Locals Rally Behind Legacy Park as Potential Permanent Home for Malibu Farmers Market

President and co-founder of the Malibu Farmers Market Debra Bianco poses with a display at the market site at Legacy Park. Photo by Samantha Bravo/TMT.

Market continues to expand its vendors with more fresh produce, diverse foods, accessories, local art, and vintage clothing

For the past few weeks, longtime local residents, visitors and even celebrities, have been advocating and writing Letters to the Editor to The Malibu Times expressing their support for The Malibu Farmers Market to remain at Legacy Park. 

“The Malibu Farmers Market has found it’s true home,” American fashion designer Betsey Johnson wrote to The Malibu Times in a Letter to The Editor last week. 

“The city of Malibu did an exceptional job in creating an aesthetically pleasing environment for the market,” Johnson wrote. “The smiling faces of the vendors and customers make the experience even more delightful. I am writing to request that you continue supporting our Malibu Farmers Market and vote unanimously to keep it at Legacy Park. The market has finally found its true home, and it brings so much joy to our community.”

The market was originally held at the Malibu Library parking lot, but due to the new Santa Monica College satellite campus construction, the market has moved to Legacy Park, and vendors and visitors have enjoyed the new location since then. 

Vendors and visitors shared their concerns hearing that the location is only temporary. 

“We were thrilled to see the market move to Legacy Park, but we were disappointed to learn that it was only a temporary arrangement,” Wailani O’Herlihy wrote. “I believe that making Legacy Park the permanent home of the market would be a win-win for residents, visitors, and the City of Malibu as a whole.”

Visitors expressed similar interests, saying the new location allows future generations to enjoy its unique and positive experience, fostering a sense of community and connection among residents.

Malibu City Information Officer Matt Myerhoff said the current Temporary Use Permit (TUP) for Farmers Market at Legacy Park will expire on July 8, or when the Santa Monica College campus obtains a Certificate of Occupancy (COO), whichever comes first.

“Although the City of Malibu is not part of any agreements or leases between the Malibu Farmers Market, LA County or Santa Monica College, the city recognizes the value of the Farmers Market to the community,” Myerhoff said. “The city supports the Farmers Market as a longstanding, important community gathering place and opportunity for residents, businesses, employees, students and visitors to get high-quality farm-fresh produce and natural products.”

In November 2022, the city passed an emergency ordinance to enable the Farmers Market to continue to operate during the SMC campus construction by allowing it to locate temporarily in Legacy Park.

“When the city purchased the land for Legacy Park, it came with restrictions on the uses of the park,” Myerhoff continued. “All of the parties in the original agreement have to agree to proposed changes in the uses for the park. The city is currently working on obtaining that. Currently, the city’s TUP code allows six commercial events per year on that property, and each Sunday Farmers Market counts as an event.”

During the Malibu City Council meeting on Feb. 27, Mayor Pro Tem Steve Uhring said he has read the Letters to the Editor printed in The Malibu Times recently and asked the council how they can support the farmers market. 

“I’d like to see if there’s some way we can keep the farmers market where it is at Legacy Park,” Uhring said. “I think the residents like it and I think it’s a good thing for the city.”

During the Malibu City Council meeting on Jan. 23, the council voted to waive the permit fees, but requested a financial report if they hope to request another fee waiver. 

“The money is not going to make or break the City of Malibu, but it may make or break the farmers market,” Uhring said during the meeting. “I believe they deserve a purpose for this city and they provide a significant benefit and I don’t want to see that get screwed up.” 

“If we want to do that, let’s do that next year,” Uhring said. 

The council stated that if the Cornucopia Foundation requested further fee waivers, a financial report was required, but to date, nothing has been submitted.

Debra Bianco, the president and co-founder of the market, said the vendors and visitors have asked her what they can do to make the location permanent. 

“I don’t know what the county, the college, or even the city has in store for us, but right now, the residents are asking the city, ‘can we stay,'” Bianco said. “So many residents want it here, when it’s summer and it gets really hot, you’re not on asphalt, we just love it here.”

In terms of growth, Bianco said the pandemic and the new college made it difficult for them [the market] to grow what they used to have. 

“We’ve gone through so much damage from the loss of property that we’re not even back to half of what we were before the college took over,” Bianco said. “The pandemic came and within months, the college little at a time, started taking more and more [property] away.”

In terms of providing a financial report, Bianco said, “when we’re ready, we’ll give it to the City Council.” 

Bianco said the additional parking on the Chili Cookoff lot near Stuart Ranch Road is essential for the farmers market. 

“We’re not allowed to charge for parking, so why do we have to pay,” Bianco said. “It’s for the residents.”

The market continues to expand its vendors with more fresh produce, diverse foods, accessories, local art, and vintage clothing. 

Aimee Rivka, jewelry vendor, started her business in Malibu when she was 17 and said the vendors and locals gave her the tools, inspiration, and motivation to start her jewelry business. 

“I started my business in 2010, and now I do fine art festivals, but I got my start here at the Malibu Farmers Market,” Rivka said. “It’s a good place for people to pick up stores to sell in, but also give us the motivation to further our craft and business.”

“It’s very nice because Malibu people really like art and they have very good taste, but also they have the means to support artist,” Rivka said. “And now with all the big box stores moving in, I think it’s very important to instill art and craft to the city of Malibu, because I think it really needs it.”

Rivka said she loves the new location near Legacy Park, and hopes it becomes a permanent location.

“I love being next to the park because it gives you a sense of nature, but also on the parking lot it gets hot, but I think being next to Legacy Park really highlights that outdoor experience to where you’re coming to a farmers market where food is grown in the ground and in nature, art and crystals, it’s all inspired by nature so I think being on the nature side is really important,” Rivka said. 

Ethan Pettengill, the farmers market assistant, said there has been an increase in vendors since the market has been at its new location.

“I think that Legacy Park really opens up the farmers market side of what we’re bringing, and I think it allows vendors the opportunity to be more in touch with their cusomters and in nature than in a parking lot,” Pettengill said. “It’s a super-unique location and it’s perfect for Malibu.”

The weekly Malibu Farmers Market is on Sundays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Legacy Park. Parking is available along Civic Center Way and at the Chili Cookoff lot near Stuart Ranch Road.