By Thomas K. Pendergast
The fate of the Outer Sunset Farmers Market held in front of St. Ignatius Preparatory High School (SI) every Sunday is looking brighter after District 4 Supervisor Gordon Mar helped to work out a deal.
Although nothing is in writing as of yet, Mar is hoping a Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU) might be signed in the next few weeks. In the meantime, the Shared Spaces permit the market has been operating under has been extended to March 23 of next year.
“I convened the first meeting directly between Sunset Mercantile (operators of the farmers market) and St. Ignatius and SFMTA to problem solve and to come up with a compromise that would allow the farmers market to continue to operate and serve the community, but also to accommodate SI’s needs,” Mar said. “Last week, there were two follow-up meetings where there was an agreement reached and I feel it is fair to both parties. For the farmers market, the agreement will allow their street permit to be renewed through March of 2023, which is temporary since the Shared Spaces program is ending.
“They will need to scale back to one block on two Sundays during that period because SI will be having very large events on those two Sundays.”
The original proposal from SI was to scale the farmers market back to one block for three Sundays and reserve another seven Sunday dates with the same arrangement, but this is no longer a part of the compromise which, Mar said, would have had a significant negative impact on the farmers market. It would have also had a negative impact on the many small businesses that rely on the weekly farmers market.
“So, the agreement that was reached last week is that the farmers market would scale back to one block on two Sundays when SI will be having very large events and for seven Sundays, when SI will be having mid-sized events, the farmer’s market will still have two blocks but there will be some accommodations made on the second block to ensure that SI’s mid-sized events, that the impacts on those events are minimized.”
Angie Petitt, who with the cooperation and support of Mar’s office, started the market in the summer of 2020 as a response to the pandemic, expressed relief that a deal appears to be worked out.
“We came to a good verbal agreement that works. We’re still hammering out the written agreement and I can’t give the details of anything yet until we get that hammered out.”
“We did get our extension to our Shared Spaces permit. That was extended through March 2023.”
The Shared Spaces program will end then, but in the meantime they will work on getting another street permit from SFMTA that is not part of that program. This process would involve a number of city departments weighing in and approving whatever plans they come up with.
“The outpouring of love and support and letter writing was tremendous and that, I believe, is what St. Ignatius was hearing as well and feeling the impact of the community stepping up to say that this market was really important to them. And the small businesses, this was really important to them.
“It felt like we were hitting a wall and I feel really good with where we are right now.”
In a public letter, Petitt explained that limiting the market to one block for 10 Sundays was not sustainable for the market.
“SI’s demands on the permit will render the OSFMM unsustainable,” Petitt said in the letter. “The community as well as our vendors, staff and operating budget all rely on the consistency of the market’s schedule. We have operating costs that are paid in part by vendor booth fees. Vendors, vendors’ staff and market staff, rely on the market for their income.”
Calls and emails seeking comment from SI were not returned by press time. However, a July letter from that institution attributed to Director of Communications Thomas Murphy gave their position on the issue.
“Our limited number of Sunday events includes essential gatherings such as Freshman Orientation on Aug.14, where new families are invited to the school to celebrate Mass together, and our Mothers’ Guild event on Jan. 22. We are trying to move a previously scheduled Open House to a Saturday. St. Ignatius is intensely sensitive to how our students, employees and visitors affect our neighborhood. With OSFMM occupying two blocks adjoining our school, this large number of visitors, in addition to the OSFMM attendees, will be forced to park in the surrounding neighborhood.”
This argument, however, did not sit well with some of the vendors and patrons of the market.
“I think this is just such an easy, solvable problem,” said local resident Cat Sommer. “It just doesn’t seem like a problem at all. I don’t see why it has to be this exact parking. There’s parking all along SI in the back of SI; all along the West Sunset Playground, along the baseball fields, on the other side of the baseball fields, Sunset Elementary. This is a huge City property and private property. I just don’t see what’s the problem.”
“This is public space. A private high school does not have a claim to public space to displace something that thousands of people are using and enjoying on a regular basis for their convenience,” said another farmers market patron, Nancy Buffum. “It is not closing the high school. It is not preventing them from doing anything except for driving a little bit more conveniently, a little bit closer.
“I think that this is part of a larger conversation about two things. One of them is the common space in San Francisco and it’s entitlement versus the public good, the community good. I think that’s the level at which I’d like to hear this talked about,” Buffum said. “And then the other level at which I’d like to hear this talked about is about our overall priorities with regard to walking, biking, getting people to see each other face-to-face and get out of their little private spaces and decrease automobile use, not prioritize the advantage of someone who already has a car, who is already going someplace that they can easily get to, to get there a block closer.”
Voltaire Yap is a vendor for Baby & Boy Pastries, and he called SI’s position on this “elitist.”
“It seems like they don’t want us here because it ruins the image of the school,” Yap said. “The image of the school is not because there’s a farmers market every Sunday here. The image of the school is reflected by the quality of education that they provide.”
“This is San Francisco. It’s a city,” said vendor Matthew Jones of Avast Bakeshop. “If you got to walk a block, or two blocks or three blocks to find parking, sounds very typical to me. Most people can’t even park out front of their houses. It doesn’t sound like an issue. It sounds like a common occurrence.
“If you’re not used to that, maybe you shouldn’t go to the City to go to school.”
A representative for the City’s Shared Spaces program reported that the City received at least 88 letters of support for the Outer Sunset Farmer’s Market and one letter of objection.
Categories: sunset mercantile