Highland Park Farmers' Market Plan Unveiled

Times Staff Writer

A plan to open a city-sponsored farmers' market in Highland Park was unveiled by Los Angeles officials Tuesday night.

The plan by Councilman Richard Alatorre would create the first farmers' market subsidized by the city of Los Angeles. It would operate with city funds for a year as a pilot for city-sponsored markets in other areas of the city.

Alatorre said the market is intended to bring the diverse Highland Park community together by providing a safe and friendly atmosphere in which to buy fresh produce and meet people.

There are three open-air markets in the city where farmers sell their wares directly to consumers, but all were started and are run by private nonprofit groups. At least six other cities in Los Angeles County subsidize farmers' markets.

Alatorre's plan is supported by the city Department of Recreation and Parks and by Mayor Tom Bradley. Recreation and Parks Department officials at Tuesday's meeting said they have tentatively agreed to allot $25,000 to start and run the market in its first year. As proposed, the farmer's market would eventually be run by a nonprofit community group.

The plan is subject to the approval of the Board of Recreation and Parks Commissioners and the City Council. It is expected to be considered by the parks board within a month.

Most of about 40 residents who attended Tuesday's meeting at the Highland Park Senior Center applauded the idea, but some said they were concerned that the market would increase traffic, noise and trash.

"I think it's nice to have a market, but I don't think it's nice to have it in my back yard, which is where it's going to be," said Alice Agllman, a Highland Park resident whose home borders Arroyo Seco Park. "It's going to cause a big mess, that's for sure."

The president of an association of homeowners who live near the proposed market site said at the meeting that he will oppose the market proposal. Alatorre said he will attend next week's meeting of the group--the Hayes Avenue, Echo Street and Arroyo Glen Neighborhood Assn.--to push the idea.

But Alatorre's proposal has the support of the Highland Park Neighborhood Assn., the largest and most vocal homeowner's group in the Highland Park area. Association President Diana Barnwell said at the meeting that she supports the idea and will ask association members to help with the market in any way they can.

The market would be at Arroyo Seco Park and Avenue 60 and would be open for three to five hours one day each weekend. Farmers selling their produce at the market would have to be have certificates from state inspectors.

Farmers at the 23 other markets operating in Los Angeles County pay a fee to participate in the markets--usually 5% of their revenue. Alatorre said his staff estimates that there are about 160 parking spaces next to the Highland Park site.

A city-paid part-time manager would recruit farmers and promote the market. The cost is estimated at $14,200 a year after a start-up cost of $11,000. Alatorre said the market is expected to be self-sustaining by the second year.

The idea was a project last fall of an intern in Alatorre's office. But Recreation and Parks Department officials have been working independently on such an idea for more than two years.

"When Councilman Alatorre called me, I said, 'Wait, I've heard that idea before,' "said Ronald Kraus, senior management analyst for the Department of Recreation and Parks. "I think it was just a case where the ideas coalesced."

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