City requires relocation of North Berkeley farmers’ market

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Julie Zhang/Staff

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The planned relocation of the North Berkeley farmers’ market eastward off Shattuck Avenue has produced mixed reactions, with some opposed to the loss of the market’s “character.”

Presently located just north of Vine Street, the farmers’ market will move to a service road between Vine and Rose streets because of a city mandate. According to a statement on the website of the Ecology Center, which coordinates the Thursday market, the city has ordered the relocation for accessibility, safety and liability purposes.

“We disagree with the City’s decision. However, we are committed to doing our best to make the farmers’ market work in the new location,” the statement said. “We don’t want to abandon the farmers and the North Berkeley shoppers who rely on this market.”

The city has said that a major concern with the current location is accessibility for shoppers with disabilities, who may find the incline of Shattuck Avenue an inconvenience. The Ecology Center, however, said it has never received such complaints from disabled attendees.

Additionally, Ben Feldman, food and farming program director for the Ecology Center, believes that the owner of Shattuck Commons — a business complex located near the market — lobbied against the weekly event because it occupies parking spaces alongside the complex.

The Shattuck Commons property owner could not be reached for comment.

According to city spokesperson Matthai Chakko, the decision to change the market’s location was first discussed more than a year ago with those involved and has already been appealed to the deputy city manager. The city’s order, however, was upheld.

“The two issues (are that) people who are in wheelchairs or have restricted mobility can’t go across a median, and that, by definition, is unequal access for people with disabilities,” Chakko said. “Also, because it’s on a hill, that’s an accessibility issue for people.”

Feldman believes that the loss of the grassy median on Shattuck Avenue — where shoppers congregate and musicians play — as a result of the relocation will harm the event’s character. He also noted in an email the deprivation of the “wide, open feel of the market.”

One vendor — Juliebeth Ingraham, a marketer of Happy Boy Farms — said her business may no longer participate in the market after the move.

“I think it’s going to make a huge, negative impact on a lot of farms,” she said. “I feel like it’s been a very closed discussion, and to my knowledge … I don’t feel like the farmers’ market association has given vendors a chance to speak up or talk to the city about it.”

But some of the North Berkeley farmers’ market vendors — such as Mamta Landerman, the owner of the Sonoma Swamp Blues blueberry farm — do not think the relocation will disturb business. Alan Gould, a member of the Live Oak/Codornices Creek Neighborhood Association, agreed, saying the move would not destroy the market’s essence.

“My opinion is that if there is a difference, it’s not very much,” Gould said. “There are a lot more serious things going on.”

The Ecology Center has asked the city for a postponement of the relocation until September, and the city has unofficially put off the move until after Labor Day, according to the center’s statement.

Contact Andrea Platten at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @andreaplatten.