Find a way for the market to stay

The Ferry Plaza Farmers Market is one of the Bay Area’s most popular and enjoyable attractions. On just about any Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., some 25,000 people visit the site on the revitalized Embarcadero at Market Street to shop with the 120 local growers selling vegetables, flowers and meat produced on their own land.

But in the summer of 2007, the farmers market might permanently depart this uniquely scenic waterfront location, because a 24-month BART seismic upgrade of the Transbay Tunnel could take over the ferry pier, where at least half the best vendor booths are sited.

As a BART spokesperson told the Associated Press, the farmers market has “been a real jewel to the waterfront’s revitalization.” It has helped draw millions of tourists and Bay Area residents to the new Embarcadero since moving to the Ferry Building in 2003.

Although there can be no disagreement that earthquake safety of the vital East Bay-San Francisco rail tunnel must be top priority, all officials involved should put forth maximum efforts to retain the farmers market at its ideal location.

BART doesn’t want the farmers market to move, and it is rushing to complete two studies analyzing how much of the pier would be needed for the retrofit and what other options there are for squeezing in the market around the Ferry Building.

One preliminary idea being mentioned is to close off the northbound lanes of the Embarcadero and reroute traffic around the Ferry Building each Saturday morning. But that option would worsen the already bad traffic and parking along the new waterfront and lead to a flood of complaints from inconvenienced motorists and businesses.

Trying to cram more vendor booths into the nooks and crannies of the Ferry Building also wouldn’t work well. Although the farmers market has grown 50 percent since moving from its prior site in a northern Embarcadero parking lot, some growers already complain about the comparative difficulty of truck access to the ferrypier.

The possibility that seems most promising would be to build a temporary platform out over the Bay alongside the Ferry Building. This would preserve the unique waterfront ambience of the market without hampering traffic and parking. But it remains to be seen how costly such a platform would be and who would pay for it.

If the farmers market must be moved, by far the best runner-up location would be the Presidio, which has enough space and is alongside the Bay at Marina Green.

But clearly, the best outcome would be for the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market to remain where it is. It has become one of the Bay Area’s top attractions, and officials should do all they can to maintain that success.

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