After more than a decade, San Francisco’s North of the Panhandle farmers’ market has found a new home, but it will need a change in the The City’s laws before it can relocate.
The market has decided to leave its current location off of Divisadero amid growing complaints from residents around noise and other hassles.
The Divisadero Farmers’ Market, which shuts down a portion of Grove Street on Sundays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., has signed an agreement with the California Department of Motor Vehicles to operate on the parking lot of the Department of Motor Vehicles at 1377 Fell St.
The market opened in 2008 and is operated by the Pacific Coast Farmers’ Market Association, which runs a number of farmers markets in the region and six others in San Francisco.
However current land use regulations prohibit uses like farmers markets or mobile food trucks on parking lots tied to public facilities, although they do allow them in the parking lots of hospitals and universities.
The association only recently realized this.
“We were scheduled to move on April 28,” said Jorge Vega, regional manager for the Pacific Coast Farmers’ Market Association. “We ran into some issues with the planning code.”
That’s when they turned for help to Supervisor Vallie Brown, who represents the area. Last week she introduced legislation to change the law to allow the market to relocate to the DMV.
Brown, who helped start the farmers market on Grove when she was a legislative aide for former Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, said the group had reached an agreement with the state only to later learn about the local restrictions.
“We need to be creative,” Brown said. “They had told the neighborhood they would look for another spot.”
She said she didn’t expect any opposition to the use of the DMV parking lot, which would take place Sundays from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. The market would open to the public from 10 am to 2pm.
Vega said they spent two years working to find another location for the market, adding that “we’re trying to be good neighbors with the community.”
“The market’s been there for a long time,” Vega said. “The market’s outgrown itself.”
Vega said that the DMV lot seems a “perfect” fit. It’s about two blocks away from the current site and they can avoid “blocking anyone’s driveway.”
The agreement with the DMV is for use of 40 parking spaces for one year, with four one-year extensions possible, at $867 a month. That amount would increase by 5 percent with each extension, according to the California Department of Motor Vehicles.
“The DMV has many non-exclusive agreements for various organizations to use DMV parking lots for different functions, including farmers markets, when the office is not in use,” said Marty Greenstein, spokesperson for the California Department of Motor Vehicles. “This agreement with Pacific Coast Farmers Market Association allows farmers and community members to have a space to access fresh-from-the-farm products, which is a benefit to all.”
Vega said the new space will allow them to add a couple more vendors, like someone who will sell fresh fish and another who will sell Asian pears. He also said they plan to incorporate a seating area. He said people are drawn to the market largely for the “direct connection to the folks who are growing their food.”
The legislation requires approval by the Board of Supervisors before the market can relocate.