Almanac

News - July 24, 2013

Portola Valley to weigh future of farmers' market

by Dave Boyce

To say that the new Portola Valley farmers' market has been popular hardly does justice to what has become a Thursday afternoon phenomenon in the parking lot of the Historic Schoolhouse. The first market, on June 13, all but sold out. Of 30 email messages included in a recent staff report to the Town Council, all but one spoke well and enthusiastically of the market, particularly as a way to strengthen the community.

The council in April approved a six-week trial for the market. On Wednesday, July 24, the council meets to consider extending the trial for a year. (The meeting starts at 7:30 p.m.) Among the issues: effects on local restaurants and grocery stores, and whether food trucks and hot-food carts should be allowed.

Food trucks and food carts could ameliorate the conflict between planning family dinner for Thursday evenings and socializing and shopping at the market late on Thursday afternoons, said town sustainability coordinator Brandi de Garmeaux in the staff report. Emails show support for the trucks.

As for the merchants, management at Portola Cafe Deli at the intersection of Alpine and Portola roads is "concerned about the potential impact of the addition of food trucks on their business," the report said. Food trucks, if allowed, should be barred from serving pizza out of concern for competition with local pizza outlets, the report said.

Roberts Market and Parkside Grille and the deli are not opposed to the sale of fresh produce at the farmers' market, the report said. Someone from Roberts is expected to be at the council meeting.

Also on the agenda:

• The council will consider new language for the ballot measure to renew for four years the 4.5 percent utility users tax (UUT). This measure will not be an up-or-down vote on the tax. Voting yes continues the current 4.5 percent rate; voting no would allow the rate to rise to 5.5 percent.

• A proposal by the advisory Cable & Utilities Undergrounding Committee would divert a significant portion of UUT revenues to pay for burying utility lines along Alpine and Portola roads, the town's scenic corridors. The town's general plan calls for burying the lines, but with the reserve growing by about $15,000 a year and the cost of undergrounding currently set at about $2.5 million per mile, completing the job would take more than 600 years, the committee said.

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