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City Council Delays Vote On Contract With San Antonio Farmers Market Tenants

Members of the Farmers Market Tenants Association opposed a new city contract, and the San Antonio City Council responded Wednesday by moving the item off the agenda for its Thursday meeting.

The city decided to delay a decision on lease agreements at Market Square for at least a month.

The council was expected to vote on new contract terms for tenants on Thursday. Some tenants said the proposed term lengths were too short and came with too few promises. They requested more time.

District 1 Councilman Roberto Trevino said he was confident an agreement would be worked out over the next few days.

“I just want to reiterate nobody’s going to be kicked out," he said. "Nobody is going to be displaced. Nobody’s in danger of losing their shop. We’re working through this together collaboratively and I am confident we’ll resolve this in time for our August return to council.”

Lease agreements for the Market Square tenants end at the end of June, and the council typically recesses for the entire month of July.

However, Trevino said tenants would be on a month-to-month lease agreement until a new contract was approved.

Leases were only one of the issues tenants highlighted.

Some tenants said business has fallen steadily at the farmers market in recent years because the city does not enforce space use. Since so many tenants are selling the same items, shoppers don’t have as large of a selection. This issue has possibly led to the decline in foot traffic.

Tenants also said they have seen business fall off because the city does not promote the farmer’s market as much as it does other tourist attractions in the city. Language in the structure of the new contract promises the city will work with tenants to promote the market.

Credit Brian Kirkpatrick | Texas Public Radio
Market Square

Yvette Ramirez, president of the San Antonio Farmers Market Plaza Association, said with all the new construction downtown, there are real fears about tenants’ futures under city leases.

“They don’t have the fear that we are all going to be kicked out,” she said. “What they do fear, with the current contract being proposed, is that we’ll all be gone in four years. Market Square will not be what it is today.”

Trevino said he was not aware of any corporate development threatening the farmer’s market or El Mercado. However, he said members of the art community had expressed interest in having some space at the farmers market. The University of Texas at San Antonio also plans to construct nearby classroom space for cybersecurity and data science classes.

The tenants wanted Thursday’s city council vote on the contract to be postponed so they could continuing discussing the problems with city officials. Trevino said the contract wass the same contract offered to other tenants leasing retail space from the city.

He said the wishes of tenants were included in discussions over the past two years. He added there was a “visioning process” underway for the future of west downtown, and the tenants had seats at the table.

On Wednesday, Ramirez learned that city staffers pulled the contract from the Thursday agenda, and an emailed copy of the agenda later in the day verified the contract was no longer planned for discussion on Thursday.

The majority of the retail space inside the farmers market are operated by women of color, and before Ramirez learned the council would not discuss the contract on Thursday, she expressed hope that the newly-elected female majority on the council would oppose the deal.

“We feel we are not being heard. We feel that corporate America is seeing there is this little area that could possibly make some money and that we’re going to be pushed out,” she said.

Ramirez also said she wanted more than “superficial input” in the visioning process.

Credit Brian Kirkpatrick | Texas Public Radio
One rule that tenants say should be enforced at the Farmers Market is to keep inventory behind designated lines.

The proposed contract language stated the city would strive to ensure that Market Square continued to be a culturally vibrant destination and an authentic marketplace for Mexican, Latin and international products.

Ramirez believed Market Square is the city’s third most visited tourist attraction behind the Alamo and the River Walk. However, she said it is the most revisited tourist site in the city, meaning the same customers often visit more than once.

She said 1 million visitors a year come to Market Square.

Credit Brian Kirkpatrick | Texas Public Radio

Brian Kirkpatrick can be reached at Brian@TPR.org and on Twitter at @TPRBrian.