Update on North Berkeley Farmers’ Market Relocation

20140122northberkfmCity staff has decided that the North Shattuck Farmers’ Market can no longer remain in its current location. In order for us to continue operating the market, we must move it to the frontage road alongside CVS. The reasons that City staff cites for the move are “ADA, retail impact or related safety and liability issues.”

We disagree with the City’s decision. However, we are committed to doing our best to make the farmers’ market work in the new location. We don’t want to abandon the farmers and the North Berkeley shoppers who rely on this market.

We need community members to help us through this forced transition. Whether we remain a viable market in the new location depends greatly on our customers’ support. If you signed our petition we were circulating earlier this year, thank you! The best thing you can do now is make an effort to shop the market and support the farmers.

We have asked the City to allow us to remain in place till September. The summer is prime selling time for the farmers, who were hard hit last winter and need to recoup their losses. We also need more time to work out some of the difficult logistics of the new location. Unofficially, the City has indicated that the move can be postponed till after Labor Day.

City staff says that the proposed market location is preferable from an ADA perspective because the grade is less steep. We consulted with ADA specialists, and they agreed. At the same time, the market has been there for a full decade, and during that time we have not received complaints from disabled shoppers about their ability to shop at the market. We are committed to ensuring accessibility, regardless of the location of the market.

The property owner of Shattuck Commons believes that the farmers’ market negatively affects his property value. He finds it unacceptable that the market occupies the parking spaces alongside his building and has stated clearly that he will not be satisfied until the market is gone. Special Events Coordinator Eric Brenman, who issues permits for the City, summed up the power imbalance: “the property owner has lawyers and the farmers’ market has rutabagas.” This problem is much larger than any one farmers’ market: it is a widespread experience that many urban farmers’ markets encounter, when a single property owner or business views the market as a detraction, does not see its value to the community, and actively lobbies for its removal.

One of the fundamental problems we face is that when it comes to permitting, farmers’ markets are considered “special events.” Many other types of permits can be appealed to City Council (your elected representatives), but “special events” cannot. Therefore, it is not an open process that considers citizen input, and we have little recourse.

We believe that farmers’ markets are categorically different from “special events.” The North Berkeley Farmers’ Market “event” happens 50 times a year, is the lifeblood of 15 farmers and 7 small businesses (most of which are Berkeley-based), and is the food source for restaurants, food justice programs, and tens of thousands of residents. It is more infrastructure than event: farmers’ markets comprise the underlying foundation of the local, alternative food system. Berkeley prides itself on its food culture; the farmers’ markets are a key part of that, and part of the social fabric. Ideally, farmers markets would have their own permitting category, one that recognizes its function and the value of the community’s wishes.

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15 thoughts on “Update on North Berkeley Farmers’ Market Relocation

  1. I am uncertain where the Farmer’s Market will be moving. Isn’t it on the Frontage Road near CVS at the present time? Please let us know where the N. Berkeley Farmer’s Market will be moving, maybe also include a map.
    thank you

    • Hi Anna,

      Shattuck has three right-of-ways in this section: the two on either side of the grassy median, and a frontage lane along CVS. The farmers’ market currently operates as two facing rows on either side of the grassy median. The move will change the farmers’ market into a long, single row on the frontage road.

      Here is a link to an unofficial map to give you an idea of the change: http://bit.ly/1CiIldf

      Let us know if you have further questions,

  2. I’m sorry to hear about the forced move, as the original location really served the community better.

    What would be the recommended parking area for the new location, once it’s moved?

  3. Seems like the new market location will make parking in front of the stores along the frontage road (in front of Saul’s, Books Inc., etc.) impossible and/or unsafe for farmers and their customers. This is sad and stupid.

      • I would hate to see our local businesses suffer, since it is the owner’s issue. Not sure what the tenants think, Maybe gain all the businesses nearby support of the Farmers Market would be more helpful.

        • We at the Ecology Center agree with you, CC.

          The market’s relocation puts us right on the doorstep of the east-side Shattuck businesses, including Coldwell Banker, Books Inc, The Shop, Soulmates, Saul’s
          Deli, Masse’s Pastries, Bing Wong Cleaners and Toyo Japanese Restaurant.

          Maintaining good relationships with these businesses is a priority for us. Supporters can help us by patronizing all the local businesses, and combining their trip to the farmers’ market with other errands in the neighborhood.


    • Kathy,
      I agree with you. I am going to boycott the businesses in Shattuck commons ALL of the time. We have no other way to voice our support for the current location.

      If those business owners reassured or told the owner that their business was not affected or hurt in the slightest bit by the farmers market, I doubt their owner would have this attitude.

      He is a bad citizen of our community. Honestly I think would be great if people not involved in the farmers market maidens name public. Citizens should not be able to act selfishly in this manner and affecte entire community without repercussions.

      It does not really make sense to me that one property owner has this much power.

  4. Farmers Market people should at least consider taking their issue to the City Council. A friendly Councilmember could introduce a resolution/ordinance that provides the needed permit. May require an interpretation of existing rules or an amendment to whatever city staff is relying on.

    Everyone deserves a try for 5 votes at the Council. When I was active 40 years ago, we never accepted any staff decision as the last word. I wrote motions for Loni, Ying, and John to introduce.

    In this case Farmers Market supporters should first contact members of the Council majority to present their motion. Might get lucky. If turned away, then they go to the Council minority. Assuming it’s not too late, let there be a vote.

  5. Just to share one perspective: I have a disability and was unable to shop at the previous Thursday location because it was too difficult to walk and manage my mobility device (which is on wheels). It is much easier for me to shop there now. Tuesday is my main market, so I don’t go to Thursday’s market very often. But I just felt like sharing that there was an accessibility issue.

    • Anne-Marie, we really appreciate hearing your perspective. Our goal is to make our markets as welcoming and accessible to as many people as possible. Thank you for being a loyal farmers’ market shopper!

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