SF’s St. Ignatius fires back at farmers market amid dispute

The dispute between St. Ignatius College Preparatory and the Sunset Mercantile farmers markets has taken many twists and turns recently, but it all began in the fall of 2020.

Sunset Mercantile is a local organization that hosts family-friendly events throughout San Francisco. Started by Angie Petitt and Laura Peschke-Zingler in 2014, the group is responsible for the Inner Sunset flea market, Secondhand Saturdays, ArtScape, the upcoming return of the Cole Valley Fair, and the Outer Sunset farmers market, which is on 37th Avenue between Ortega and Pacheco streets.

During the height of the pandemic, the Outer Sunset farmers market grew to become one of the city’s largest and most successful outdoor events for budding local entrepreneurs. From food and music pop-ups to arts and crafts fairs, there are now up to 100 booths every Sunday for artisans to share their craft with the public.

Locals shop at the Sunset Mercantile farmers markets, on Sunday Aug. 14, 2022.

Charles Russo/SFGATE

In the fall of 2020, amid the market’s growing popularity, Sunset Mercantile reached out to St. Ignatius, whose front entrance is on the 2000 block of 37th Avenue, to see if they could expand in order to create more distance between vendors. This was at a time before COVID-19 vaccines, and the high school’s students were attending class remotely and not on campus.

Sunset Mercantile, which had taken place between Ortega and Pacheco streets on 37th Avenue, was given the school’s blessing to expand a block, between Ortega and Quintara. 

In a statement to SFGATE, Tom Murphy, a spokesperson for St. Ignatius, said that St. Ignatius was happy to accommodate the request specifically because Sunset Mercantile “indicated they would go back to their original footprint on the 1900 block of 37th Ave. once COVID-19 distancing regulations ended and school was back in-person.”

The success of the farmers market has created a dispute between the two parties that has spilled into local media. Sunset Mercantile wants to remain on the 2000 block of 37th Avenue because it has grown into a tradition that provides vendors a consistency of business not often seen for pop-ups, and a place that San Francisco residents can count on for groceries and community building. 

Still, St. Ignatius wants to reduce the farmers market to the 1900 block of 37th Avenue on certain Sundays so it will not block the entrance of the school for large campus-related events and for Sunday Mass. Specifically, the high school has “asked for understanding and flexibility about not rushing people out of religious services and clearing out all at once,” Murphy said.

Over the past few months, with the help of District 4 Supervisor Gordon Mar, the two sides have negotiated an agreement that would appease both parties. In early August, the Richmond Review, as well as SFGATE, reported that an agreement had been reached, but only verbally. St. Ignatius requested that a memorandum of understanding be signed between the two groups in order to make it official.

Angie Petitt is the founder of Sunset Mercantile, which hosts a farmers market in front of St. Ignatius high school.

Angie Petitt is the founder of Sunset Mercantile, which hosts a farmers market in front of St. Ignatius high school.

Emily Trinh

Last week, SFGATE reported the high school had backtracked on its agreement. In an email to SFGATE, Petitt said, “SI has stated they cannot honor their original agreement — changing their original requests and adding new ones — because they say they did not involve the right people at SI in our meetings.”

In response to that reporting, Murphy, on behalf of St. Ignatius, said, “We find it disheartening that [Sunset Mercantile] has accused us of going back on our word because this entire conflict arose from the market’s leadership going back on their word.”

SFGATE reached out to Petitt for comment on St. Ignatius’ claim that Sunset Mercantile went back on its word but did not hear back in time for publication.

Both Sunset Mercantile and St. Ignatius have expressed to SFGATE that they remain optimistic a solution in writing can be reached. For now, Petitt previously told SFGATE, Sunset Mercantile will continue to honor the verbal agreement that was originally settled between the two parties, which is to operate on one block during certain Sundays, to allow access to the school’s main entrance for events such as church services. The Sundays in question were not disclosed to SFGATE by either party.

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