La Mesa's city council voted to keep farmers market in La Mesa village on Fridays.
It took one extra vote Tuesday night, July 23, to end heated public discord surrounding the La Mesa Farmers Market. The city council voted 3-2 to keep the current location in downtown on Fridays for another year. Not everyone in La Mesa was happy with this resolution, but the majority of those who came to speak at the city hall were.
City Council meeting excerpts
Video by Ana Nita
It wasn’t until people got back home and went on social media that realized they clapped too loud. A couple of city council members, the project manager, and members of the La Mesa Village Association stayed up trying to make sense of what just happened.
People finally realized that the proposal adopted on Tuesday left out La Mesa Village Association. This group sponsored the Farmers Market for the past year after it moved from a small parking lot near city hall to downtown. The association organizes Holiday in the Village, La Mesa Oktoberfest, the Boulevard Stroll and La Mesa Classic Cars Show.
Kristine Alessio claimed that people who oppose the market’s location and time are afraid to speak up.
Local Jim Snyder wrote, “Most people spoke out in support of keeping the market on Fridays in the village. I don’t remember spending much time considering the difference between the two similar bids.”
A year ago when the Farmers Market moved to downtown La Mesa, the association hired Brian Beevers to manage the market. Even Mayor Mark Arapostathis and council members joined the chorus of audience members Tuesday night to praise Beevers’ work that transformed not just the market, but also The Village and the whole town, now as popular as Hillcrest and La Jolla.
After the vote and after midnight, Peter Soutowood, La Mesa Village Association chair and owner of Fourpenny House, wrote on the La Mesa Happenings board: “There was a deal between two city council members to maintain the market as long as the LMVA was axed.”
Vice-mayor Colin Parent and Councilman Bill Baber
Four proposals had landed on the council members’ desks. One of them included the same partners, La Mesa Village Association and Beevers’ management company. A second proposal came from Beevers alone and won the vote.
Out of the five council members, it was well known ahead of time that Mayor Arapostathis and Vice-mayor Colin Parent were in favor of keeping the market at the same location, day and time. Councilmember Kristine C. Alessio voted against it last year claiming concern for the opposing local businesses and was expected to keep her vote the same. Councilmember Bill Baber counted as a predictable “no," and councilmember Akilah Weber remained neutral on the matter. Weber’s vote swayed the fate of the market on Tuesday when she voted for Beevers’ proposal that left out the association.
“The downtown village has never been as vibrant and as energetic than it is today.”
When taking turn to cast her vote, Alessio claimed that people who oppose the market’s location and time are afraid to speak up, citing threats made against businesses to be rated unfavorably on Yelp and boycotted.
Baber supported a different proposal. “My preference would be, Grossmont go on Friday because they serve all the people who cannot park in the village and have Brian go on Sunday,” he said. People booing interrupted the councilmember, while some yelled insults, prompting the mayor to mediate by reminding everyone about civility.
Weber explained her vote by praising Beevers' proposal: “I do see a compromise in this proposal, a compromise we didn’t have before.”
The audience on Tuesday, July 23
In March of last year, when the city allowed the market to move downtown, the management was given six months to prove they can make it work. The market doubled the number of vendors and had “more than four times as many attendees participating,” per Parent’s statement. Many of the local businesses were benefitting from the massive influx of people, while the association used part of the revenue to finance other popular events in town. Therefore, the city extended the permit for another six months that would have expired at the end of July.
Ahead of the vote, La Mesans took to the microphone to voice their opinion on the matter. Jerry Johnson said, “ I am actually a little disappointed in you this evening that we are having a conversation about dismantling such an obvious positive event. “ Johnson stated, “The downtown village has never been as vibrant and as energetic than it is today.”
Carmen Guzman lives in downtown and shared her struggle to find a parking spot near her house, while having to walk for many blocks when she comes home tired from work. While she is not against the market, Guzman said she would like the council and her neighbors to consider the impact on the people who live there.
Ed Anderson is a business owner in downtown La Mesa. He shared with the city hall how he initially opposed the market near, but changed his mind. “My business at first was losing money but within the course of last year it increased by 30 percent on Fridays.”