Rancho Santa Fe Association board postpones decision on proposed farmers market


By Karen Billing

Efforts to find a suitable street on Saturdays for a Rancho Santa Fe farmers market led planners to try for Avenida de Acacias, but as the RSF Association board learned at its Dec. 5 meeting, that would displace a classic car club that has met on the road every Saturday for the last four years.

Janet Lawless Christ, the RSF resident who has been tirelessly spearheading the market effort, was asked last month to move the proposed location from La Gracia after learning market stalls could not be set up in the designated open space of the village parks.

After hearing from members of the Secret Car Club at the Dec. 5 meeting that they did not want to be displaced — and not hearing much in favor of the farmers market — the RSF Association board came close to completely denying the market, even on a temporary basis.

RSF Association Board President Ann Boon said they would give the market one more month to gather more community input and perhaps find a way to make it work (such as move it to the Christian Science Church parking lot, if possible, or try to hold it on Sundays instead) before the board makes a decision.

RSF Association Director Heather Slosar said she would feel better about the market being in a parking lot as she doesn’t like the idea of closing down a road in town or displacing the car club.

The club brings classic cars to the village from 9 a.m. to noon, where the market proposes a 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. time slot, plus an hour needed to set up the market and an hour needed to take it down.

The Secret Car Club’s organizer Chris Erickson said the club has built a very loyal following, bringing in both locals and people from outside the community.

“It would be a real shame to change this and have the farmers market in at the exact same time in the exact same location,” Erickson said. “The Secret Car Club is not against the farmers market but we bring something that doesn’t have to be maintained and people are spending money in the community.”

As resident and car club member Will Headapohl said, “it’s not really a secret and it’s not really a club.”

“It touches people beyond what you would expect,” Headapohl said, telling the story of his teenage son, Hunter, who started taking an interest in the weekend club.

With advice from Secret Car Club membership, his son bought a 1971 Land Rover and took the car apart and put it back together, now driving it to and from school.

“He’s gotten a lot out of it and it’s been a great thing,” Headapohl said. “I wish there was a way to work it out so both could work, there’s a dearth of things to do in downtown Rancho Santa Fe on Saturdays.”

Additional concerns about the market involved security and basic logistics. Steve Royce, the manager of several buildings in Rancho Santa Fe, shared his insights on farmers markets as he also manages a building in Solana Beach across from the farmers market on Cedros. He said he likes the idea of the markets but there have been issues with not enough trash receptacles and restroom facilities.

Somewhat surprising to the board, Bill McNally, a resident and business owner, spoke out against the market.

“I think farmers markets are fine but I think one in the Ranch is redundant and unnecessary,” McNally said. “It’s a waste of time, money, energy and none of the merchants thinks it will bring any activity into our shops.”

In response to McNally’s remarks, RSF Association Director Larry Spitcaufsky said he always asks, if you think it won’t help you, will it hurt you? He reminded the board — as Christ has stated — that the farmers market could always be stopped at any time if it’s not working.

Many of the board members expressed being ambivalent toward the market, especially after hearing from McNally that the vendors did not want it since one of the main reasons for a market initially was to get more support for village businesses.

“I really feel our role as board members is to reflect the interests of the community,” Rochelle Putnam said. “In absence of a strong community sentiment in favor of it, I’m ambivalent toward it and perhaps a bit more negative.”

“I’m not getting the feeling that this thing really has a reason,” said RSF Association Director Craig McAllister.

Christ said that while she may not have had backers at the meeting that day, there is support for the market.

“I know in my heart and in my brain that what Mr. McNally said was not accurate,” Christ said, encouraging the board not to flat-out reject the market. “Don’t let this be the end.”

She will have a month to get the market to a place where there are no zoning ordinances, no clubs meeting, and to present the community support she needs to help the board approve the market.