While city officials scramble to find an answer to the heated and high profile issue between the Los Angeles Film School and the Hollywood Farmers’ Market over access to one of the school’s parking structures, the contentious situation took a surprising turn when the school announced it is considering building a major development at the intersection of Ivar and Selma Avenues, leaving the future of the popular market in question.
“We learned about [the new development] during a Power Point slide presentation at a community meeting,” said Yusef Robb, spokesperson for Los Angeles City Council President Eric Garcetti, 13th District. “We want people to know, if and when the film school proceeds with plans for erecting a new building, we’ll make sure it undergoes an extensive review.”
The school has not yet begun the permitting process.
Plans for the L.A. Film School expansion are somewhat premature according to Albert Villalta, vice president of marketing for the L.A. Film School.
“We can’t speak to what the effects would be at this time since there are various considerations we must continue to study to ensure our growth needs are adequately met,” Villalta said. “This would ensure we are making the right decisions in providing students with a quality education in a world-class facility.”
A local institution for 20 years, the Hollywood Farmers’ Market finds itself in the middle of a contentious fight with the film school. Every Sunday approximately 150 vendors and an estimated 10,000 customers flock to the corner of Selma and Ivar Avenues to sell and buy fruits and vegetables, generating nearly $130,000 in profits while allegedly taking coveted parking spaces away from students and faculty of the L.A. Film School.
While the school will not elaborate on exactly how many students are affected by the market on Sundays, they credit the school’s growth as a reason for their concern.
“We have been fortunate to experience significant growth in our school over the past 16-months,” Villalta said. “This growth has led to a growing need to have full use of our facilities seven days a week. Whereas we previously were able to accommodate the market and key access points to our campus, the school has increasingly become a cultural hub for Hollywood hosting various film festivals, screenings, etc.”
When the Hollywood Farmers’ Market first debuted at its present location in May 1991, founder, chief operating officer and market manager Pompea Smith picked the site because she deemed it to be, as she said, “the least disruptive to the community.” But last June, the L.A. Film School, which owns the property at 6363 Sunset Blvd, complained that the market cut off one of its garage entrances.
“We understand the popularity and affinity patrons have developed for the market and we’d like to be part of a long-term solution that will allow this affinity to continue,” said Villalta. “With that said, our commitment is to our students and their families in that we’re changing lives, creating careers and contributing to the economic growth of not only Hollywood…but the entertainment community at large.”
While many claim to have been surprised by the school’s position, Villalta points out that the school in fact had communicated with the market for over three years in hopes of giving them ample time to make the appropriate changes to accommodate their vendors and patrons.
With surrounding streets closed Sundays from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., the argument is that the closure of Ivar blocks one of the school’s two parking lots, denying students and staff access to its sound stages and labs.
“On the rooftop there are 120 spaces and there are few cars that come to park on Sundays,” Smith said. “Very few students complain. For those six hours, couldn’t they use parking in another location? But they don’t seem to want to do that.”
To help bring both sides together, Garcetti has been facilitating meetings designed to find a solution.
“Blocking a driveway no matter how noble the cause can be a very touchy matter,” Robb said. “We got involved to make sure the Hollywood Farmers’ Market can stay where it wants to. This farmers’ market is not only a resource for neighborhood shoppers, it brings to life a part of Hollywood that would otherwise be barren on a Sunday morning.”
While the council president and his staff admittedly enjoy stocking their pantry with fresh produce from the market, Garcetti’s office convinced the farmers’ market to move some booths to accommodate the film school but unfortunately, according to Villalta, that is not enough.
“This is a structure we’ve had access to previously and is for faculty and staff use,” Villalta said. “The booths are being moved in the interest of safety. The lot our students cannot access is located at the corner of Selma and Ivar.”
For the time being it’s business as usual for the Hollywood Farmers’ Market, albeit with some shifting of both, and Smith remains hopeful things will work out, even if that means having to relocate to a new site on Vine Street between Hollywood and Sunset Boulevards, or possibly to Hollywood Boulevard between Cahuenga and Vine Street.
“The market has had a great impact on the revitalization of the area but we’re amenable to relocating,” Smith said.
Yet the L.A. Film School, according to Villalta, wants it to be known that it is doing its part to be a good neighbor.
“We feel its is important to clarify that The Los Angeles Film School is not out to close down the market as some bloggers and writers have suggested,” Villalta said. “We’re confident in that there will be a resolution that is accommodating to all parties once discussions have concluded. The Los Angeles Film School is committed to continuing to be a part of the Hollywood renaissance, not only with a world-class facility, but with new, young talent as well. We’re very proud of our alumni and the fact that we form part of such a diverse entertainment community.”
As loyal market shoppers sign petitions and create Facebook pages to make their support for the Hollywood Farmers’ Market heard, Robb assures there is room for both local institutions.
“We think the L.A. Film School and the Hollywood Farmers Market are both great parts of the Hollywood community and we want these two great neighbors to work together and thrive,” Robb added.