The City of Berkeley, driven by safety concerns, is proposing that the North Berkeley Farmers’ Market relocate, in a very short timeframe. The Ecology Center is very concerned that the City’s proposal would jeopardize the viability, safety, and feel of a celebrated community resource.
The City’s proposal reconfigures the farmers’ market into a single-file, narrow strip of vendors along the frontage road that borders CVS, its parking lot, and the businesses south of CVS. Our primary concerns are:
- The farmers’ market would lose the grassy median that forms the social centerpiece of the market. The green, community gathering space – where shoppers rest, sit and talk, or allow their children to play while they shop – would be eliminated.
- The proposed configuration increases safety risks to workers and vendors for trip-and-fall and other potential hazards. We anticipate that people would still be drawn to the grassy median, but they would cross open traffic lanes to access it.
- The City’s proposal puts the future of the market in doubt. The proposal includes a 6-month trial period in the new location. When asked what happens after 6 months if the location proves unworkable, the City has no answer. This leaves the market and its vendors and shoppers with significant insecurity about the future.
The City’s proposal was crafted without important community and operational input. We feel that the decision-making process has been rushed and doesn’t take into account the Ecology Center’s expertise or the priorities of the farmers, neighbors, and market shoppers who have vested interests in the current configuration.
Safety is paramount to the Ecology Center. We have consistently demonstrated our desire to work with the City to improve pedestrian safety at all of our markets. We have proposed a variety of solutions to safety concerns at the North Berkeley Farmers’ Market, solutions that would protect pedestrians from the unlikely scenario of a rogue driver entering the market from Shattuck. Our solutions reflect best practices derived from research and the expertise of the farmers’ market industry.
We are asking City Council to create a more open, inclusive process that allows for stakeholder input before a decision is enacted. We are asking our supporters to: a) Contact their City Council person to tell them how much they value the North Berkeley Farmers’ Market, and b) Sign the petition circulating at the farmers’ market, or online at ecologycenter.org/FarmersMarketPetition, which asks the City to work with the Ecology Center to devise viable, long-term safety strategies for the current market configuration.