HomeTop StoriesSan Francisco moves popular farmers' market from UN Plaza

San Francisco moves popular farmers’ market from UN Plaza

SAN FRANCISCO — With all the talk of homelessness, drug addiction, and “doom loops” in San Francisco, there is at least one very popular bright spot — the weekly farmers’ market at UN Plaza. Now even that is facing unwanted changes.

The elegant stone-lined beauty of United Nations Plaza has changed in recent years. Now it has become a hangout for the homeless and drug addicts most days. But one day a week, the atmosphere changes thanks to the Sunday farmer’s market.

“I mean, this market was built on the principle that this was a food desert. There was no full-service grocery store and from day one we had a line of people in this neighborhood waiting to buy fresh produce,” said Steve. Pulliam, executive director of Heart of the City Farmers’ Market.

The presence of so many people discourages the restless element from congregating and officials have noticed. They asked if the market could be open seven days a week, but when it couldn’t, the city quietly developed a plan to relocate the farmers. Instead, the plaza will soon feature a public recreation area for skateboarding and pickleball with Teqball courts and ping pong and chess tables.

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“What we’ve been told is that it’s an experimental pilot project to try to improve conditions at UN Plaza,” Pulliam said. “We’ve been told if it doesn’t work, if it doesn’t work, they’ll put the bricks back and we can come back to the square. We have our doubts about that, but that’s what we’ve been told.”

As for the farmers? They are moved to the parking lot on Folsom, across from UN Plaza, but they are not happy about it. They say the space customers are currently using to park in the market is smaller and there are no tents or space for their work trucks of the same size.

That would make a difference for Morgan Hill farmer Tony Mellow. He has been offering a variety of products since the first day the market opened in 1981. He does not see it in displacing the peasants because of the actions of others.

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“Isn’t it normal to leave something that is there?” Mellow asked. “And do it where they want us to go. Put their little park for skateboards and stuff there.’

Customer Ramon Zaniba agrees. He thinks the city is looking for an easy way out, rather than addressing the real problem.

“Why add another element – a skate park and so on? Why not leave this as it is and help those who need help instead of trying to move them to nowhere?” Zaniba said.

The farmers ask the public to speak out, but they realize it’s probably a foregone conclusion. Demolition of a statue in the Folsom Street parking lot has already begun, and farmer Ken Phan is trying to be open to the move.

“More customers? Maybe? Maybe we’re busier, who knows?” he said. “So this can be pro and con. We’ll see. I don’t know yet. For now, we’ll just have to do it and work together.”

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Pulliam said even if current farmers can squeeze into the new space, it will eliminate the possibility of growth, meaning the market will never fully recover from the pandemic. He said when they decided not to fight the plan, the city portrayed them as supporters of it. So, Pulliam said, he won’t be attending a public meeting on Monday because he doesn’t want to be seen as endorsing a plan that’s being forced on them.

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