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Who Will Win? The Farmer’s Market vs. The Elite High School

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This week, a private battle between Outer Sunset Farmers Market & Mercantile (OSFMM) and a private high school, St. Ignatius College Preparatory(SI), became very public via a letter published online by OSFMM. The permit for The Sunset’s popular and well-trafficked farmer’s market will expire on August 13th and, while the community strongly supports the farmer’s market in the area, the main opponent who is holding up this process is SI.

Pop-up farmers market finds its way into the hearts of the Outer Sunset | Archives | sfexaminer.com

What started out as a pop up, the Outer Sunset Farmers Market has become a neighborhood staple these last two years – photo from The SF Examiner

It’s not as if this farmer’s market just came around recently. OSFMM has been operating successfully since 2020. This market sets up over 100 booths weekly, and supports 70-90 businesses per week including farmers and small businesses. Over 2500 people attend the market each Sunday showing that the community at large really benefits from the regular market in the neighborhood.

“St. Ignatius College Preparatory (SI) is objecting to the renewal of Sunset Mercantile’s street closure permit. Without the permit renewed, The Outer Sunset Farmers Market & Mercantile (OSFMM) which occurs every Sunday, 9 AM – 3 PM on 37th Avenue between Ortega and Quintara, will be closed effective August 13, 2022. We are NOT trying to extend our market to Rivera St as St. Ignatius is falsely stating,” wrote the  OSFMM team in a statement on their website about the issue.

Airial view of SI. 37th Avenue, the street each party is battling over, is right in front of the school - photo from the SI website

Airial view of SI. 37th Avenue, the street each party is battling over, is right in front of the school – photo from www.educatemagis.org

Why is SI allegedly feuding with the farmers market?

School is back in session and there are weekend events that are held at the same time as the market. SI is requesting that OSFMM be closed completely for 3 Sundays and reduced to only one block, Ortega to Pacheco, on 7 other Sundays to accommodate for on-campus events.

In the past, SI and OSFMM have been able to resolve many via compromise from both sides and lots of extra coordinated efforts my OSFMM staff. Including things such as bringing in additional volunteer staff to support SI events, moving equipment to help with noise concerns and directing traffic away from the school and adjacent chapel when needed. OSFMM is now asking for another compromise so that they can renew their permit but is finding themselves getting none back in return.

Customers gather at Gumbo Social, which sells food on Sundays at the Outer Sunset Farmers Market & Mercantile in San Francisco.

Eat More Gumbo is a small business which has found small business success at the Outer Sunset Market – photo from SF Chronicle about their success by Felix Uribe

“Not only is this market an essential business to the community but it has also become a place for the community to connect with their neighbors and for our youth to play and engage outdoors.” said Angie Petitt, Director of Outer Sunset Farmers Market & Mercantile, in a letter sent to SI earlier this month. This letter was a plea to compromise.

I remember back when this market first started. My friends in The Sunset raved about all of the neighbors who sold goods there and years later this is still a good portion of the businesses at the market. If the permit isn’t renewed, farmers would likely move to more regular locations to sell their goods. However, small businesses are very real concerns that losing this market will impact their income negatively.

“This market is home for me and my family,” Dontaye Ball, owner and operator of Gumbo Social, one of the most popular vendors at the market, told SFGATE. “Before the launch of the farmers market, I had been struggling with severe depression because of the loss of my full-time job due to the pandemic. The market was a total lifeline. [It] has been our only business income for over one year.”

What do school officials really think of the farmer’s market?

Officials at St. Ignatius have spoken about the issue. As mentioned before, the school and the market have been able to compromise several times in the past and found ways to make sure needs are met for each party. This time around, OSFMM’s public remarks are possibly making the situation worse.

The miscommunications and misunderstandings seem to be stacking up. According to Petitt, she understood that SI officials feel that families would have a bad impression of the school if there was a bustling market right in front on the street. In an interview with The Chronicle, Petitt recounted a conversation with Kenneth Stupi, the school’s vice president for finance and administration, Petitt recalled him saying that families who pay upwards of $30,000 a year shouldn’t have to walk so far to the school.

The Lunar New Year Event at OSFMM was hugely successful for small businesses as the neighborhood came out in full support of the event - photo from

The Lunar New Year Event at OSFMM was hugely successful for small businesses as the neighborhood came out in full support of the event – photo from Richmond Review

“It’s so painful,” Petitt said to the Chronicle. “We’ve created something so beautiful, and he dismissed that. The impression I got was that this event is an embarrassment.”

SI officials have said they don’t feel that way at all and support the market. Tom Murphy, director of marketing and communications for St. Ignatius, countered, “That’s not what he said. That’s how she perceived it.” Murphy said that the main concern is traffic concerns and how might the students and families get into campus efficiently.

What the school says they need is full access to 37th Avenue to allow for easy access to campus events. They are asking the market to compromise again by reducing the market for 10 weekends of the school year.

St. Ignatius College Preparatory school wants the Sunset Mercantile farmers’ market to close or scale back.

Scaling back the market seems to be what the school is suggesting but this impacts more than they might realize – photo by Felix Uribe for the Chronicle in this article

What happens next?

I can’t help but think that there’s a solution that could help both groups and I hope that the two parties come to a compromise and that the market is able to continue operating business as usual. OSFMM has published a public letter that gives out contact information for SFMTA officials and also the president of SI. Petitt is passionate about making sure she keeps the market operating at full capacity.

From this vantage point, I can see how she might feel pressure to make sure all 70-90 venders keep their regular income on Sundays coming in from the market. At the same time, I can see how the school may need that roadway for events and making sure that students, faculty, staff and parents are able to get in and out of the school efficiently. 

“I just don’t think that SI quite realizes what this market means to the community. But I am optimistic they will hear us and come back to the table to find a workable solution,” Petitt said to SFGate.

 

During the summer of 2020, the market started and the community has embraced it ever since. This resident, Missy Keehan, is showing off a tote she got from the opening event in 2020. Photo by Gui Oliveira.

During the summer of 2020, the market started and the community has embraced it ever since. This resident, Missy Keehan, is showing off a tote she got from the opening event in 2020. Photo by Gui Oliveira.

 

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Katy Atchison

Katy Atchison

Katy is a professional smiling machine raised in The Bay Area since the age of 3. While other kids were attending summer camp & soccer practice, she was raised selling wares at craft shows with her working artist parents and spent vacations in a small 1920s Montana log cabin. This has all given her a unique perspective on the ever-changing texture of San Francisco and the Greater Bay Area. Currently a blend of all that is The Bay Area - she's a web designer at a tech-company, artist and DIY teacher.

1 Comment

  1. Keri A Muller
    July 22, 2022 at 3:44 pm — Reply

    Being a part of the community yet not seeming to respect is is what angers me. If Stupi really stated, “ families who pay upwards of $30,000 a year shouldn’t have to walk so far to the school,” that doesn’t sit well, I’m fact it’s leaves me nauseous. The school is located in a neighborhood that isn’t the sole school for the neighborhood. I live in the sunset and there’s no way I’d be sending my kid to a school that costs more than a third of my salary. Why does a family who can afford to pay that have any more rights than the families at the market or the vendors?

    So the school community and families have to bend a little- the farmers market has become a big part of the neighborhood, so be a bit more willing to compromise and make it work. Cancelling or largely impacting 10 Sundays of the market seems excessive.

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