As discussions continue about how St. Ignatius College Preparatory and the Outer Sunset Farmers Market and Mercantile can co-exist on a shared space, the Sunset Beacon offered each party an opportunity to share with the community their side of the issue
From St. Ignatius College Preparatory
We had agreed not to speak publicly about any of these conversations in order to build trust, but Outer Sunset Farmers Market and Mercantile (OSFMM) has chosen to continually share details about our ongoing talks with media outlets and elsewhere, many of which are not accurate.
Because OSFMM has decided to speak publicly, we feel it is important to make our position clear, and to share details the market has left out of its statements:
1. After we reached an understanding on which days OSFMM would not occupy the block in front of St. Ignatius at all, SFMTA left it up to us to hammer out details about how OSFMM might occupy the block on several other Sundays when SI holds events on campus, including church services. This required SI to move events and make concessions to accommodate the market. In our meetings, we gave an estimate of when those church services might end, and OSFMM is now trying to make that a hard line. We have asked for understanding and flexibility about not rushing people out of religious services and clearing out the entire block all at once. We hope to continue discussing these details.
2. OSFMM also left out that in our most recent proposal, SI proposed several measures to simplify how the block is shared on market days that SI staff developed after our in-person meetings. Those measures include pulling back on some days that we had originally proposed partial access to the block, dramatically changing our events planning, and telling OSFMM we have no objection to their using the full block on those days. We hope to continue discussing these details.
3. OSFMM left out that the additions to the proposed agreement we have asked for are mainly about liability. SI’s front steps go up to a public sidewalk, but those steps and the walkways on 37th Avenue are private property. We understand that many people who attend the market will use those spaces to rest, eat and move around. We believe it is fair that because OSFMM is bringing those crowds that SI should not take on the full burden for any liability arising from any accidents in those areas on market days. Other additions are about noise outside SI’s chapel during Mass.
4) Finally, we find it disheartening that OSFMM has accused us of going back on our word because this entire conflict arose from the market’s leadership going back on their word. In 2020, when SI was in distance learning, OSFMM contacted us and asked if we had any issue with them using the 2000 block of 37th Avenue on Sundays in order to create more distance between vendors. We did not have any issue with that, specifically because OSFMM indicated they would go back to their original footprint on the 1900 block of 37th Avenue once the COVID-19 distancing regulations ended and school was back in-person. Now, distancing regulations have ended and school is back in-person, yet they wish to make their expanded footprint in front of the school permanent. SI could have chosen to pursue maximal defense of our frontage and, especially, our driveway, but instead chose to ask for cooperation when we bring large numbers of people to campus from around the Bay Area so as to minimize disruption to nearby residential streets and our religious services.
SI remains optimistic we can work with the OSFMM to come to a solution that considers both parties’ and the neighborhood’s best interests. We hope that their most recent statements are not a signal that they wish to cease communication. We are scheduled to meet on Tuesday, Sept. 6 and look forward to continuing to discuss these details.
St. Ignatius College Preparatory
From Sunset Mercantile
I have received a lot of questions regarding a public statement that St. Ignatius released on Aug. 12 which I would like to address.
I stand by my letter to the community that I shared on Aug. 12. I spent considerable time and energy negotiating detailed arrangements with several St. Ignatius staff members, including two SI vice presidents. The meetings were facilitated by District 4 Supervisor Gordon Mar and attended by an SFMTA representative and culminated in a verbal agreement between St. Ignatius and me that would allow Sunset Mercantile to peacefully coexist with SI’s schedule of planned yearly events. Based on our verbal agreement at the conclusion of our negotiations, SFMTA granted Sunset Mercantile the Shared Spaces Permit for 37th Avenue from Ortega to Quintara streets. SI has since said it can no longer abide by that agreement because they didn’t involve the right people in our discussions.
After reaching our verbal agreement, SI requested that it be put in writing for future reference for both parties and offered to draft a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to do so. The MOU was not supposed to reopen negotiations but was meant to be a written record of the terms we had just agreed upon. However, when I received the MOU, SI had unilaterally made a number of substantial changes to our agreement that would jeopardize the sustainability of our market.
SI states that I indicated that the market would not use the public street adjacent to the school once the COVID-19 distancing regulations ended and school was back in person. At no point did I indicate that the market would return to one block. I reached out to SI before requesting a permit for this space and promised to reassess how this worked out after SI recommenced in-person schooling. Our extensive joint conversations with Supervisor Mar and SFMTA are exactly the reassessment we agreed to. In the interim, during the pandemic, numerous new local businesses that serve the community every Sunday and beyond sprouted and grew with the success of the market. Without 37th Avenue south of Pacheco, those businesses – and the marketgoers who count on them – would have to find a new place outside of the Sunset.
SI also mentioned one of the changes they made to our agreement – asking that Sunset Mercantile pay to cover any lawsuits by people who visit the farmers market and get injured on SI’s property, even if SI caused the injury through their own negligence and even if the visitor was primarily visiting SI or was SI staff or students. They call this “sharing” liability, however, in actuality, it is not “sharing” liability at all. It is pushing all liability onto Sunset Mercantile for SI’s property on days we hold a market on public space. To address SI’s concerns about the public going onto their property on market days, we would be happy to work with SI to put up signage and rope barriers to remind market goers not to go on their private property. I’m willing to work with SI to find creative solutions to address their concerns, but the solution cannot be risking bankrupting the market to save SI from its obligation to maintain the safety of its property.
I remain committed to being a good neighbor. I will continue to implement our verbal agreement, despite the significant cost to the market. I have told SI that I am happy to have further discussions, but the discussions cannot start with throwing out everything we worked out over weeks of joint negotiations with SFMTA and Supervisor Mar. I appreciate all of the community’s support, and hope that SI is willing to work toward peaceful coexistence with the market in an atmosphere of mutual respect, to ensure that our Sunday market can continue to benefit our shared community for years to come.
Angie Petitt, Co-founder and Director, Sunset Mercantile
St. Ignatius owns 37th Avenue? They built it? They maintain it? Or is it a public street whose use is determined by the greatest good for the greatest number? Which would be the thousands of folks who attend the Market weekly.