Flea market sellers in San Jose fear for their future

Flea market sellers in San Jose fear for their future

On Wednesday, the San Jose Planning Commission will vote on new plans for an urban village around the Berryessa BART station. This could have an impact on the historic San Jose Flea Market. Long-term providers worry about their livelihood.

On Wednesday, the San Jose Planning Commission will vote on new plans for an urban village around the Berryessa BART station. This could have an impact on the historic San Jose Flea Market. Long-term providers worry about their livelihood.

The transit-oriented mixed-use development has been in progress for 20 years. Housing and retail have already been built on the north side.

“It took a long time,” said David Cohen, a member of the San Jose city council. “It’s definitely exciting to see how it develops.”

The focus is now south of Berryessa Road. This is where the 60 year old San Jose Flea Market is located. The big worry is what will happen to it.

After negotiation, the plan includes five acres for a permanent urban market, essentially the redesigned San Jose Flea Market.

“If you put the vendors together in an urban marketplace, we know we can fit a lot of vendors into a very small space,” said Cohen.

“I’ve been here for over 25 years, this is just my life,” said Rigoberto Gonzales of Los Reyes Dulceria.

Gonzales has been selling Mexican candy and piñatas since 1991. He fears that he will be evicted.

“If they start working in the flea market, construction, where do we go?” said Rigoberto Gonzales.

“Is it a market for the vendors who are there right now, or will it be a gentrified market with the people and vendors they choose?” said Roberto Gonzalez of the Berryessa Flea Market Vendors Association.

San Jose Planning Commissioner Rolando Bonilla said the commission had exhausted its options.

“For me it is not the end of the flea market, but the beginning of a new flea market,” said Bonilla.

Erik Schoennauer is a land use advisor who represents the Bumb family, owners of the flea market. He said they will try to accommodate all 430 vendors who want to stay. The new urban market is still a few years away.

“No salesman should fear that he will wake up tomorrow morning and the gates will be locked,” said Schönennauer. “We would inform the sellers one year in advance of any changes to the existing flea market.”

There are other options like the San Jose Capitol Flea Market. Many providers do not want to leave.

“We’ve been here for over 40 years,” said Elizabeth Alvarado of Bay Fresh Produce. “We are one of the oldest people here. We have been here the longest.”

The plans are still in the early stages. After Wednesday, it will be up to the San Jose City Council to decide whether more can be done, such as providing financial support to those vendors who are not part of the new flea market plan. It will take at least 10 years for the groundbreaking to take place.

Azenith Smith is a reporter at KTVU. Email Azenith at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter and Instagram @AzenithKTVU or Facebook or ktvu.com.

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