By JEFF CLEMETSON | La Mesa Courier
La Mesa residents who attended the July 23 City Council meeting broke out in applause following the council’s 3-2 vote to keep the city’s farmers market in the Village and on Fridays.
Supporting a proposal by market manager Brian Beevers of Brian’s Farmers Markets to keep the market running where and when it is were Mayor Mark Arapostathis, Vice Mayor Colin Parent and Council member Dr. Akilah Weber. Council members Bill Baber and Kristine Alessio voted against the proposal and instead voiced support for handing the market over to Grossmont Center, which also submitted a proposal to run the market.
La Mesa Village Association (LMVA) — the nonprofit entity that first brought the market to the Village — also resubmitted its proposal but was passed up in favor of Beevers’ alternate proposal.
LMVA chair Peter Soutowood said the vote would very likely end the business association because its funding, in a large part, comes from splitting the market’s proceeds with Beevers.
“I’m glad that City Council listened and did what was needed to be done in terms of keeping the [market], but disappointed, obviously, that it puts in jeopardy the survival of the Village Association and all the events that we put on,” Soutowood said. “Council has made clear they do not want a nonprofit, volunteer-run organization — a civic association — part of this process.”
Beevers also expressed regret that the LMVA was cut out of the market.
“In almost every market that I have run, I always want to partner with some kind of organization,” he said. “Generally speaking, my goal is to partner with the local area and invest back into that area because I know that we’re an impact. And because of that, we try and offset that by investing back into the community. As long as the market is successful enough to donate money, we will do that. Now, unfortunately, that the LMVA is not involved, not completely connected to the market, there is some money to invest in different ways and we have to come up with an idea and I certainly hope to do that.”
After the meeting, LMVA members questioned Vice Mayor Parent — a longtime supporter of the market — on why their proposal was not chosen, even though it was almost entirely identical to the one Beevers submitted and despite the fact that none of the businesses that were against the market ever mentioned the LMVA as the reason for being against it.
Parent said that the LMVA proposal would not have gotten three votes to keep the market going, but Beevers’ proposal would and he felt it was important enough to the residents of La Mesa, who showed overwhelming support for the market, for him to make that tough call when he motioned the Council to vote for Beevers’ proposal. He also expressed regret for the probable demise of the LMVA.
“The way that you have neighborhoods succeed like this is doing the things you guys are doing,” Parent told the LMVA members. “I’m sorry that this is what’s happening. It’s not fair.”
Soutowood said that he was planning on advocating to the LMVA members at their next meeting to unwind the organization and put any funds it has left toward Oktoberfest. He also said that the current unsigned agreement with event promoters to hold Holiday in the Village would more than likely be canceled.
The market continues
Although future LMVA events are unlikely, the farmers market that it brought to the Village will go on for at least another year. The permit approved for Beevers to run the market is good until Aug. 1, 2020. The Beevers proposal also includes some modifications to the existing market.
Street closure of La Mesa Boulevard will now be delayed until 2 p.m. to allow for restaurants to serve lunch without interruptions from the market setup.
Vendors will now be restricted to parking in the city lot.
Vendors will need to remove the banners hung in the back of their booths to allow more line of sight to brick and mortar businesses.
Beevers also agreed to cut in half the market’s hot food vendors — a major sticking point with local restaurants opposed to the market. He also agreed to use resources to help promote the brick-and-mortar businesses during the market — something he told the Council he had always put out there for businesses affected by the market to take advantage of.
“We’ve offered free marketing, free tents — a lot of free things for them to come in and utilize the traffic flow that’s happening in the market,” he said. “I plan on still doing that. I don’t have any hard feelings about any businesses that have spoken against the market, I still believe that we can work together.”
In his proposal, Beevers also wrote that he plans on exploring implementing some new programs that he wasn’t able to while the future of the market was uncertain.
“I was hesitant to make any large investments on amenities and equipment when it was very clear that adversaries of the market had major influence over its fate,” Beevers wrote in his proposal.
Some of the amenities he might bring to the market now include:
- Special theme days like Vintage/Collectibles Day, Backyard Gardeners Day or a Taste of La Mesa Boulevard event to help promote local restaurants.
- Investing in umbrellas and extra seating to improve ambiance.
- Implementing EBT to encourage low-income residents to shop for fresh produce.
- Starting a shuttle service if the budget allows for it.
La Mesa Friday Farmers Market is held every Friday 3-7 p.m. on La Mesa Boulevard between Palm Avenue and Fourth Street. For more information about Brian’s Farmers Markets, visit sdmarketmanager.com.
— Reach editor Jeff Clemetson at firstname.lastname@example.org.