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While thousands of shoppers spent their Sunday morning buying fresh fruits and vegetables at the Hollywood Farmers’ Market, approximately 100 concerned market shoppers attended a public meeting at the Montalban Theater to get an update on the market’s current situation.
On April 18, the city granted the Hollywood Farmers’ Market a 30-day extension on its street closure permit, which will expire on May 17. Representatives of Sustainable Economic Enterprises of Los Angeles (SEE-LA), including Michael Woo, board president, and Pompea Smith, CEO of the Hollywood Farmers’ Market, updated the public on the market’s ongoing disagreement with the L.A. Film School, which owns the property at 6363 Sunset Blvd. At issue is the market blocking access to one of the school’s driveways on Ivar Avenue, preventing access to an estimated 120 parking spaces.
“We have suggested that [L.A. Film School] find another way to allow access to their parking lot, other than having us move,” Woo said.
While the Hollywood Farmers’ Market prefers not to move, it has expressed a willingness to explore the possibility, and is considering relocating a portion of its vendors to either Hollywood Boulevard or Vine Street, vacating Ivar Avenue south of Selma Avenue. Woo said in no way would SEE-LA or the market pay the costs of moving.
“Nobody is talking about moving the entire market,” Woo said. “And we’re not willing to bear the financial cost of moving. We will not agree to make a move and pay costs that we don’t already pay.”
Additional costs such as security, including street barriers, as well as additional portable toilets, are a major concern to market organizers. Farmers also voiced concern over who gets moved and to where.
Attending the public hearing was Jenna Langer, vice president of operations at the L.A. Film School. While attending in a non-official capacity, Langer was besieged with questions and complaints and answered as many inquiries as she could.
“For us it makes sense [for the market to move] and use our resources, and public resources, to help,” Langer said.
Langer pointed out that the film school’s enrollment has grown to 2,000 students and that the school wants 24-hour access to its parking structures. She also said the school is willing to talk about what financial resources it can provide the market.
“We’re looking to find a good, long term solution,” Langer said. “We’re willing to look into a long term contract, almost as a sponsorship where the school can provide resources.”
While Langer said the L.A. Film School has not actually done any studies about the parking situation, she did say school officials deemed connecting two of its buildings as not being feasible, citing “safety issues” and ”logistical issues that make it difficult.”
SEE-LA is working with architect John Kaliski, of Urban Studio, who is designing possible alterations to the Hollywood Farmers’ Market footprint. Kaliski has drafted three possible alternatives along Hollywood Boulevard, and one along Vine Street.
“Moving requires a tremendous amount of logistics,” Kaliski said. “The new schemes will require greater traffic control.”
Woo explained that the SEE-LA board has not talked to any business or property owners at the proposed new sites.
“If we do consider any new alternative, it has to include time for the process,” Woo said. “There is no simple solution.”
One concerned shopper called any move by the Hollywood Farmers’ Market “a major inconvenience to a lot of people.”
Emotions ran high as another market customer called the L.A. Film School a “for-profit creeping menace,” pointing out that the school, upset about the loss of approximately 120 parking spaces, uses one of its parking structures to sell parking spaces to market shoppers. Shoppers also expressed concern the market would lose its character if it moved location.
Langer was also asked if the film school has talked to the ArcLight Hollywood about using some of its parking spaces on Sundays during market hours.
“That’s a great suggestion,” Langer said. “I don’t know if there has been any specific discussion. I’m not here to defend our position. We do want to find a way to coexist.”
Gil Smith, of the Montalban Theatre, voiced his opposition to the Vine Street alternative, and said it would “wall [the theater] off for matinees.”
A representative for Neighbors for Change mentioned they have over 2,800 signatures to their petition seeking to keep the market where it is.
Margot Gerber, of the Egyptian Theatre, called the Hollywood Farmers Market the “most authentic thing in Hollywood.” She said while the Egyptian has no parking, patrons still find a place to park, even when the streets are closed during the week of the Academy Awards, pointing out that film school students and market shoppers will find a way to study or shop.
The SEE-LA board intends to inform Council President Eric Garcetti, 13th District, this week about any decision it reaches.
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