Bustling, open-air night markets seen in places like China and Taiwan may be coming to California under new legislation introduced this week by Assemblymember Matt Haney, D-San Francisco.
Alongside San Francisco Supervisor Joel Engardio, Haney announced the introduction of Assembly Bill 441 on San Francisco’s Irving Street, where the city’s first recurring night market will launch in mid-September.
The market, which will run between 20th and 23rd avenues, will be put on by a collective of farmers market and mercantile groups. Funding comes from a grant gifted by the nonprofit Avenue Greenlight, which aims to revitalize San Francisco’s neighborhoods.
Proponents hope the success that night markets have brought to other parts of the world — boosting tourism and supporting small businesses — could also happen in major California cities.
Inspiration from afar
Engardio, who represents the westside neighborhoods of the Sunset, said he was inspired to bring night markets to San Francisco after visiting his husband’s family in Taipei, Taiwan, which has large markets every night. Vintage finds, home goods, street food and souvenirs are some of the goods that these markets could sell to visitors and tourists in the city.
“Night markets celebrate food, music, art, and all the fun things in life,” said Engardio. “As we address the serious issues facing San Francisco, a night market reminds us why our city is worth fighting for by creating more joy. It also brings people together, makes streets safer, and helps small businesses — everything we need to create our best San Francisco.”
When Engardio requested the city to streamline the permitting process for the city’s first night market, he found that state law was an obstacle in the process. Current state legislation requires market event organizers to reapply for special event permits every few months, which can cost event organizers hundreds or thousands of dollars.
“Night markets celebrate food, music, art, and all the fun things in life. … It also brings people together, makes streets safer, and helps small businesses — everything we need to create our best San Francisco.”Supervisor Joel Engardio
If passed, AB 441 would create permitting-pathways with the California Department of Public Health so night markets can regularly occur in California neighborhoods without repeated applications or fees.
“There’s no constituency in California calling for more red tape and paperwork for farmers markets,” said Haney. “Part of bringing culture and business back into our downtown means removing barriers and cutting through unnecessary bureaucracy. Hopefully this legislation will inspire other communities across California to explore opening up their own night markets.”
Celebrity chef Martin Yan from PBS’ “Yan Can Cook” also voiced his support for California night markets. He said that in his own travels, he has seen how night markets allow businesses to thrive all over the world.
“It’s good for the community, for the businesses around here and for the people living here,” Yan said. “People will come when you have something good.”