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Community News: Mid-City

PICO-UNION : Farmers Market Still Looking for a Home


Plans to bring a weekly farmers market to Alvarado Terrace Park have been scrapped after residents voiced their objections.

The open-air market had been proposed by the Central American Resource Center (CARECEN), a local nonprofit social service and economic development agency, as a way to increase commercial traffic in the Pico-Union neighborhood. The park lies between Pico and Venice boulevards, both commercial corridors.

But in a recent meeting with CARECEN representatives, residents said more traffic is the last thing they want.

"We want to keep this area as quiet as possible," said Johnny Garcia, a homeowner who lives half a block from the park. "We have nothing but problems in Pico-Union, and if we bring more people here, we'll have more problems."

Garcia said the traffic generated by a weekly farmers market would exacerbate the area's parking problems. Residents also expressed concern about litter and worried that an open-air market could attract illegal street vendors, creating more trash. They also said more traffic could make the neighborhood's thriving narcotics trade more difficult to control.

Alvarado Terrace Park was the second site proposed for the resource center's farmers market, which has been in the planning stages for more than a year.

Working with the Southland Farmer's Market Assn., which sponsors farmers markets throughout the Los Angeles area, CARECEN originally selected the western edge of MacArthur Park as a site. But local street vendors trying to organize a legal vending district around the park objected because a market would compete for business.

Mario Marroquin of CARECEN's economic development department, who is coordinating the project, said the Alvarado Terrace residents' complaints are unfounded. But he said he would rather seek a new site than go against their wishes.

"We assured them it would be a controlled project, but they just didn't want to hear it," he said. "We would need to have insurance, and there would be a committee organized to do surveillance and cleanup afterward. The farmers would also clean up after themselves. But we don't want to make things difficult for anybody."

Marroquin said the proposed farmers market would feature not only fresh foods and produce but also Latin American music and entertainment. This, he said, could help attract tourists and others from out of the area who would patronize local restaurants and businesses and increase the neighborhood's cash flow.

With Alvarado Terrace Park out of the picture, Marroquin plans to spend the next few weeks searching for another site.

"Alvarado Terrace would have worked, because it's so close to Pico Boulevard," he said. "But we can't just grab people by the neck and convince them."

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