Passionate vendors, founders attend City Council to advocate for the Malibu Farmers Market 

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Malibu Farmers Market Director Deb Bianco speaks for keeping the market in Legacy Park, in front of City Council on Monday, Nov. 28. Photo by Samantha Bravo/TMT.

Councilmember Silverstein receives minimal support to bring back the local emergency addressing PCH safety 

Vendors, farmers, and long-time residents who enjoy the Malibu Farmers Market attended Monday night’s meeting to advocate for its stay at Legacy Park. 

The license agreement issued by LA County to Cornucopia expired on Dec. 30, 2022, and Cornucopia has since been operating its weekly farmers’ market on the City of Malibu-owned Legacy Park, adjacent to the County Parking Lot, under a Temporary Use Permit (TUP) issued to Cornucopia by the City of Malibu.

Debra Bianco, co-founder of The Cornucopia Foundation, was among the members of the public speaking at the meeting to urge the city to keep the market at Legacy Park.

“We served you during the fires, when the smoke was out, our vendors were there,” Bianco said. “We can’t go back there [Malibu Library Parking lot], we don’t have enough space.”

The farmers market is a tradition for many residents, and visitors and vendors say it’s a place where they can support sustainable agriculture.

“It is a very lovely event that happens in our community every week, it’s a gathering of people, it’s a very soulful, beautiful reality that I have not seen elsewhere in this community,” John G. said at the meeting. “People are admiring that park; it’s not anything like it, and it’s not replaceable, but that park and that spirit of what happens there and it’s very real, and if you go there, you will absolutely feel it. You [City Council] have the power to sustain that and I hope that you do.” 

Speakers shared their concerns with the unhoused individuals living at the park, saying they’re afraid to go into the park. 

“Finally, for the first time since the purchase, people are falling in love with it solely due to the farmers market,” speaker Anne said. “Residents had to fight to keep their farmers market open for over a decade, everyone is burned out, it should not be a fight, we’re begging if we could work this out.”

Former mayor Jefferson “Zuma Jay” Wagner also shared his support for the farmers market.

“As you can see by how many people came this evening, this is a real asset to the community, it brings the community together,” Wagner said. “I know you folks can figure it out; you have the capability; there are five wise people up there; make it happen for your community.”

Organizers started a Facebook account titled “Transparency Malibu,” with documents, videos, and over 30 letters submitted to the city to keep the Malibu Farmer Market at Legacy Park. 

Bianco said the market was fined $6,000 for public health violations.

“When the city fines Nobu for partially closing PCH, they get a fine and that’s it; it’s like nothing happened,” Bianco said. “We’re not blocking traffic, and we’re getting charged more.”

In addition to the fine, Bianco said the Board of Health will not allow new vendors to sell in their market and said the person who needs to approve it is the city manager. 

After public comment, City Manager Steve McClary responded to the comments made about the farmers market. 

“Nobody from the city or city staff is trying to harm the market or stop the market from operating in any way shape or form,” he said. “I myself have been to the market on several occasions and I agree that the setting that it’s at right now is beloved by all and it makes a great spot for the market. I don’t think anyone is denying that at all, and I also want to point out that the city has put a lot of efforts to work with the market and assist the market.”

McClary said the city has tried to help the market by waving fees, which totaled over $34,000 to date. 

“The issues with Legacy Park is the deed restrictions that are placed on it, as well as the zoning of the property as well,” he said. 

McClary said they’ve been very responsive but have not been hearing back from the organizer. 

“We’re more than willing to work with the market and the organizer to find any type of solution that we can, but as I explained, the issue is with the deed restriction and the zoning on the property,” he said. 

Sheriff’s Sgt. Chris Soderlund provided a brief report on traffic and speeding and said with the increase in enforcement, the department issued 120 citations, 10 arrests, and towed 10 vehicles. 

Soderlund said they arrested two 20-year-olds racing on PCH and Topanga Canyon. 

“The driver of the Corvette had rented the vehicle an hour and a half prior and came out to Malibu,” Soderlund said. “Both those vehicles were impounded for 30 days and they were arrested for reckless driving.”

Councilmember Bruce Silverstein asked for a consensus to bring back the declaration on the local emergency to address PCH safety the city issued after the fatal incident on Oct. 17.

On Nov. 13, the Malibu City Council declared a Local Emergency, aimed at addressing the risks to public safety of dangerous, illegal, reckless, and/or distracted driving on Pacific Coast Highway in the city. The action was in response to the tragic deaths of four Pepperdine students who were struck by parked cars hit by a speeding motorist on PCH.

Parents of the victims spoke during public comment and asked the council to continue their efforts to make PCH safe.

“They’re advocating this too, and we owe it to them, we owe it to our residents, we owe it to the people who visit this city,” Silverstein said. 

Mayor Steve Uhring was the only other council member who supported the consensus.

“I’m disappointed with my fellow council people; we said at the PCH Taskforce meeting since those four girls died on PCH, we committed to do anything and everything we could to make PCH safe; our job is to make it safe,” Uhring said. “Whether Bruce’s recommendations is going to help us solve that, I don’t know, but I think it’s criminal for us not to try.”

To view the rest of the items addressed in the meeting, visit https://www.malibucity.org/AgendaCenter/ViewFile/Item/6396?fileID=55597.

The next City Council meeting is scheduled for Dec. 11 at the Council Chambers.