September 1

Controversy over farmers market draws big crowd



A packed house turned out Tuesday night at the Good Shepherd Center to talk about the past, present and future of the Wallingford Farmers Market.  Organizers had to bring out extra chairs as about 75 people filled the meeting room for a spirited but respectful discussion.

Spirited discussion on the Wallingford Farmers Market

While the meeting was supposed to mainly focus on finding a future site for the market, the discussion was dominated by talk about the failed attempt to expand the market onto Wallingford Avenue. 

“This whole process went forward without any input from the businesses,” said Dr. Viola Gay, an optometrist on Wallingford Ave.  “We had no seat at the table.”

The Chamber of Commerce hoped to end this year’s season by expanding the market from the parking lot behind Wallingford Center to the east side of the street along Wallingford Avenue between 44th and 45th (as seen in the map below).  But several businesses along Wallingford Ave. complained loudly once they got word of the plan– a plan some of them claim was never communicated to them.    

“I didn’t know anything until the last minute.  If not for the rumor mill I wouldn’t know anything at all,” said one business employee.

The Wallingford Farmers Market: Red = where the market has been located in the past; Green=where the market has been thus far this year; Yellow=the plaza area, available for performances and community gathering; Blue=proposed expansion site on Wallingford Ave. that was scrapped. 

Chamber officials say a lot of information on the proposed move had been available since this past spring and that they made every effort to contact business that would be impacted.

While the majority of people who spoke last night opposed the expansion onto Wallingford Avenue, one business owner received some applause after talking about her positive experiences with the market.  Colleen Kurke, who owns Cutz Meridian Salon and who sits on the Chamber board, said she’s seen more customers after taking flyers to the market site.  In fact, several business owners who opposed the expansion onto Wallingford Avenue say they fully support the market in a location that won’t negatively impact things like parking, deliveries, and safety.

In a surprise announcement, a representative from Wallingford Center said she’s still open to bringing the market back to the current site next year if parking issues can be addressed.  She wants customers to have convenient access to the building.

“We’d like to mutually co-exist,” said Amy Singer, building manager for Wallingford Center.

But many people believe the market has to move to stay alive.  On top of Wallingford Center asking for its parking spaces back, the site may simply be too small to stay financially viable.  At the end of the meeting, audience members threw out several ideas for new sites for the market including:

  • behind Lincoln High School
  • McDonald School
  • north side of Wallingford Playfield
  • Good Shepherd Center
  • parking lot behind Dick’s Drive-In
  • Gas Works Park parking lot
  • 46th between Stone Way and Interlake
  • St Benedict School

A representative from the city’s Office of Economic Development said he’d look over the pros and cons of each suggested site and return for another community meeting in the next month or two.  Any location would have to meet several requirements (room for emergency vehicles, non-arterial, etc) as well as gain the support of at least 80% of surrounding residents or businesses, something that didn’t happen with merchants on Wallingford Avenue.

Chamber president Kara Ceriello fears the Farmers Market Association will give up on Wallingford, but she’s still hoping to find a solution.

 “I still believe very much in this.  I’d like to think we can find some kind of happy compromise,” said Ceriello.

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  1. The Meridian School is located within the Good Shepherd Center, so a weekday farmer's market would be problematic at that site. Access to the main parking lot is needed for picking up children in the after school program, and the vendors would probably have to wait until 3:45 to begin set up (school lets out at 3:15, and there is the predictable traffic jam.).

    This would not be a problem for a Saturday or Sunday market, but then there would be conflicts with the nearby U-District and Fremont markets.

  2. I got a pair of glasses from Viola Gay, and a farmers' market wouldn't keep me from parking or going in the store. Her opposition makes me hesitate, though. How can a farmers market be controversial?
    The businesses there are struggling, instead of hiding the market (I forget it's there even as I drive by) they should be glad to have people stop by the neighborhood instead of just parking at the QFC. (Perhaps QFC felt their anemic vegies were threatened?)
    Next time I'll get my glasses somewhere else. When I support a neighborhood business, I expect the business to support the neighborhood too.

  3. If the site ends up on 46th between Stone Way and Interlake Ave N, I hope there will be some community support behind replacing the decrepid traffic circle at the intersection of Interlake and 46th, something I've tried to do through the city, but with, obviously, no results. This is hands-down the worst traffic circle in the city, the perimiter of which loses large chunks during freezes and thaws, and which has a weed the size of a small house growing in its center. If you want the support of the neighbors, this issue is a MUST.

  4. Those little business have valid concerns the general non-little-store-owning people know nothing about. They weren't told of the proposed relocation of a rent-free “faire” (someone else's small business that charges the vendors to participate) to across from where they make their (small, I assume) livelihoods. Please get your glasses from Viola Gay and help find a really good fit for the market. Enjoy small businesses while you can; their rents are high and they have to add almost 10% to any purchase, tough playing field.

  5. I think the limitation with school lots is that they would have to have the market on the weekend so as not to conflict with school hours. Or, shorten the market to summer break only, I suppose.

  6. Just so everyone is aware there are a number of considerations that have to go into the site for the Farmer's Market. The Chamber of Commerce was involved for over 6 months in coming up with the compromise to move the market onto Wallingford. It is unfortunate that near the end of this compromise information on what was happening did not get clearly communicated to the businesses on Wallingford Avenue. Some of those businesses did have earlier notice on the proposal, and the folks who run the market did make efforts to address their concerns.

    For the record, here are some of the criteria that go into selection for a site for the market:

    1) There needs to be room for 30-35 vendors to be viable, so smaller locations such as Archie McPhee’s parking lot are out.

    2) There needs to be a 20 foot fire lane, so smaller residential streets are out.

    3) To get approval from SDOT (Seattle Dept. of Transportation) for use of a street requires 75%+ of residents/businesses on the street to agree – so you may want it on your street, but do a majority of your neighbors? Thus, most of the larger residential side streets are out. (Live on a large residential street? Bring a petition with 75% of the residents agreeing to it to the meeting! Good Luck with that )

    4) Most of the parks in the area present load in/out problems for vendors, who need easy access to their booth space. Not to mention that means dealing with the Park Dept. as well as SDOT. Gasworks is possible, but there is a strong desire to keep the market in/near the center of Wallingford.

    5) Moving the market to a weekend to minimize impact to area businesses. A possibility; however, due to the proliferation of weekend markets, there is a real question about getting enough vendors to fill it, not to mention the competition with other markets. Many residents have commented they like a mid-week market because they shop other markets on the weekend (U-district, Ballard), and then use the mid-week market to fill in during the week.

    6) Use the Lincoln High School parking lot – good suggestion, but it would most likely mean moving the market to a weekend (see #5) to a accommodate the school schedule. Not to mention then having to deal with Seattle Public Schools.

    Jon deLeeuw
    co-owner Not A Number Cards & Gifts
    Wallingford Community Council Vice-President

  7. Thanks for the post Jon deLeeuw,
    Some folks are finally getting around to asking about some who, what, where, when, why . . .
    1) Viable for whom? Whose for-profit business is the Wallingford Farmer's Market (and others?)? Do they only set-up “shop” in rent-free spaces?
    2) What do individual vendors (farmers) pay to participate?
    3) What are operating costs for market organizers?
    4) My wide block might go for it, actually, so “Good Luck with that” (also printed in Wallyhood by Chris Witwer) pessimistic, seems like careless writing;
    5) To avoid load-in, load-out, the best space will have room for vendor vehicles on site. It makes for much easier set-up and take-down and fresher produce;
    6) What if mid-week was Thursday at either St.Benedict's or Mosaic?
    7) What does “having to deal with Seattle Public Schools” mean?
    8) Please use your role as business owner and VP of the WCC to urge people to solve this problem and both not boycott but support the businesses who were voicing legitimate concerns and do something to calm the outraged yellers.


  8. Wow, 20 foot fire land plus room is WIDE! So embrace the spirit of 4) but ignore the possible site . . . sorry (careless writing!!!).

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