Sunday Farmers’ Market ‘is here to stay’

| March 4, 2020 | 0 Comments

FAMILIES visit the popular weekly market on Larchmont.

Councilmember David Ryu has announced a meeting to discuss a simmering controversy concerning the Larchmont Sunday Farmers’ Market and a small playground designed to replace six of the city surface parking lot’s existing 34 spaces.

The meeting was prompted by e-mails from Windsor Square resident Gary Gilbert that generated an outpouring of concern from Market patrons and local residents.

Meeting March 14

The community meeting will take place on Sat., March 14, from 2 to 4 p.m., but as a telephone meeting, Councilmember Ryu’s staff announced on Thursday evening. To participate, dial (425) 535-9268. To submit questions, email

Controversy incited

On a morning last month (Feb. 18), many residents of our corner of Los Angeles awoke to e-mails and social media posts from a neighbor, alerting them that the existence of the Sunday Farmer’s Market is at risk. The alleged reason: the mini playground that the city has approved to take a small portion of the city’s parking lot that the Market rents on Sundays.

On Feb. 20, an article in the “Park LaBrea News” / “Beverly Press” debunked the rumor, explaining that Farmers’ Market operators just hoped — someday — to expand on Larchmont on account of their own enlarging vendor roster, but the Market absolutely is staying on Larchmont.

Here at the Larchmont Chronicle, there was evidence as early as Feb. 6 that some people were beginning to link the community-created playground project with the rumored demise of the Farmers’ Market. On that day, Hancock Park resident Megan Derry wrote to the paper (and to Councilmember Ryu), expressing disappointment over what she had heard about a play area replacing the six parking spaces.

“Here to stay”

Over the course of subsequent days, and many NextDoor posts, it became clear that much of the information being disseminated was incorrect — namely, that the Farmers’ Market is leaving, that the playground is the reason why, and that residents have not been informed.

Larry Guzin, president of the Windsor Square Association (WSA) that has spearheaded the “Playground Pilot Project” as part of the WSA’s, and others’, larger plan for the greening of Windsor Square and the surrounding community, begged to differ with the rumors.

Said Guzin, in an e-mail:  “I spoke to Rob Fisher [of the Council District 4 office] this morning [Feb. 18], and he stated there was “zero evidence” the Market was departing Larchmont, and that he had ongoing contact with the entity managing the market.”

Then, in an interview obtained by the “Larchmont Buzz” with Melissa Farwell, director of coordination and development for Raw Inspirations, the manager of the Larchmont Farmers’ Market, Farwell told the “Buzz” on Feb. 19: “We will continue to be in the Larchmont area and hope to be for decades to come.” Farwell added: “We have been working closely with the [City Council] office to ensure that the Farmers Market is in a location that works for the Farmers Market as well as the community.”

Next, on Feb. 20, Councilmember David Ryu’s office began replying to all who had been inquiring in response to Gilbert’s several e-mail alerts. Said Ryu’s chief of staff, Nicholas Greif: “We can assure you that the market is staying in the Larchmont community, and there are no plans for the market to close down or leave the Larchmont area. … Whether the market remains at its current site or shifts to a larger home on Larchmont itself, the market is here to stay.”

Gilbert continues to emphasize his disagreement with the small playground, according to numerous additional e-mails he has sent, says John H. Welborne, in his capacity for more than 20 years as Vice President for Planning and Land Use for the WSA. [Welborne also has been publisher of this newspaper since 2015.]

GARY GILBERT of Windsor Square at the March 1 Sunday Farmers’ Market.

Says Welborne: “The playground proposal, which has been in the works since late 2017, always has included the continuation of the market.”

Playground outreach

Welborne said the background on this project (and the support of the other surrounding neighborhood associations, the merchants’ Larchmont Boulevard Association and others) has been widely reported in both the “Larchmont Buzz” and the Chronicle since early 2018. “Also, the greening project details have been on the WSA’s website for two years and remain there now.”

Welborne noted that the removal of six parking spaces (and the relocation of the vendors whose tents now occupy those six parking spaces) has been known to the operator of the Farmers’ Market since the proposal’s inception. It has been widely reported that the Farmers’ Market raised no objection at that time (or subsequently, according to Caroline Moser, President of the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council (GWNC), who stated in a Feb. 19 lengthy NextDoor post:

“There were two legally noticed public hearings in June and July 2019 at the GWNC Land Use Committee and Board of Directors meetings. … [T]he operator of the Market told her liaison at the Larchmont Boulevard Association that the Market would NOT object to the proposed Playground Pilot Project. I do not believe the GWNC heard anything [to the contrary] from the Market operator at either the Land Use Committee or the Board meeting.”

First-hand reactions

On Sunday, Feb. 23, I ventured to the Farmers’ Market as I have many Sundays before it. The air was crisp and the sun was shining. People seemed genuinely happy — happy to converse with friends and neighbors, happy to taste samples, happy to ask merchants questions about the products they were so carefully vetting.

Despite their happiness, some people did express confusion. I asked vendors what they’ve heard about the impending playground and how it will affect them. They had all heard about it, save for a new vegan cheese maker (surprisingly delicious — try the black truffle), but hadn’t been told much. (They seemed to think they would be moved to another corner, squeezed in somewhere else within the parking lot’s footprint.)
I spoke with patrons too. I had read a lot of the comments made on NextDoor, and I was expecting strong opinions. But I didn’t encounter anyone who was diametrically opposed to the playground. They just wanted to hear that their Farmer’s Market was safe. I told the people I spoke with what I knew, which is that the playground was planned to exist next to the market. As the market operator and the Council Office say, the Sunday Market “is here to stay.”

SUNDAY SHOPPERS are Georgia and Lou Howe, with Louis and Byrdie (she en route to sell Girl Scout cookies across the street).

However, when asked by the Chronicle what are his current views now that his requested meeting about the Market has been scheduled, Gilbert replied, on Feb. 28, in part as follows:

“When plans to begin construction were announced, I received dozens of phone calls, asking why a children’s play space would be put in a parking lot with noxious fumes and moving cars close by, as well as how it would affect the market. It soon became clear that adequate outreach had not been done, but what was most disturbing was despite promises, there was no guarantee, nor is there at this time, that the market would remain in its current location.”

As noted, the meeting is Sat., March 14, 2 to 4 p.m.


March 13, 2020: This article has been updated to note a change in the meeting to be by telephone. 


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