Malibu Farmers Market is squeezed out of regular Civic Center location

Malibu Farmers Market vendors and organizers are concerned about potentially losing the farmers market due to the Santa Monica College construction and have requested support from the city. Photo by Samantha Bravo/TMT.

The organizer of the Malibu Farmers Market is imploring city officials to find a space for the weekly market and gathering space that’s being displaced by construction of the new Santa Monica College satellite campus. Years ago, the Civic Center location was designated for construction amid worries that the market could lose its Sunday spot in the county owned property in front of the Malibu Library.

In 2016 a deputy from LACO Public Works assured the Malibu Planning Commission that the market could keep its designated area, but that was upended after Labor Day when Debra Bianco of the Cornucopia Foundation went to set up the market and without prior notice discovered a fence erected at the site and half the space eliminated.

Without the proper ingress and egress to the library parking lot the market was forced set up across the street at Legacy Park, but that appears to violate the park’s Conditional Use Permit (CUP) restrictions. Bianco says this not only affects the Malibu community, but also the vendors who travel far distances to provide fresh fruit and vegetables.

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The Malibu Farmers Market vendors have had to move closer to the Malibu Library due to the Santa Monica College construction. Photo by Samantha Bravo/TMT.

“We never know how the Farmers Market is going to look each week, due to the lack of communication. This upsets the vendors and the residents because they have to find their new spot every week, and it creates a bit of chaos and confusion.”

“It keeps coming up in City Council,” Malibu City Councilmember Steve Uhring said. “We need gathering places. After the fire we lost 400 and some odd homes. People left Malibu; they had to move to different cities because there wasn’t enough rental housing here for them. Some have come back; some haven’t. It’s changed our community. These community gathering places are extremely important because it gives you a chance to meet your neighbors, you can swap a beer, you can tell stories, you can complain about stuff or say how good everything is. It helps build the community. Malibu Farmers Market is one of the important components of that. If you’re there on Sundays you see your friends. We’re buying fruit, food, it’s a good thing to do. Why the city has not become more aggressive in trying to help I don’t really understand?”

Uhring said he remembers that when he was on the planning commission and the SMC satellite location was brought up, County officials claimed they would not impact the market. “The discussion at that point in time was ‘do we need to put this in writing?’ and somebody foolishly said, ‘no no.’ We’ve gone back to the County. They are basically not responding.”

A few weeks ago, the market set up at Legacy Park and, according to Uhring, “it worked.”

However, Legacy Park has restrictions as to how many events can be held. Uhring said the City’s CUP dictates the market can only be held on “institutional areas.” However, Uhring cited the Trancas Market concerts, saying they have been unpermitted. “I’ve never seen so many speed bumps put up on a project like for this.”

Uhring recounted bringing up assistance for the market at the last council meeting. “Karen Farrer recognized and agrees with me we should be doing something for Legacy Park.” The other council members didn’t proceed, so Uhring says he will bring up the market relocation at the next meeting. “We’ve got to help these folks out. I thought we were on a path to get it done. I was wrong.”

Bianco is asking County officials to live up to commitments they made to her, but it is unclear if those commitments are legally enforceable.

Malibu City Information Officer Matt Myerhoff told the Malibu Times that the City Manager reported to the City Council on October 10 that he explored trying to relocate the market temporarily to the City owned Chili Cook-Off lot. Unfortunately, he found out that LA County Health Department regulations prohibit a farmers’ market to be held on a dirt lot. Myerhoff wrote, “The City will continue to work with the Farmers Market to explore all options that are permissible under City code.”

“When we were at Legacy Park it was the most enjoyable Sunday we had in a long time. There was shade, the vendors and residents were happy. Our job at City Council is we’re supposed to be taking care of the residents. We’re supposed to be improving the quality of their life. When it was at Legacy Park it made people happy,” Uhring concluded.