Fair faces forlorn fate

Officials are looking to expand their reach in the flea-market business by revoking the permit of the operator of an antiques and trinket fair at U.N. Plaza.

Mary Millman has run the fair for almost a decade, but legislation by Mayor Gavin Newsom could end that run.

If it passes, The City will attempt to run its own market, a prospect that Mayor Gavin Newsom’s office says it thinks will reap hundreds of thousands of dollars per year.

Newsom’s legislation would hand control to the Real Estate Division, the department that manages U.N. Plaza.

Millman warned supervisors Wednesday that The City probably cannot make more than $500,000 per year by renting out the space.

“In all those years, I’ve never once made more than $100,000,” Millman said, adding that she charges $45 to $55 for each vendor, and San Francisco is thinking of charging $75 or more.

But officials also pointed out that in the past two years, Millman hasn’t paid rent either. Millman’s permit required her to pay $50 every time the market was held. In the past two years, those payments ceased.

Millman said the Recreation and Park Department stopped accepting her checks, and she would be glad to pay any money owed.

Several supporters have already spoken out against revoking Millman’s permit, saying the small marketplace, which is held three times per week, is a vibrant alternative to the rampant drug dealing and homeless that frequent U.N. Plaza.

Millman’s market is not to be confused with the farmers market, which operates on different days, but the battle is similar to a recent attempt to revoke the permit of the nonprofit agency that runs it.

With the help of supervisors, that market was spared its permit. Millman, who helped preserve the fountain at U.N. Plaza four years ago, hopes hers will be spared, too. She has a dream.

“I’ve always wanted to turn this part of town into something like a Paris flea market,” she said.

The resolution to revoke Millman’s license passed the Budget and Finance Committee on Wednesday and goes to the full Board of Supervisors next week.

bbegin@sfexaminer.com

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