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Hollywood farmers market squabble could spill over to other markets

Organizers of the weekly outdoor bazaar say they would lose $170,000 a year, which helps pay for seven other farmers markets, if city officials take away access to a one-block stretch of Ivar Street. A film school wants to use parking on Ivar.

December 13, 2010|By David Zahniser, Los Angeles Times

Organizers of a hugely popular weekly farmers market in Hollywood warned Sunday that a fight over the event's location could soon spill over to other markets in some of the city's neediest neighborhoods.

Pompea Smith, chief executive of the nonprofit Sustainable Economic Enterprises of Los Angeles, said her organization would lose $170,000 per year if Los Angeles officials bar it from occupying a one-block stretch of Ivar Street, scaling back the overall size of the market.

That money helps pay for seven other farmers markets in such locations as South Los Angeles, Watts and Canoga Park, she said. Losing those funds "would have a great ripple effect," forcing the group to scale back the number of markets it operates, Smith said.

"We would not be able to do all of them," she said.

The future of the Hollywood farmers market was thrown into question in recent weeks after the nearby Los Angeles Film School said it would no longer give its consent to close Ivar between Sunset Boulevard and Selma Avenue. Representatives of the school contend that they began issuing warnings about their plans as early as three years ago and said the market could continue if it altered its boundaries.

"Unfortunately, the farmers market has been intransigent and is unwilling to work with the film school or the city on any compromise," said Eric Rose, a spokesman for the school.

At the heart of the fight are two subjects that inflame passionate responses from Angelenos: good food and the insatiable desire for parking. Rose said the school needs access to parking that it owns on Ivar because it plans to offer more classes and events on Sundays, the day of the market.

Backers of the market, which occupies two blocks of Selma Avenue, two blocks of Ivar and a small stretch of Cosmo Street, describe the weekly event as a communal experience that brings together residents of various backgrounds to purchase healthy produce and sample ethnic foods.

"This is where everybody is equal in the neighborhood," said Dawn Doccola, a nurse who has shopped at the market for 17 years. "You can be buying your tomatoes and rubbing elbows with somebody you saw in US magazine, and all you're talking about is tomatoes."

Since the dispute heated up, the film school hired the City Hall lobbying and public relations firm Englander, Knabe & Allen. The farmers market retained a land-use lawyer to make its case. And the Los Angeles Board of Public Works has been trying to mediate a solution that will satisfy the market, the film school and nearby Jack in the Box restaurant, which also opposes the continued closure of Ivar.

"We have no intent on closing the farmers market down," said Andrea Alarcon, a Board of Public Works member, who promised to hold a meeting on the dispute Thursday. "The only item of contention is whether the closure will include Ivar between Selma and Sunset."

On Friday, city officials gave the Hollywood farmers market a reprieve, allowing it to operate at the current location until Jan. 12. Longtime market-goers have offered their own impassioned responses, signing petitions and distributing "Save the Hollywood Farmers Market" T-shirts on Sunday to the event's vendors, street musicians and customers.

Also weighing in was Planning Commissioner Mike Woo, who represented Hollywood as a city councilman in 1991, the year the market first opened. Woo, who chairs the board of the group that runs the Hollywood market, said the film school could obtain additional parking spaces if it knocked down a wall in its own garage.

Adam Englander, a spokesman who represents the school, called that idea "an expensive solution." "That's asking the film school to give up everything," he said.

david.zahniser@latimes.com

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