Attendance for the Splash Pad Farmers Market Advisory Committee meeting on June 19th was less than I would have hoped — but the meeting was quite productive, nonetheless. Group Chair, Jerry Barclay shared his concerns over the terms of the proposed contract with the city that would specify a one-time, $30,000 payment to the City of Oakland for the resurfacing of the decomposed granite walkway that traverses the park. His concerns are two-fold. Number one, that nothing in the contract specifically guarantees that the city will use it for that purpose. Number two, that the $30,000 is likely insufficient to actually do this work. His position is that the original encroachment permit with the city (which is still in force) mandates that the market management (the Agricultural Institute of Marin) is obligated to repair any and all damages incurred on market days and the city should be enforcing those terms.

While I wholly support Jerry’s stance, I have two additional concerns. One is over the amount AIM has agreed to pay as a monthly fee. The negotiator representing AIM said all they could afford to pay is $800. Taking into account the average number of exhibitors and the amount each pays for their booth fees, AIM can and should pay more. It makes no sense to me that any and all profits from our Grand Lake Market should be helping to subsidize an educational center and covered market in Marin while Oakland struggles to fund anything close to adequate staffing for basic services.

My other focus is on the extent to which the footprint of the market has increased over time — creating excessive congestion, blocking access to the built-in seating and, in general, leaving less and less room for people — particularly in the plaza where people have traditionally gathered.

The good news is that Chris Blackburn, the Market Manager has heard our concerns and is attempting to resolve some of them. A janitorial service is hopefully steam-cleaning the plaza within the next two weeks. Chris has moved Bicycle Coffee out of the area that had traditionally served as the Plaza Stage and, in cooperation with our assigned city gardener, is planning to reseed the most heavily worn sections of the lawn. Nonetheless, if top management is insisting that he maximize profits, there’s a limit to what he can accomplish.

Either way, at this point, the ball is back in the hands of the Oakland City Administrator’s office and I haven’t a clue as to what the end result will be.