On Tuesday afternoons, the Pacific Beach Farmers Market offers a healthy and fun alternative to regular grocery shopping. In eight years, it has grown from a handful of vendors to 52, including farms, artisan grocers, handcrafted goods and prepared food. It has become a popular gathering spot for those who like to socialize and listen to music while sampling and buying locally-grown food.
As one of 48 certified farmers markets in San Diego County, the PB venue is part of a growing trend nationally. Whereas 60 years ago, there were about 100 farmers markets in the United States, today there are between 8,200 and 8,600, according to U.S. Dept. of Agriculture statistics.
Several community leaders in Pacific Beach would like to see the local market expand even more, and not only expand, but move around the corner from its current location on Bayard Street to Garnet Avenue. Not everyone agrees this is the best move, however.
Closing off and occupying Garnet between Mission Boulevard and Cass Street would require re-routing buses and additional police protection — both expensive. The farmers market would eliminate parking spaces for a few hours on Garnet and create extra traffic on adjacent Felspar and Hornblend streets, especially if the buses use them.
The idea for moving the market began about two years ago as part of an ongoing, larger vision to make Pacific Beach a certified EcoDistrict. So far, Pacific Beach is one of 13 communities to register for certification with the Portland, Oregon-based EcoDistrict organization. The organization lays out processes and sets standards for communities, including community identity, equitable development, health and wellbeing, access and mobility, habitat and ecosystem and energy, and water and materials management.
PB residents Kristen Victor, founder and CEO of Sustainability Matters, and Matt Winter, an architect, formed beautifulPB in 2013 to help implement and manage EcoDistrict goals in PB. Since then, in connection with other community groups (Discover PB, PB Town Council and PB Planning Group) and donations from local businesses, they have succeeded with several projects including promoting public art, creating the PB Pathways logo along with a network of safe bike and walking paths, installing bike corrals, moving the community garden, and monitoring traffic.
Future plans include supporting multi-use housing options, a wetlands restoration project and San Diego's adherence to Vision Zero, a multi-national plan to reduce deaths and injuries for pedestrians, bicyclists and motorcyclists. (According to several studies, Garnet Avenue is one of the most dangerous corridors for pedestrian safety in San Diego and the intersection of Garnet and Mission Boulevard one San Diego's 15 most dangerous.)
Reasons to move
In addition to making Garnet safer, the PB community groups would like to revitalize it and make it more appealing for shopping and walking. Victor, now part of the PB Planning Group, cited the G3Kids Gym on Garnet as a business that brings parents in from other parts of San Diego, but can't keep them shopping locally because they don't like Garnet.
"Moving the farmers market is a piece of the overall vision," explained Victor. "We are planting the seed." She sees the move as a way of creating safety and a vibrant business district, a re-branding of Garnet.
Expanding the market has several benefits, according to Sara Berns, executive director of Discover PB. These include adhering to EcoDistrict and Vision Zero guidelines and generating more revenue from the market and businesses near the market.
"We need to connect local businesses to the community and encourage residents to shop locally. The farmers market is on a side street now, where there are no businesses," Berns said.
Catt Fields White, founder and CEO of the market, agrees. White's company, San Diego Markets, also runs the markets in North Park and Little Italy .
"The current location on Bayard Street is somewhat less visible than ideal, but its greatest challenge is the lack of room to expand. We're currently landlocked, so we have farmers and food-makers who would like to participate, but nowhere to place them," she said.
"In addition to greater visibility, the Garnet location is much larger, without the driveways and other obstacles that currently limit the growth of the market. After eight years in the community, the weekly family-friendly event has a loyal following, and with a larger footprint on Garnet I'd expect the Pacific Beach Tuesday Farmers Market to grow to near twice its current size fairly quickly," she said.
Other locations such as schools were considered but are not available on weekdays when the vendors are.
The PB market generates more than $70,000 a year in income (less operating expenses). Discover PB uses $30,000 of this on the Clean & Safe Program and the balance for fundraising events. In addition, the sales by local farmers and food makers at the market equal approximately half-a-million dollars a year, most of which stays in the local economy, said White.
Reasons to not move
While it will be the City of San Diego that decides the future of the market, the main obstacle right now is the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System (MTS), according to Victor. "They threw excessive fees at us for re-routing buses." (Approximately $1,000 per event.) The San Diego Police Department would also charge about $1,500 more per event for increased event traffic controllers.
In April, Victor and several other PB leaders and residents called on the MTS to add the idea to their next meeting agenda. So far, that has not been done, according to Sharon Cooney, MTS chief of staff. She agreed that the former MTS concerns about the move and re-routing buses are still valid, including traffic control at intersections without signals, ease of navigation on narrow side streets, and the impact on bus passengers, drivers, pedestrians and neighbors. "Plus, there would be an added expense to MTS," she said.
When beautifulPB presented the idea to move the market to the PB Planning Group in April of 2017, nine members voted in favor and four against. One of those opposing the move is long-time PB resident Eve Anderson. Anderson currently chairs the Planning Group's Streets & Sidewalks sub-committee and is a former PB Town Council president and founding member of Discover PB.
One of Anderson's concerns is that not enough community residents, especially those who live near the market, have been notified or asked for feedback. While residents have been notified about upcoming Planning Group and Town Council agendas, it is often just a short window.
"As a potentially controversial topic, this should have been announced the month before," she said. "And to this day, no letters have been sent to neighbors on Hornblend and Felspar." These are the PB residents most likely to be impacted by increased traffic, including buses, if Garnet is closed.
Anderson's other chief concern is that pedestrian safety will not increase, but will suffer with the move, due to the proliferation of electric scooters and bicycles and more traffic on side streets. In addition, Anderson thinks that the Garnet location would interfere with businesses on Garnet and that the music from nearby restaurants and bars would drown out the live music in the market.
She also thinks that the eventual beautifulPB goal is to make Garnet a one-way street, which San Diego traffic engineers do not favor, because it is a major traffic corridor (18,000 to 21,000 vehicles a day) and coastal access route. Making Garnet a one-way street would require an environmental impact study, re-aligning at least six traffic signals, the buy-in of 75 percent of affected properties and the MTS agreeing to change routes, according to engineer Oscar Cortes, who turned down a request by the PB Planning Group in March for a feasibility study.
Recently Anderson wrote to the MTS board expressing her concern about moving the farmers market.
"For the record, I've been an outspoken cheerleader for that market since its inception. It's one of the most positive events in Pacific Beach, bringing together a wonderful mix of locals and tourists each week. Please carefully consider the full impact of a market shift to Garnet Avenue.
"Most other farmers markets are on side streets, not main streets like Garnet Avenue. North Park's is on North Park Way, not University. Little Italy's is not on India Street, but on a perpendicular street much like Bayard. Other markets are on school grounds or parking lots. The obvious disruption to a neighborhood's main street is not what those markets want — they want their shoppers to relax and enjoy the food and goodies."
• WANT TO KNOW MORE? Visit these civic group websites:
Readers weigh-in: Should PB move its Farmers Market from Bayard to Garnet?
• Yes! It would be great for the community if the market could receive increased visibility from being on a main street in Pacific Beach. The Ocean Beach Farmers Market is well-known throughout San Diego and the entire community comes together on Newport Avenue to celebrate there each week. I imagine that moving the PB market to its main street, Garnet Avenue, would bring more foot traffic to local businesses, including restaurants, which can only have a beneficial economic impact.
It appears that the only concern is re-routing a few buses for a few hours once a week. Wouldn't the increased revenue to the businesses, along with the community ties that would be created, outweigh any cost associated with the re-routing of public transportation? — Nicole C. Baldwin
• Yes! Personally, I think our Farmers Market is too small right now and the move would invite more people to participate from both sides of PB. Heck, Santa Barbara does it right on State Street for many blocks! Why can't the buses involved just use Hornblend/Felspar for a few blocks? I don't see it as a big deal. I am a homeowner and a taxpayer, and I say bring on a bigger and better PB Farmers Market! Plus, think of all the local farmers who will benefit! — Evan McIntyre
• No! Do we get to vote on this? Why do we want to block traffic on Garnet Avenue for a full day so that a few vendors can make money off our inconvenience? It's much like the bikes/scooters that residents and business owners don't like. We already have the two Farmers Markets — the original and Bayard Street (which is annoying enough where it is) and that is plenty! — Rosemary Rogers
• No! I'm letting you know that as a very longtime resident of Pacific Beach, I would like to see the Tuesday Farmers Market remain on Bayard Street. I can't think of any reasonable purpose to relocate it to Garnet Avenue — Sandy Shaut
• No! The push to move the PB Farmers Market to Garnet Avenue shows a new mark in the greed and audacity of the town's alcohol interests. Demanding that MTS alter at least three bus routes to accommodate a market venue change further serves their unending desire to sell more alcohol. PB's alcohol interests have already managed to shut down a dicey bus stop at Mission and Hornblend Street and force Bus No. 30 into a more dangerous bus stop a half-block further south. — Frances Eleanor Fellers