Campbell City Council unanimously approved the two-year renewal of its contract with Urban Village Farmers' Market Association at its Tuesday night meeting, allowing the operator to continue to run the downtown Campbell Farmers' Market until Dec. 31, 2014.
Along with the renewal of services, Santa Clara County Fire Chief Kenneth Kehmna also agreed to push back the date in which the new layout of the market--booths back-to-back down the center of Campbell Avenue--reverted to something that had booths back along the sidewalks and out of the center of the street.
The move was made to accommodate downtown merchants during the holiday shopping season.
"I met with the Downtown Campbell Business Association yesterday," Kehmna said. "I’m very sensitive to that (the impact to their business). I grew up and worked in this community and am very sensitive to this downtown."
The fire chief said that during the month of December, Fire Engines 10 and 11 and the Battalion Chief out of Los Gatos will make regular trips around the farmers' market every Sunday to ensure they know the layout and set up of the streets but that this is not "sustainable" due to the extra burden it has on resources.
The issue of the farmers' market's configuration first came to Kehmna's attention when he took over as Fire Chief, he told the council on Tuesday night. The chief brought several fire trucks down Campbell Avenue on Oct. 8 to test clearances through the downtown.
"What we’re looking for is as much access for a fire apparatus through downtown Campbell as possible," he said. "Many of the buildings downtown are old, many do not have sprinklers and some are made of unreinforced masonry. It's a challenge with those types of buildings.
"In the 'race-track format' (booths down the center of the street) even if we have 12 feet on either sides, the mirrors of the fire trucks would be knocking down booths and trees and staff wouldn’t be able to get the equipment out of the vehicles."
He said that the farmers' market, in particular, was of bigger concern than annual events like Boogie on the Bayou and Oktoberfest because it takes place every Sunday of the year, rather than four days.
"Statistically, the odds were too great that something would happen," he said.
During the council meeting, 15 Campbell business owners, representatives and community members offered passionate testimony, some requesting the city postpone approval of the contract to allow for all stakeholders a chance to discuss options while others emphasizing the desire to continue to have the current farmers' market operators in Campbell.
"We want to keep both our downtown business viable and our award winning market," said Campbell Chamber of Commerce CEO Neil Collins.
He requested the city extend the contract temporarily as the market currently is configured, giving the various stakeholders time to meet and discuss other viable options.
"Our merchants are struggling and need every advantage they can get," he said. "Yes they need the foot traffic but they need the visibility as well.
Downtown Campbell business owner Celeste Flores spoke, stating that because her business Snake & Butterfly had started out as a vendor at the farmers' market and is now a storefront on Campbell Avenue, she sees the issue from both sides of the table and did not want to see the farmers' market leave Campbell.
"I’m willing to go with whatever everyone wants," she said of configuration preferences. "But we don’t think anyone should be forced to have booths in front of their shops."
Downtown Campbell Business Association President Sonya Paz was the first and last speaker of the night.
"We are not asking for the farmers' market to go away," Paz said. "Downtown merchants pay incredible rent, not $160. That should give our merchants an opportunity to be heard."