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Farmers Market Future "in Jeopardy" Following Merchant Opposition

The city is struggling to find a new location for the Albany farmers market following opposition from some local business owners. Click the "Keep me posted" button below this story for updates on the market.

Despite that the Albany farmers market brought close to 1,000 people to Solano Avenue weekly during its first season, and infused other local businesses with up to $7,000 each week, city staffers say they're looking for a new location for the gathering following reports from some local businesses that the market harmed sales.

Finding another location, however, has proven difficult. The market needs to be located on a block that will not obstruct residential driveways or impact AC Transit routes. The market also requires a hard surface and, as such, would not be permitted on grass.

Though city staff and market organizers have spent considerable time seeking another location within Albany's limits, no other appropriate spot has yet been identified, leaving the market's future in town questionable.

At least five local businesses—including Subway, Bill Moore & Associates, Chroma Salon, Richard Liao Acupuncture Herb Clinic and Albany Sauna & Hot Tubs—said the for them during its first season. These challenges including a parking crunch for their customers, noise, limiting their visibility and general disruption. 

The market last season, run by the Ecology Center, was located on Solano Avenue just west of San Pablo Avenue, near or directly in front of the businesses listed above.

Several of these business owners voiced their concerns at a meeting Nov. 8 of the Planning & Zoning Commission where the city body reviewed, but did not act on, the market's use permit. A number of these merchants also met with a smaller group of city staff and planning commissioners following that public meeting. 

(See live tweets, unedited, from the Nov. 8 meeting attached to this story as a PDF. The meeting is also available on KALB 33 here.)

Community Development Director Jeff Bond said, as a result of these complaints, the city is searching for another location for the market. 

Bond said the Planning & Zoning Commission will consider the market's permit again in a public meeting in March, but an exact date has not yet been set.

Residents who would like to give feedback about the market can do so by emailing cityhall@albanyca.org, attention "farmers market." Scroll down to take the poll below to share your views on Albany Patch.

THE SPECIFIC CONCERNS

In November, several businesses put on record their reported problems resulting from the market. 

The owner of Albany Sauna & Hot Tubs wrote to the city that his business decreased 60-70 percent during market hours. 

Acupuncturist Richard Liao read a letter from his landlord at the Nov. 8 meeting, stating that letting the market continue would be at the expense of existing small businesses on Solano.

Liao said patients from his practice with mobility issues had trouble finding nearby parking.

A patient from Liao's practice said the market made it too noisy for him during acupuncture sessions.

Chroma Salon owner Terri Varela told planning commissioners that market trucks blocked existing local businesses and limited their foot traffic as a result.

"We shouldn't have to leave our clients to hustle farmers market customers with coupons," she said. "For pedestrians, there isn't any room for discovery."

Varela also that expressed merchant concerns outlined the month the market began.

OTHER BUSINESSES EXPRESS SUPPORT

Allen Cain, who runs the , said last week that he'd fought hard to keep the market on Solano during its first season to "raise the profile of an otherwise less-traveled" stretch of it. 

Cain said he'd spoken to a number of Solano Avenue merchants who said they were happy to have the market nearby. He added that he hoped the city would not "allow the needs of the few to outweigh the needs of the many."

Winkie Campbell-Notar, who runs the city's , said chamber members "generally supported" the farmers market and found that people spent more money in town on market days.

"We supported it last year and we'd like to see it back," she said Friday, adding that this was not a formal board position, but that it represented her view, and the views of several Chamber members she checked in with.

"The feedback I got from people was that it was a small inconvenience one day a week, but it got people saying, 'Look at this, look at this,' as far as other businesses. I think people went back and bought things," Campbell-Notar said.

Chief Mike McQuiston said last week that, traffic-wise, the market had "worked out better than I had expected." In the first several weeks, the Police Department responded to several requests for additional signage and a different way of letting people know what was going on. Otherwise, McQuiston said, he wasn't aware of significant traffic impacts.

MARKET FUTURE "UP IN THE AIR," SAYS ORGANIZER

Ben Feldman, an Albany resident who works for the Ecology Center and ran last year's market, said he was waiting for the city to make the next move. 

The market does not yet have a permit for 2012.

"We're getting into a place where the ability to start this year is in jeopardy," he said Friday. "Things are up in the air."

Feldman said he'd hoped the market would begin in May, as it did last year, but that this was not looking likely given the current lack of resolution about where the market would be located.

Feldman said he and the city did "an exhaustive search" around town last year for alternative locations, but hadn't found one.  

He said he was sympathetic to local businesses that had problems as a result of the market, and "would love to work with them to make sure there's a way it can work going forward." 

Feldman said he's offered the market's community booth (where local organizations can reach out to the public) to those who took issue with the market, but none have so far accepted. 

"We offered different promotional opportunities to the businesses. Those offers are still on the table," he said. "We're willing to listen to any of their ideas about how we can make the market work."

Feldman said, unfortunately, he didn't see an easy way to remove the vendor trucks from the perimeter, as vendors need to use them to store their products, equipment and cash.  

Feldman said it would be important for the public to speak up if they want the market to return.

"If residents and the city of Albany want the market to be there, we want to be there, and we will be there," he said. "At this point, I'm not sure how we're going to make it happen unless something changes."

Residents who would like to give feedback about the Albany farmers market can do so by emailing cityhall@albanyca.org, attention "farmers market."

Get an alert when we write about the farmers market by clicking the "Keep me posted" button below.

If there's something in this article you think , or if something else is amiss, call editor Emilie Raguso at 510-459-8325 or email her at albany@patch.com.

Amy Smolens March 02, 2012 at 08:37 AM
I'd say that Peter pretty much sums it up in a nutshell. If I were one of the nearby businesses, I'd hand out coupons to FM customers in order to cultivate new clients/customers who may not previously have gone to that block. That seems like a simple way to make this benefit them. This was a terrific community event - I went pretty much weekly and enjoyed seeing and eating with old friends, as well as making new ones.
Emilie Raguso March 02, 2012 at 11:12 AM
Here's some more info via the Community Development Department: "Mechanics Bank and Memorial Park were looked at, but for different reasons are not locations that we think will work. I did walk up and down Solano and look for a location on a side street that has something in the range of an equivalent street area that does not block driveways or cross into a single-family residential neighborhood. Other criteria include economic viability of the market, impact on neighborhoods and nearby businesses, cumulative impact of the market and other nearby activities, impacts on AC Transit service, practicality of roadway detours, etc. Unfortunately, nothing jumped out as an obvious alternative. We will continue to work on this, including touching base with AUSD and UC."
Emilie Raguso March 02, 2012 at 11:13 AM
* The Community Development Department also will be preparing a staff report about all this in the near future, and that will include more information. We'll be sure to keep you updated.
Tim Q. Cannon March 02, 2012 at 05:23 PM
Peter and Amy got it right.
ginger mcc March 02, 2012 at 05:57 PM
I'm guessing that the acupuncturist's patient with pain and/or mobility issues would resent being characterized as "lazy" because they want (perhaps NEED) to park right in front of the office of their health care provider.
ginger mcc March 02, 2012 at 06:03 PM
Seems to me that "forcing" speeding drivers to slow down isn't the most compassionate tack to take. People are rushed for all sorts of reasons; in the spirit of working together, bashing someone who's "grouchy" because they are inconvenienced in some way isn't going to produce positive results while this issue is worked out.
ginger mcc March 02, 2012 at 06:05 PM
What about the parking lot across Washington from the Mechanics Bank parking lot?
ginger mcc March 02, 2012 at 06:14 PM
To everyone who has commented on the impact of the FM to traffic and local businesses: Please try walking a mile in someone else's shoes. Walk a mile in the shoes of the stressed-out parent who's late picking up their kids and forgot that Solano was blocked in Wednesday, and because of the backed-up traffic at Adams and Washington - a direct result of the Solano Ave. closure - will now be another 5 or 10 minutes late. Walk a mile - or 10 - in the shoes of the small business owner whose business has been negatively impacted by the FM. If you've never owned a business, you likely have no idea how difficult the economy is, and has been, for small businesses, and how hard these people are working to make their businesses survive. You might think that the impact of the FM - just a few hours one afternoon a week - wouldn't really matter. And you might be very wrong about that. Extending understanding and compassion toward one another - instead of scoffing at or denigrating others' concerns - is what will facilitate finding a solution. I hope we can ALL rise to the occasion.
Tatyana Ryevzina March 03, 2012 at 03:57 AM
I am cross-posting a letter we just sent to the Albany City Hall in support of the market on behalf of our business: To Whom It May Concern: We are writing to express our enthusiastic support for the Albany Farmers Market. We run a community-supported affordable acupuncture clinic, located on San Pablo Avenue, just a block South from the current Solano Avenue market site, and we have loved having the Farmers Market in our neighborhood. Our clients and staff have enjoyed the luxury of fresh fruits/veggies and live plants just around the corner. We think the market location is fine, very visible and easy to find with good public transit access. We have benefited from participating at two of the markets last season, offering free ear acupuncture in the community booth, promoting our business and connecting with folks in our community. We are hoping to return next season. We also found that the market increased foot traffic past our clinic. Our community needs and loves the market. Please keep a good thing going, do not let the Farmers Market disappear from our town! Sincerely, Pam Chang LAc and Tatyana Ryevzina, LAc co-owners & acupuncture practitioners Sarana Community Acupuncture affordable acupuncture in a peaceful shared space 968 San Pablo Ave Albany, CA 94706 510.526.5056 www.saranacommunityacupuncture.com
Em Segmen March 04, 2012 at 07:46 AM
I like the option of Ocean View Park's parking lot especially on a weekday when it's not busy. It's not a grassy surface and no driveways are blocked. Seems like many options are coming up in this group of commentaries.
Brian Parsley March 04, 2012 at 03:33 PM
I believe Ocean View Park is used during the week, by Albany Little League, Albany High JV Baseball, and City of Albany Friendship Club.
Dover March 05, 2012 at 06:22 AM
It's a shame Patch doesn't benefit financially from the people who currently see the comments section as free advertising space.
Tatyana Ryevzina March 05, 2012 at 06:34 AM
Dover, I am sorry to hear that you think I posted our letter to get "free advertising", have you actually read it? If you read it, you may find that it speaks to the subject matter of this post, for which comments were requested. I believe it is perfectly appropriate for me to identify who is the letter coming from. At the risk of derailing this thread, I will just say that we do not find any type of paid or free advertising that effective for our business, so we do not particularly seek it out. We are a social business and our main source of new referrals is word of mouth, but we do care about having a voice for positive change in our community. Thanks.
Emilie Raguso March 05, 2012 at 06:42 AM
I don't see this as a ploy for free advertising. It strikes me more as transparency.
Paul Cruce March 06, 2012 at 02:35 PM
Health Department regulations prevent the markets from being on grass.
Paul Cruce March 06, 2012 at 05:06 PM
Bill Moore and Associates makes signage and graphics for businesses such as Ross Stores and Target. They do not rely on foot traffic for their business, particularly since most of their business is conducted with existing clients via phone, fax, and the internet. One of the other loudest complainers about the market works BY APPOINTMENT ONLY, thus if the market is inconvenient for this person they can most certainly schedule around it. Once again, the City caves to a handful of loud Luddites, sacrificing the greater good of the community to appease the whiners and furthering the City's well-earned reputation of being anti-business.
Carol Schumacher March 07, 2012 at 04:26 AM
Paul Cruce, I agree it is important to remember that the FM went through a lengthy process of site selection and negotiations with the city. many of these considerations were hashed out in a public, transparent process. the businesses had an opportunity to participate and the city is wrong to cave to them now. We need to let the city know that the businesses that are whining have not shown economic hardship. They should view this foot traffic as an opportunity as many have suggested. They should get creative, their businesses could benefit if they do.
Dover March 07, 2012 at 04:41 AM
"affordable acupuncture in a peaceful shared space" + phone number + link to website = free advertising
Dover March 07, 2012 at 04:47 AM
"We need to let the city know that the businesses that are whining have not shown economic hardship." I am curious to know how you plan to prove this. Do you have some inside scoop?
Dover March 07, 2012 at 04:49 AM
I don't drive a turnip truck, Tatyana.
Emilie Raguso March 08, 2012 at 09:02 PM
This will be discussed at Tuesday's Planning & Zoning Commission meeting, 7:30 p.m., City Hall (San Pablo and Marin). I will post the agenda when it's available.
Emilie Raguso March 09, 2012 at 10:42 PM
The staff report has been posted. I expect that has more details about the location: http://patch.com/N-dlNr
D. Mehrten March 13, 2012 at 08:13 PM
Speeding drivers may collect their compassion ration when paying their speeding tickets and explaining why their "rushed" status justified unsafe and illegal behavior.
ginger mcc March 16, 2012 at 12:51 AM
don't know where they will collect the "compassion ration", but clearly, it won't be from you.
candace March 16, 2012 at 02:45 PM
I still think Memorial Park would be perfect... couldn't the vendor trucks park on either (1) the concrete near the swimming pool at the high school facing the park, or (2) put their trucks across the parking strips on Portland and Carmel along the park? Shoppers could walk on the sidewalk and the street wouldn't have to be closed off. Folks have said that this won't work because it doesn't bring more traffic to Solano stores, but that's not the goal, right? And, the businesses have already said no so a farmer's market on Solano Ave. so clearly they don't see the Farmers Market as good for sales anyway. I like the park location because there is plenty of space for folks to buy their food and then stay for awhile to chat with friends and neighbors, eat dinner, etc. Has anyone seen the Farmers Market plaza in Davis at the C Street Playground? It is the heart of the town on Wednesday evenings and Saturday mornings year round.
Briggs March 18, 2012 at 05:43 AM
I believe a serious distinction needs to be made between the two types of Acupuncture practiced on the very same street. While Community Style Acupuncture can and does offer quality care, Traditional Practitioners, I believe, can provide not only quality care, but in a more healing environment, with full focus on one patient at a time, in-depth diagnostics, and often years of commitment between both patient and practitioner. Not all LAc's nor Oriental Medical Doctors (OMD) would want to, or benefit from, setting up a booth on the street. This would take away from the valuable time needed to heal established clients, seeking more Traditional Healing Practices. I would also like to make another distinction which seems to be amiss in prior posts. Patients are not 'customers'. While an average customer seeking a purchase or a service might benefit from a coupon or some sort of a discount as an incentive, in a Traditional Acupuncture Clinic, people are Patients in need of serious care, and a pittance for their "inconvenience" is down-right inappropriate. Please keep looking at other locations. This does not seem to be beneficial or agreeable to all of the different businesses on this street.
Tatyana Ryevzina March 18, 2012 at 04:06 PM
Briggs, You are greatly misinformed. I invite you to come and visit our community acupuncture clinic and challenge you to tell me then if you think it is not a healing environment or that we are not providing serious care. Our patients beg to differ, about 800 of them per month to be precise. Many of them have come in regularly for years and have built a strong connection to the clinic and its practitioners and built a sense of community. Most of them could NEVER afford to pay the private room rates for treatment and would thus never get the care they need. My experience is that the main issue with acupuncture is it not being financially accessible to folks of ordinary income on the level that would allow them to get better and take care of themselves. Please do not spread erroneous information about community acupuncture in the name of this discussion - in doing so, you do a big disservice to all those folks who need acupuncture, cannot afford it at the private room rates and could benefit from affordable care. Setting up a booth on the street is a great way to connect with your local community no matter what type of service is being offered. If you are a health care provider, it seems to me a good opportunity to talk to health-conscious folks such as the ones attending the Farmer's Market. I have attended health fairs where doctors of all kinds set up booths, provide a free consult, other type of service and connect personally with folks attending and seem to enjoy it.
Deirdre March 18, 2012 at 05:30 PM
"Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I will meet you there.” - Rumi "...beneath the skin, beyond the differing features and into the true heart of being, fundamentally, we are more alike, my friend, than we are unalike. --Maya Angelou
Paul D March 18, 2012 at 05:36 PM
I'm not a user of the Farmers Market on Solano. I wasn't particularly in favor of its being located on Solano either. That being said, whats the big deal with it staying there? As someone above mentioned, this was all discussed and beaten into submission months ago. The FM came, it served its customers well, the farmers made some money, not everybody is happy about its location but if it isn't causing some truly egregious harm, let it stay. Every business has impact on every other business -- this isn't a vacuum we live in. So whats done is done.
Jak Manson March 11, 2014 at 04:04 PM
The farmers market is really cool and they have so much to offer. They have so much there and to see all the things that they have there and see all the great prices that they have too. I always love going to the farmers market and getting things for my family as well. Jak Manson | http://www.bio-niccontrol.com.au/about-us

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