|Marin Conservation League | 175 N. Redwood Dr., Ste. 135 | San Rafael CA 94903 | Tel 415.485.6257 | Fax 415.485.6259
At its May 20, 2014 Board of Directors meeting, the MCL Board expressed support for Measure B on the June ballot. The Measure would allow planning for a permanent home for the now twice-weekly, popular Farmers' Market at the Marin Civic Center.
The popular Marin Farmers’ Market has been operating on Thursdays and Sundays in the Marin Civic Center for more than 30 years. With some 230 stalls, it has grown significantly since it first opened in 1983 and is now the third largest farmers’ market in California. The Agricultural Institute of Marin (AIM) runs the market and has continued to provide an opportunity for local farmers, specialty food purveyors and artisans to connect with a community that savors seasonally fresh food. In 2008, MCL honored the Civic Center Farmers’ Market with its John M. McPhail Jr. Green Business Award for “creating a vibrant and successful local open air market.”
AIM has been looking for a permanent home for a dozen years at East Marin sites ranging from Larkspur to St. Vincent’s and Silveira Ranch. The search settled on the overflow parking lot (aka “Christmas Tree” lot) at the Civic Center several years ago, but it has taken six years for the Board of Supervisors to support placing on a ballot a measure that would allow the Board to lease and/or license the lot for use as a permanent farmers market In the meantime, land use in the area has undergone a number of changes, such as the future addition of a SMART Station in the immediate vicinity. Housing has also been proposed for the site by advocates for affordable housing, and new development in the vicinity has changed local traffic patterns.
Why a Ballot Measure?
In 1991, eighty-one acres of the Civic Center site were designated as a National Historic Landmark. At that time design guidelines were established to address the County’s responsibility with regard to the site’s unique status and to provide the County with guidance regarding potential future developments and site improvements. The Landmark site encompasses main Civic Center buildings and those parts of the Civic Center campus that are bounded by North San Pedro Road, Civic Center Drive north to Avenue of the flags, and west to U.S. 101. A Marin Civic Center Open Space Ordinance was approved in 1992 with the intent of preserving the aesthetic quality of the Frank Lloyd Wright Civic Center buildings by preventing the construction of any building (over 250 square feet and incidental to operations) on the designated campus without prior approval by a majority vote of the County electorate. The ordinance does not impede the placement of temporary structures or seasonal activities, such as for Christmas tree sales, the County Fair, or weekly farmers’ market.
The proposed site for a permanent Farmers’ Market is included within the ordinance boundaries. Thus AIM has had to engage in considerable negotiation with Supervisors even to obtain a place on the ballot. The next step is to get a simple majority of voters to approve of establishing a permanent market in the Civic Center. If Measure B is successful, AIM will face more challenges in developing a plan, designing the facility, and undergoing environmental review, a process that will lie within the jurisdiction of the Board of Supervisors, not the County Planning Commission. In the meantime, to give voters a visual sense of what a permanent market might look like, “Yes on B” materials include an “artist rendering for conceptual purposes only.” (Right)
Design for the market is in early stages awaiting voter approval of Measure B. AIM and County staff are working with the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy to ensure that the design would respect and be consistent with the landmark Civic Center building. The sustainability goal is to meet “gold” or “platinum” level LEED-certified Green Building standards.