Vendors, organizers, and fans of the Heart of the City Farmers' Market will be staging a protest on Wednesday in a last-ditch effort to change the city's mind about its plans to turn UN Plaza and its promenade near City Hall into an outdoor recreation area.
Plans for the combination skate park and ping-pong/Teqball space, with additional chess boards and other amenities, were first made public in early July.
The idea is to give non-fentanyl users a reason to come to UN Plaza, and to perhaps push the drug dealing and drug using further out of the area.
While the tree-lined promenade area leading from the fountain toward Hyde Street and Civic Center is only occasionally activated by rotating community events, it has, for over 40 years, been home to the Heart of the City Farmers' Market. The market hosts farmers and other vendors two days a week, Wednesday and Sunday, and in September the city plans to move the market to the somewhat smaller Fulton Plaza across Hyde — the area between the Asian Art Museum and the SF Public Library.
The longtime executive director of the market, Steve Pulliam, and some of its vendors, have been expressing their objections to the move for several weeks now. Among these are less space for vendors — the new market won't allow vendors to pull their trucks in behind their stands for product storage, etc. — and less accessibility for disabled patrons coming from BART, who will have an extra street to cross and more distance to travel.
Farmers also tell 48 Hills that they worry about their trucks being broken into or stolen if they have to park them some distance away from the market.
There is also the issue of longtime customers perhaps missing the memo and not being able to find their favorite vendors.
"I'm just in tears about it," says one of those longtime customers, Carol Jean Wisnieski, speaking to KTVU. "I’ve been shopping here since even before it was certified as a farmers’ market. I'm devastated by this, and I think the public has not had time to respond to what's going on!"
As Pulliam adds, speaking to KTVU, regarding the logistics of the move, "We still don't have water even though we're working on that. The lighting is not as good over there, so when [the vendors] come in at 4:30 in the morning we want to make sure that we have sufficient lighting for them to set up."
Regarding customers with disabilities, Pulliam says, "We have several blind customers that come through that are afraid to cross that street. We'll take them around to all the vendors and help them shop, but now we have to maybe pick them up over here and walk them across the street."
SF Recreation & Parks Department spokesperson Daniel Montes put out a statement Monday clarifying that "The new site will include things like dedicated vendor and staff parking and increased parking enforcement to ensure spots are not taken by non-vendors." Montes also said there will be plenty of room for all 70 vendor stalls that appear at the height of the market's season, and that this will not be a downsizing of the market.
A protest will reportedly be happening Wednesday, August 30 in which fans of the market and its vendors will march from UN Plaza to the steps of City Hall two blocks away, starting at 12:15 p.m. (KTVU has the date as Wed. September 30 but that seems to be a misprint, as that is not a Wednesday, and the market is scheduled to relocate by September 3.)
A flyer has also been posted in recent weeks encouraging people to call Rec & Parks and/or the Mayor's office to complain. You can also call 415-701-2311 and leave a voicemail with your complaint for the mayor or the parks department.
The Heart of the City Farmers' Market has been operating since 1981, and was one of the city's first farmers' markets. It remains independently operated — most of the city's other markets are part of larger organizations that host multiple markets — and being located amid one of the city's poorest neighborhoods, it provides $4 million worth of food each year through food-assistance programs like CalFresh, WIC, and EatSF.
Top photo: The market on Sunday while the carnival was happening in Fulton Plaza. Photo via Instagram