa residents will soon be able to stroll the heart of the downtown village to shop for fresh produce, crafts and other items on Friday afternoons and evenings. The La Mesa City Council voted 4-1 at Tuesday’s meeting to move the Farmer’s Market to the downtown village on a six-month trial basis. It will be run by the La Mesa Village Association instead of the city as a special event each Friday from 3 to 7 p.m. starting May 5th, with street closures from 1 to 8 .p.m.
The change has drawn support from many shoppers and some businesses, but has also engendered opposition from restaurants concerned about losing regular patrons on their busiest night of the week and neighbors with noise and parking concerns.
The new market is projected to be approximately double in size of the current Friday night farmer’s market near the civic center, which must ultimately move due to redevelopment plans.
“To close the streets at 1p.m. on a Friday doesn't make any sense,” said John Bedlion (photo, right), on behalf of Johnny B's, Pete's Place and the Regal. “I only oppose it on Friday afternoon.”
Lupe Marrujo said on behalf of Por Favor that there is a “cool vibe” in the village on Fridays, that she warns that would change with a prime time street closure.
But Peter Soutowood (photo, left), owner of the soon-to-open Fourpenny House restaurant, told Council he favors the proposal. “La Mesa is changing,” he said, adding that the village is “not for cars. It’s for people.” He urged everyone to “think about more than just what’s good for us now,” and to instead look ahead, to what will be good for La Mesa over the next 10 years.
Deanne Ross (photo, right) from Act II, a resale clothing shop in the village, favors the move and says a survey of her customers shows the majority of them also want the farmer’s market moved downtown, following the extensive renovations in the village. “We love our village more and more,” she said.
With some 50 spaces to be blocked off, a nearby resident asked where displaced customers on Friday nights would park, adding, “In front of my house?”
Another woman asked why a broader range of residents weren’t surveyed. Staff indicated that because fewer than 500 people are expected to be at the market at any one time, this was not required.
Susan Wayne (photo, left) suggested having the farmers market on a Saturday or Sunday, when the set-up and break-down time would be less disruptive. Bedlion suggested Tuesday or Wednesday, when there is a bigger upshot for local establishments. It appears, most any day, except Friday.
Councilman Bill Baber asked LMVA the “logic of having it on a Friday?”
Aaron Dean ([photo, right), head of the LMVA, said that while Saturdays or Sundays could be better for existing businesses, “farmers aren’t available on those days” due to other farmer’s markets. Thursdays would conflict with the car show, Mondays are farmers’ day off and ““farmers have been burned” when Tuesdays and Wednesdays didn't see enough customers, and Thursdays would conflict with the car show, “ he said.
Vice Mayor Kristine Alessio asked a representative from the company that will operate the market for the LMVA about other markets they currently run. Those include markets on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. “So the date doesn’t have to be on Friday,” she observed, adding, “I noticed in the Farm Bureau’s website that only Borrego Springs has Friday night.”
A farmer’s market spokesman said that moving the day of a farmer’s market can be detrimental, adding, “If you switch the day, it just dies out” due to vendors who may have conflicts with other markets and customers who are accustomed to shopping on a particular day.
Alessio cast the only vote against the proposal, but added that she would support moving the market to the village on another day of the week.
Mayor Mark Arapostathis proposed amendments adopted by Council to shorten the trial period from one year to six months, and also to put flyers on vehicles parked downtown in the coming weeks to alert them that vehicles will be towed if parked in the market area on Fridays.
Councilman Colin Parent, who has been active in street closures elsewhere through Circulate San Diego, says based on his experiences he expects any lost business will be offset by new customers coming in. "If I'm wrong, we can always change it back," he said, adding that moving the market to a different date would be easier to accomplish later. "We're go ing to become the best farmer's market and then we can dictate the days of the week," he predicted, adding that he supports making downtown more inviting and believes this will have a "positive impact" overall.
LMVA will pay $4,500 in cost recovery fees to the City as it assumes operation of the La Mesa Farmers Market.
On social media, some have objected to surveys turned in by the LMVA that failed to mention food trucks that they fear may draw business away from restaurants. Marcia Tolin told ECM she visited restaurants herself and found owners of some listed in favor in surveys submitted to the city said they opposed the plan, particularly when learning that the proposed date had been changed from Tuesday to Friday and that food trucks could be included.
McWhirter voiced support for the proposal but said, "I'm also interested in helping some of the restaurants out," adding that maybe some sort of mitigation could be considered, but did not offer details.
Dean concluded that any lost business will be offset by new business, adding, “This is a change. This is a good thing.”
View the original proposal:
View the Council hearing: https://www.cityoflamesa.us/CivicMedia?VID=97#player