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Ordinance forces farmers market fees up

September 18, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
With people trying to make every penny count, farmers markets are becoming more and more popular. But what about traffic, parking fees, and crowd control? All those costs are adding up. Farmers market vendors are afraid all the fees will force them to close.The Echo Park farmers market has been setting up on a city-owned parking lot on Logan Street for the past three years. But now the market manager is concerned that a new city ordinance could cost the market a lot of money and eventually force it to move, or worse, go out of business.

The city ordinance, signed by the Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa Friday afternoon, would charge more than 20 markets tens of thousands of dollars to recoup the city's cost of enabling the markets. The city currently covers expenses such as traffic-control officers, traffic barriers and no-parking signs.

Faced with a huge budget deficit, the city wants to be reimbursed for any costs associated with special events, including farmers markets. Just how much the city spends on enabling the markets and how the expenses are calculated is not exactly clear, and market managers want to see the books, so to speak, before being handed any kind of bill from the city.

"In the past, the fees for farmers markets have been waived," said Holly Calhoun, Echo Park farmers market site manager. "And now they're going to be subsidized. They can subsidize up to 100 percent of the fee. So it's really up to the city council members' discretion whether or not the markets going to have to pay. So our concern is in the long run, if we have different city council members in office that aren't as supportive of farmers markets, it could lead to farmers markets having to pay a lot of money, which could shut them down."

"We don't make much money, we just do this out of our back yards to supplement the little bit that we have, and any extra fees, we certainly would not be able to do that," said Stu Adler, a market vendor.

Meanwhile, Mayor Villaraigosa says he fully supports farmers markets and he sees them as vital assets to our communities, and, he says, the city council will work on provisions to help the farmers markets and minimize any fees that may result from this new ordinance.

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