ANC 6B Set to Consider Eastern Flea Market Next Tuesday – Planning and Zoning Committee Rejects Compromise Language
by Larry Janezich
Last night, ANC6B’s Planning and Zoning Committee rejected a compromise resolution supporting the weekend closure of the 300 block of 7th Street explicitly for the current flea market operators (Michael Berman and Carole Wright) during the construction of the Hine project. The resolution made relocation of the markets to 7th Street contingent on a contract with the Department of General Services (DGS) and provided that revenue accruing to the city from the contract will go to support Eastern Market. The vote was 3 to 5, with Commissioners Pate, Frishberg, and Flahaven voting aye. Commissioners Oldenburg, Garrison, Metzger, Green, and Critchfield voted nay.
The language was an attempt to resolve the struggle over control of the weekend flea markets. EMCAC, the oversight board for Eastern Market, has long eyed the tens of thousands of dollars vendors pay flea market operators as a source of operating funds for the perpetually cash-strapped Eastern Market. On the other hand, the current flea market operators do not want to lose control of their lucrative source of income from their businesses by being forced to play a subsidiary role in the management of the flea markets. EMCAC has supported closing the street for the weekend flea markets by mayoral order which would put the vendors under DGS and the Eastern Market manager; the flea market managers have requested that the street be closed via a special event permit, placing the flea markets under their control.
Commissioner Brian Pate crafted the compromise language on Monday and unveiled it at Tuesday night’s meeting. It differed substantially from proposed language circulated by Commissioner Frishberg on Sunday. That earlier language recommended the closure of the block by mayoral order during the construction phase of the Hine project – and possibly afterward – as a market place for vending. The Frishberg draft resolution stated, “Such market activities should be coordinated with the management of Eastern Market and should contribute to the financial security of the market.” It also requested closure of the street until the mayor’s order is amended or ended, thus providing for closure to continue after construction is complete. It would have put the block and the market operations under the Department of General Services (DGS) and its manager for the Eastern Market, but did not specifically refer to a role for the current flea market operators. The difference between the two resolutions seemed primarily one of defining a role for the current flea market operators, Berman and Wright and laying out some of the contractual conditions.
Judging from comments of the commissioners who attended the Planning and Zoning meeting, the Frishberg language might have passed. Since Sunday, however, it appears that Pate, cognizant both of the grassroots support for the flea market operators and of EMCAC’s appeal to guarantee the long-term sustainability of Eastern Market, drafted the new language in an attempt to protect the two market managers while ensuring that Eastern Market benefits from the relocated operation. At Tuesday night’s meeting, the new language received the tacit endorsement of flea market operator Michael Berman. EMCAC Chair Donna Scheeder stated that the Eastern Market manager and DGS are prepared to extend their responsibility to the 300 block of 7th Street. The several commissioners opposed were not so ready to jump aboard the train, and cited their unhappiness with specifying the two flea market operators and the inclusion of language detailing the nature of the potential contract with DGS as reasons for their opposition. Critchfield cited technical rather than substantive reasons for his opposition. The position of absent ANC commissioners Campbell and Glick on the language is not known.
Frishberg supported the new language saying that “the city has exhibited no leadership on this” and noted “there hasn’t been anything out of the Wilson Building. I don’t see any leadership on Eastern Market at all – I see the opposite.”
Councilmember Wells’ legislation to provide a new Eastern Market managing structure and to consolidate the weekend flea markets under control of Eastern Market remains in limbo. Last night, Pate said it was his opinion that the bill was “stagnated, if not dead and politicized as part of the future mayoral race. In my opinion, the there’s not a chance of an ice cube in Hades” the bill will become law.
Asked subsequently to assess the prospects for the legislation, Wells said on August 27, “The Gray administration has not stated an intention to end managing the market. Most agree that DGS (Department of General Services) through Barry Margeson is doing a good job. I am setting up a meeting with the Mayor and DGS to determine if the city wishes to continue to manage the market for the foreseeable future. This will determine the need and timing of the legislation, which I believe is the best solution in the long run for preserving Eastern Market.”
Asked whether he had stated support for either of the two competing options, Wells replied, “I could support either petitioning the Mayor to close lower 7th or applying for a special permit. Both have pluses and minuses.” He added, “I believe DGS should be responsible for the flea markets operating on 7th since it is an ongoing activity and DGS has experience in property management.”
Steve Holtzman, Pate’s ANC 6B opponent in the fall election and community representative on the Hine Subcommittee Open Space Task Force said, “The closure of the 300 block of 7th Street seems the only viable option to permit the flea markets to survive during the construction period on Hine, so I’m supportive of the objective of the proposed ANC resolution. That being said, some of the language needs more clarification, for example, on the manner in which the flea markets are anticipated to provide revenue to Eastern Market.”
The defeated resolution will now go to the full ANC as part of the committee report. It will be taken up at ANC 6B’s September meeting and undergo the regular amendment process in hopes a new compromise can be reached. The meeting will be held 7:00pm on Tuesday, September 11, at Hill Center.