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Campbell Farmers' Market: 14 Years Without a Permit

The Santa Clara County Fire Department begins discussion with the various stakeholders about the possibility of changing the downtown Campbell Farmers' Market back to its original layout.

 

The quest to change the layout of the downtown Campbell Farmers' Market first began in March and was a passionate one. Following much debate, market organizers gave into the requests of downtown merchants and after 14 years, the market changed its look.

The much-anticipated change was noticed by everyone: farmers' market customers, vendors, organizers, downtown merchants, and most recently, the Santa Clara County Fire Department.

Now, after a close examination of the changed market, and after an actual caravan of fire trucks lumbered through the market location to test clearances, County Fire Department officials may suggest going back to the original layout.

In Campbell, the process for any event that will take place on a local street requires a permit - obtained from the fire department - for safety reasons. Annual events, such as Boogie on the Bayou and last weekend's Oktoberfest secure a permit every year.

Surprisingly, when they looked, fire department officials were unable to find a permit on file for the 14-year-old Campbell Farmers' Market.

“What brought a lot of this to the forefront is not only were they changing the format but we expected a permit process,” said Santa Clara County Fire Department spokesperson Dirk Mattern.

Campbell Project Manager Francine Principe confirmed that the market did not have a permit filed with either the city or the fire department.

"There was a permit required at the time," Principe said. "If it was submitted, no one knows where it is. We are working on it now."

The downtown farmers' market first came to Campbell in 1998, at a time when the downtown was “nothing like it is currently,” she said. In the original market layout, fire trucks could safely and easily drive through the middle of Campbell Avenue, so the issue never came up.

“The concern with respect to festival setups is that originally they would set up their booths along the curb line, so driving down the center of the street was never a problem for us,” Mattern said. “But then when some of the other annual festivals started lining the booths up the middle of the street in a back-to-back format, and the farmers market did the same, it caused us to look at it again, and that’s kind of a problem.”

Just one week ago - on Monday,October 8 - the Santa Clara County Fire Department drove several of its large fire vehicles through the downtown in an exercise to demonstrate to downtown merchants, the Campbell Chamber of Commerce and officials of the city of Campbell what a real-life rescue scenario would be like. And although the fit was tight, the trucks were able to get through safely.

The exercise, however, was done while the streets were unobstructed. On a farmers' market Sunday or during a festival, things could get a little choppy.

“We can’t drive down the side of those booths because it's very narrow, not to mention the street trees that are in the way,” Mattern said. “Certainly, we know that we can provide the service now but what it boils it down to, if we have to move booths, it takes more time to deal with them. It really isn’t as efficient as we’d like to have it. We would like to have unencumbered access.”

“Both layouts provide adequate access,” responded Campbell Chamber of Commerce CEO Neil Collins. “The exercise on Monday was to get the physical trucks into Campbell, with particularly two areas of concern. If there was a fire, how they would go about putting out that fire. It was more of a conversation on workspace.

The East end of Campbell Avenue is the oldest part of the downtown and many of the buildings there do not have fire sprinklers, Mattern said.

“No decisions were made but the fire department will bring back two or three different recommendations and present them to the Campbell Police Department, the chamber, the downtown association and stakeholders to discuss the longer plan,” Collins said. “I appreciate the opportunity to go through the exercise and be presented with options rather than being told what to do.”

Campbell Police Chief Greg Finch facilitated a Monday morning meeting after the demonstration.

The city of Campbell, downtown association members, members of the Campbell Chamber of Commerce and the fire department met to discuss alternative layouts that would allow for better access during festivals and the farmers’ market.

“We want to explore the idea of going back to the original layout,” Mattern said. “We are looking for something to be a general layout for all festivals and the farmers' market.”

The permit process begins with the organizer working with Mattern, submitting a plan that would include the layout of the booths. If the event is a festival, the fire department wants to know where the cooking booths, artisan booths, stages, etc. will be located.

“For instance, for the fire safety of the booths themselves we want to make sure cooking booths are separated from the non-cooking booths so that if there’s a fire, it won’t spread," he said.

Downtown Campbell farmers' market organizers Urban Village did not return our call for a comment.

“What I would like to get with them, once we decide on the layout, is an ongoing, annual permit that would be issued.”

You can check out our coverage of the ongoing issue here.

Deb R October 15, 2012 at 07:45 PM
I love the new layout, as well, Colleen - both as a consumer and a DTC merchant. It is, by far, more pleasing from an aesthetic stand point, and it has made a huge difference in exposure for my boutique and many others along the avenue.
Deb R October 15, 2012 at 08:24 PM
Of course, we want our farmers market and festivals to be safe for patrons, vendors and merchants alike. That said, if this drive through and meeting happened last Monday, I am not sure I understand how it is not deemed safe to have the current farmers market layout, yet, it was deemed safe for Oktoberfest (this past weekend) to have the same configuration. What I can say for sure, as a Downtown Campbell merchant, is that the new farmers market layout has made a huge difference in exposure and business on Sundays (for my store and several others) - we have had several people come in to the store on Sundays (since the new layout has been in place) and ask if we are a new boutique. I have had a brick & mortar establishment in Downtown Campbell for nearly twelve years (5 years in my current location) and these frequent farmers market goers had no idea my business existed until the new layout was established. My business was hurt by the previous farmers market layout and it would be greatly detrimental to me, should the layout be changed to the prior configuration. I have to believe that something can be worked out to satisfy all parties, without replacing the old layout and, basically, throwing Downtown Campbell merchants under the bus. If we are welcoming events such as farmers market for our community members, to close our streets for one day every weekend, the least we should expect is equal exposure to the community who shops.
patricia January 10, 2013 at 08:09 PM
I didn't know that the stores were open on Sunday, haven't been in a long while, but it makes perfect sense that fire trucks should be able to access the area in case of fire and it they can't and a business or businesses (buildings burn) who would be the first to sue the city. Have some common sense folks, we must provide access for fire trucks.
patricia January 10, 2013 at 08:22 PM
I can't help but add: As a retired property insurance claim's adjuster (37 yrs in the business), the worst heartaches I ever saw were owners sifting through blackened charred remains of buildings for a few precious items. Bar B Q's and lit candles catching linens on fire were at fault for many of the fires, not to mention grease in pots left unattended "for just a minute". And mice nesting behind refrigerators (chewing through wiring was also a noted cause). Think of Safety and Prevention first.
Deb R January 11, 2013 at 01:17 AM
I agree that safety comes first. Absolutely. As unfortunate as it was to have to change the format (that was so much more pleasing, aesthetically, and worked so well for so many) again, the safety factor was understood. I feel the frustrations were more about how the market layout would be reconfigured to be beneficial to all parties involved (including the downtown merchants who definitely have skin in the game). I haven't, personally, heard anyone suggest that market-goers/customers/vendors/merchants should be put in harms way. P.S. Could the reason you didn't realize the stores were open on Sundays be due to the fact that, for so many years, they were blocked from your vision by market booths? Top-dollar rent paying merchants simply wish to be seen - asking equal exposure to that of the farmers market vendors.

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