DOWNEY - Hoping to encourage growth and increase visibility, the City Council narrowly approved a three-month relocation of Downey's farmers market, which will be moved from Second Street to Downey Avenue next month.In a 3-2 vote on Tuesday, Councilmen Mario Guerra, Roger Brossmer and Luis Marquez voted in favor of the move to Downey Avenue, which will be shut down every Saturday from Firestone Boulevard to Second Street, while Mayor Anne Bayer and Councilman David Gafin opposed the change. "It's a major inconvenience," said Gafin prior to the vote. "I would rather see the market expanded on the side streets as opposed to shutting down major streets." Brossmer agreed that the move could produce some inconvenience, but argued that a brief trial period was the only way to confirm that. "The farmers market was a great addition to our city, but it is a little hidden," said Brossmer. "You can literally get close to the farmers market and never see it. I'm in favor of doing a three-month trial and if it works, great." Established by the City Council on Feb. 12, 2008, the Downey farmers market opened two years ago on Second Street between New Street and La Reina Avenue. Starting with just 25 vendors, the market has quickly expanded to 30-35 regular vendors each week. According to a city staff report, despite a slow economy, market sales have remained relatively unchanged over the past 12 months. In January, the City Council requested an opportunity to revisit the location of the farmers market, hoping to increase its visibility and attract more patrons to the growing market. "It's a part of the plan to bring more people to the downtown," said Guerra. "The farmers market needs to be on Downey Avenue. If we're going to do this then let's get it right - it needs to be done." Mayor Pro Tem Marquez echoed Guerra's comments, confident that relocating the market could also attract new customers for the many businesses and restaurants on Downey Avenue. In order to determine the potential impact the change would have on traffic and local businesses, the city collected Saturday traffic counts over two weekends. According to the city report, the street closure would affect nearly 5,000 vehicles that travel through the downtown area on Saturdays from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. In addition, city staff asked business owners in the vicinity how they might be impacted if the market was relocated. Out of the nearly 50 businesses polled, 74 percent were in favor or neutral with regard to moving the market while 26 percent were against the move, concerned about parking, accessibility and noise. Prior to the vote, Bob Udoff, building manager for Miller-Mies Mortuary, made his case against the move. "If you do this, you'll be causing a tremendous problem," said Udoff, concerned that the street closure might block the mortuary's Downey Avenue entrance. "Are you going tell people having a funeral that they cannot exit on Downey Avenue? - don't put this market on Downey Avenue." Conversely, Downey Chamber of Commerce President Robert Zavala praised the relocation, hopeful that the move will help increase foot traffic in the downtown area. "I enjoy the farmers market, but I get the feeling that we're on a back street," said Zavala who owns Freedom Vacations, a travel agency on Downey Avenue. "I support moving it to Downey Avenue - it's a win-win situation." According to the city report, about four weeks lead-time is required to facilitate the market's move.
********** Published: April 16, 2010 - Volume 8 - Issue 52