Last year, the Agricultural Institute of Marin, signed a contract with the City of Oakland that required them, for the first time, to pay a monthly fee. This year, the City’s Property Management Division was prepared to offer them a five-year extension which Jerry Barclay (the Chair of the Splash Pad/Farmers Market Advisory Committee) and I are opposing unless the contract imposes the kind of guidelines for improving the market and protecting the park that are outlined below.
INADEQUATE PARKING AVAILABILITY
“What do you like and/or dislike about the farmers market?” Ninety-five of the 529 people who answered this question, as part of the recent Grand Lake Neighbors Survey, complained about the extreme lack of parking in the immediate vicinity of the market and also throughout the commercial and residential districts. Many respondents cited this as one reason they rarely, if ever, shop the market while others noted that walking instead, limited the amount of produce they could purchase. Currently, farmers market vehicles occupy virtually every street space in the immediate vicinity of the park plus at least another thirty spaces under the freeway.
1. Require that the market management arrange for off-site parking and limit on-site parking to those who absolutely need it.
2. Implement variable parking rates on Saturdays.
3. Install more reliable pay stations.
4. Arrange for active parking enforcement on Saturdays.
5. In front of Lakeview School, install pay stations or two-hour parking on Saturdays.
On the same question, 113 of the 529 individuals, who responded, complained about crowding and many cited that as another reason they no longer attend the market.
A “slow” morning at the market. Peak
hours are between 11:00 and 2:00.
The walkways between the two rows of vendors near the freeway are
too narrow because the booths are too deep (front to back) or too
far out from the curb on one side and from the grass on the other.
1. Under the freeway overhang, make booths a maximum of 10 feet deep and push them back to the curb. The resulting 8.5 foot clearance from the tree line should be kept free of obstructions.
2. On the opposite side of the DG walkway, push booths back to the lawn – maintaining a minimum 8.5 clearance from the tree line kept free of obstructions.
3. On the asphalt roadway, maintain the existing 8 foot wide aisle in the lower section but free of obstructions including umbrellas. In the upper two sections, increase the aisle width to 10 feet free of obstructions.
4. Inside the plaza, keep entrances easily accessible; arrange booths so that lines don’t obstruct movement; provide adequate clearance.
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Surrounding sidewalks and entry points should be kept
open and free of obstructions that hinder visibility and access.
The sidewalk on the Grand Avenue side is highly problematic in that it’s the primary route for pedestrian traffic to and from Adams Point and Lake Merritt. A similar problem exists at the opposite end of the park where two crosswalks converge along with the pedestrian entrance to the parking lot under the freeway.
1. Move the two food trucks (along with their long lines) from Grand to Lake Park where pedestrian traffic is mostly farmers market related.
2. Move the Kettle Corn booth (along with its long lines) to the same area. As an added advantage, grease stains on the street will be far less problematic.
Over the past several years, many of the chairs, benches and seating walls surrounding the Plaza have been engulfed by the expanding market footprint and the same fate has befallen several landscaped beds.
1. Promptly restore access to the seating walls and street furniture.
2. Stipulate in the contract that the three landscaped beds that have been trampled and/or occupied by the market may be reclaimed at some point in the future – once the market is given adequate notice.
3. Stipulate in the contract that the areas that have thus far been designated for specific uses or reserved exclusively for the general public shall not be changed without concurrence from community stakeholders.
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INFRASTRUCTURE PROTECTION AND MAINTENANCE
The basic assumption is that the market management is responsible for leaving the park in the same condition in which they found it. This has not generally been the case during the past thirteen years. In the future, they have to do a better job of protecting the infrastructure with particular attention to the following:
The Splash Pad lawns drain very poorly and need to be heavily protected from foot traffic, display fixtures and merchandise.
1. The lawns on the freeway side of the asphalt roadway mostly look very good – which indicates that the use of sheets of plywood is effective and needs to be encouraged.
2. The lawns on the Lake Park side are very sketchy and better protective measures need to be employed. The worst sections should be given a breather and re-seeded. Management should inspect the lawns at the end of the day – looking for problems that need to be remedied.
3. City staff should ensure that sprinklers are working and properly adjusted and irrigate to the extent that drought conditions permit.
4. The lawns should be aerated and fertilized when feasible.
The newly installed DG walkway absorbs water like a sponge on rainy days and is likely to fail prematurely.
1. The market management should endeavor to protect the DG as much as possible – particularly during inclement weather.
2. Since a portion of the Christmas Tree lot occupies a portion of the DG walkway during the rainy season, the city should ask Brent to take similar precautions.
3. Public Works should recommend that its employees should do likewise.
PAVERS and WOOD DECKING
The food court in the Plaza is heavily soiled and stained with grease – as is the area where the kettle corn booth is located.
1. Non-permeable tarps have to be installed wherever food (including samples) is being prepared and served, without exception. This applies as well to grills and containers.
2. Given the amount of grease already accumulated, the market management should be required to twice annually steam clean the plaza, garbage receptacles and any other areas affected.
3. The popcorn booth should be moved to Lake Park – partially in the street where grease stains wouldn’t be an issue.
The gravel beds erode easily and, in the process, the steel edging is exposed creating a major tripping hazard. One respondent to the Grand Lake Neighbors survey noted that his wife fell last year and has not yet fully recovered.
1. Long term, this problem will have to be remedied by replacing all the gravel with a more permanent material. Recommendation is to begin by resurfacing the relatively small gravel bed that is adjacent to the new DG walkway with blue fines. This would be fairly straight-forward and inexpensive.
TRASH DISPOSAL AND CLEAN-UP
For the last decade or so, Public Works has been providing trash pick-up services – apparently free of charge. Last year, it became apparent that this service was being grossly abused as hundreds of pounds of over-ripe fruit repeatedly ended up in city trucks. On a much smaller scale, this has been an ongoing problem as vendors have repeatedly ignored requirements to haul off their own trash. This is especially disconcerting if garbage is dumped after the city crews have emptied the receptacles.
In addition, as shown in the accompanying photos, the park’s trash containers have been allowed to overflow and the Public Works crew has, at least on occasion, had to clean up the mess.
1. The city gardener, who works this area on Saturdays, should schedule Splash Pad Park as their first stop to empty the garbage cans; do a litter sweep and address any problems brought to their attention by the market management.
2. Farmers market staff should monitor the trash containers throughout the day and bag the contents before they overflow.
3. The Public Works crew that now picks up trash just before the market closes should arrive a bit later, if that’s feasible.
4. At the end of the day, market staff should be required to…
- inspect for damage throughout the park with particular attention to food stains and turf condition.
- do a litter pick-up.
- replace the bollards at both ends of the asphalt roadway before leaving.
- haul off trash placed in the garbage cans after the city crew has departed. Due to a severe rat infestation in the park, this is critically important.
- inspect the trash receptacles to ensure that all vendors are hauling off what they bring in.
- ensure that each vendor has thoroughly cleaned his or her space and its immediate perimeter.
The number of unlicensed vendors selling on the periphery of the market (including a short section of park land in the shadow of the freeway) has grown exponentially over the past several years. Not everyone is aware that these sellers are totally independent of the farmers market.
1. All the stakeholders (including the market management) should be involved in working out a policy.
2. The one action that should be taken is to ban all vendors selling food and/or beverages – particularly if it’s likely coming from an unlicensed home kitchen.
1. A community group chosen at the discretion of Councilmember Guillen should continue serving in an advisory capacity and a city staff person should be appointed to serve as the group’s liaison.
2. Violations of the provisions of the contract with the city must have consequences.
1. Considering the long term lack of support from the current management – combined with our limited expectations for future improvements, we’d recommend that the city issue an RFP inviting other market operators to submit bids. We’d also consider organizing a community non-profit for this purpose that would ensure more local participation and be able to pour some of the proceeds into Splash Pad Park improvements – as well as contribute more financially to the City of Oakland.
2. If the city balks at issuing an RFP at this time, we’re highly opposed to a five-year lease. A one-year lease would be the more acceptable option with the understanding that the city would issue an RFP after six months if AIM is not making adequate progress towards addressing our many concerns.