It is almost inconceivable that the existence of the Hollywood Farmers Market, a cherished community institution that for 19 years of Sundays has brought together local farmers, vendors and 10,000 customers, is in jeopardy over access to parking. But that is the case.
Once a week, the sprawling market takes over a stretch of Ivar Avenue and, in the process, blocks off two parking lots that belong to the nearby Los Angeles Film School. The school and the market have been tussling for three years, but a year-old city ordinance requiring 51% of neighboring businesses to approve street closures has given the school more muscle. It will not sign off on a permit renewal for the market, which now has until Jan. 9 to come up with a solution.
We acknowledge the film school's justifiable concern over parking, but there can be no vacillating about the outcome that matters to Los Angeles: The Hollywood Farmers Market must be saved.
The city bears some responsibility for this fiasco. In years past, City Council members regularly waived street-closing procedures and issued permits at will, but now it's clear that the new system is troublesome as well. If the market's permit is not renewed, about 50 farmers could lose spaces, forfeiting about $3 million annually that supports 120 employees, according to Pompea Smith, head of the organization that runs the market. SEE-LA, a nonprofit that gets a percentage of vendors' sales, would lose about $170,000. Without that money, its ability to sustain the other, smaller farmers markets it runs — in Watts, Echo Park, Atwater Village, Leimert Park, the Central Avenue market and the Hollywood-Sears market — could be in danger, along with its Good Cooking/Buena Cocina classes and its "Bring a Farmer to School" program.
The glimmer of hope is that both sides say they are still seeking an amicable solution. Options include moving part of the market and relocating some farmers, or for the school to find alternative Sunday parking for students. If the city issues a permit anyway, it risks a lawsuit by the film school.
We don't have the solution, but we believe a compromise is reachable. The city should provide vigorous, determined leadership and save the Hollywood Farmers Market.