San Diego

City Council Votes to Keep La Mesa Farmers Market, Make Operations Changes

Organic concerns from business owners who felt they were getting a raw deal were enough to persuade the La Mesa City Council to make some changes to the way its downtown farmers market is operated.

The council voted 5-2 in favor of keeping the farmers market at its current place and time: every Friday from 3 to 7 p.m. on La Mesa Boulevard between Palm Avenue and 4th Street.

The major difference is that now the La Mesa Village Association (LMVA), a non-profit organization made up of some business owners in La Mesa Village, the city's downtown district, will be removed from the operations process. 

A private event planner used to run the market on behalf of the LMVA and some proceeds would help promote business for owners involved with the association. Now, the same planner will continue to operate the market, but they will answer to the city instead.

"We need to use this event as a catalyst to make sure that the other neighborhoods, West La Mesa, East La Mesa, that they're being listened to too and there are events going on in their neighborhoods," Mayor Mark Arapostathis said.

The mayor said it's the best compromise they could come up with so everyone is heard, not just a select few.

While plenty of business owners in the area benefit from and supported keeping the market, others said the market attracted people outside of their customer base and took away valuable parking near their storefronts.

“The farmers market is a great thing but it’s just on the wrong night and the wrong place,” said Craig Maxwell, owner of Maxwell’s bookstore. “It’s on Friday night which is already a busy night, so the market is interfering with business that will ordinarily come.”

Maxwell’s book store has been on La Mesa Boulevard for 16 years. He said he would prefer the farmers market to be moved to another day because it affects lunch business for others and his customers can’t find parking.

“Friday evening was my best evening and now it's my worst,” said Maxwell.

Local residents also complained at the council meeting about the lack of parking on Friday nights.

Just this month, councilmembers voted to approve the Village Enhancement Fund, a plan to use $40,000 in revenue from parking meters and parking permits in the Village to help fund marketing or new fun events that would help benefit businesses struggling because of the Friday night farmers market.

“What these new funds will allow is makeup and do events on other nights so new customers can come to make up for a business that some of those businesses feel like they’re losing on Friday nights," La Mesa City Councilmember Colin Parent said.

Theresa Favro, owner of the Amethyst Moon shop in La Mesa Village, says that with the farmers market people discover new businesses that they would otherwise not know about.

“It’s getting so much publicity for our neighborhood. We’re getting a lot of new customers who come back to the shop,” said Farvo. “People are finding out we have a great barbershop, a great tea room, a cigar shop, things people didn't know we're here on the street."

Councilman Parent says they'll leave it up to business owners and non-profits to submit applications for what types of events they'd like to see in the village.

“I would like for us to see some compromises, probably expand parking hour for customers, and extend the market down a street,” said Farvo.

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