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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.

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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