City Place Cancels Downtown Farmers Market Effective Immediately • Long Beach Post

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The managers of Downtown Long Beach’s weekly farmers market and craft fair received an unexpected announcement from the property managers of City Place on Friday. After eight years of selling local produce, authentic ethinic food and handmade arts and crafts along a stretch of the Promenade as it runs through the open-air retail center, City Place is cancelling the popular event–effective immediately.

In a letter handed to the heads of the market as vendors were setting up at 8AM Friday, Janice Schuerman of City Place’s property management company, TEC, gave several reasons the farmers market must go including the upcoming closure of Nordstrom Rack, the construction and relocation of several restaurants along 4th St. and the painting of the City Place Apartments as well as “dissatisfaction of the local neighborhood.”

Operated by Harbor Area Farmers Markets, a non-profit that runs six certified farmers markets in the region, the Downtown Long Beach Farmers Market is frequented by up to 3000 people each week, many of whom are low-income or disabled neighborhood residents and have no other access to fresh food from local farmers.

Downtown resident Candyce Bear-Thompson and her son Jeff, a CSU Long Beach student, were surprised to hear the news. “I shop here every Friday,” stated Bear-Thompson. “I thought Long Beach was about community and diversity. Everyone should be able to access good quality food.”

“They might not have a lot of money, but there’s a lot of people that come here,” said Dale Whitney, HAFM’s Market Manager, as he was closing out food stamp receipts Friday afternoon. “This is a large part of their social life for these people. They come here every week.”

Whitney says he has known for a while that City Place is not an optimal location for his market and been looking for a new spot for the last few years. But he is still upset at the short notice given by City Place and feels that the owners think the market attracts the wrong kind of people and are taking advantage of his status as what he calls an “at-will tenant.” HAFM pays no rent to use the two blocks of street and adjoining parking lot each week and has no signed contracts with City Place.

{loadposition latestnews}”If I’ve made a mistake or was negligent in any way, it’s that I didn’t ask for a contract,” said Whitney. “After eight years of operating here, however, we at least deserved some advanced notice. I doubt this action is legal, but it certainly is not moral or ethical…[Schuerman] wanted me to lay down and die and not object to this. But we’re going to fight it. My board plans to take this to city council.”

Because City Place is private property, however, the City has no jurisdiction over the owners’ actions, though 1st District Councilmember Robert Garcia said he will be meeting with HAFM officials next week to go over the options.

Whitney says he has had his eye on several other Downtown lots, including the northeast corner of Long Beach Blvd. and Broadway and the parking lot adjacent to the Promenade where Funk Fest was recently held. Both are former Long Beach Redevelopment Agency properties and HAFM has so far been unable to receive permits to hold a farmers market in the space. The Greener Good Farmers Market in North Long Beach operates on a former RDA property.

“I would like a time to be here while I find another place to hold the market. If I don’t, we’ll have to go dark for a while until I can figure it out,” said Whitney.

For the nearly 50 vendors who rely on income from Downtown’s only farmers market each week, the cancellation was so abrupt that at the end of the day, many were still unsure of what they were going to do next week when the event is not allowed to happen. 

“I haven’t even had a chance to tell my aunt yet,” said Yasmin Diaz, a vendor whose aunt owns Gaytan Family Farms in Riverside. “I have no idea what we’re going to do if this doesn’t happen on Fridays. This is one of our biggest days.”

Another vendor, Saundra Christmas of Mabel’s Pralines, started her business at the Friday market in 2004. She opened a retail storefront nearby just two years later. “I’m not sure what this will do to my business,” said Christmas. “The majority of my clientele comes from the market, not the store. Where do I go from here?”

Representatives for West Hollywood-based TEC Property Management have been contacted for comment. 

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