San Jose Flea Market for New Life amidst public market development

May 5, 2021

City guides and representatives from the San Jose Flea Market say they are one step closer to preserving the beloved public space.

On Tuesday, market representative and councilor David Cohen, whose district the flea market belongs to, signed an agreement to set up 3.5 hectares for a municipal market on the current site. The move means that, as many vendors feared, the flea market will be protected from closing and that space will be guaranteed.

The proposed 3.5 acre site, which was added to the plans heard by the San Jose Planning Commission in March, is smaller than the current market, meaning dozens of vendors are either downsizing their stores or creating a new one Need to find a location. But Cohen said he was determined to find other rooms in the plan to keep more vendors.

The current flea market footprint is 61 acres.

“It has always been important to me to recognize and preserve the history of this site,” Cohen told San José Spotlight, calling the agreement “a great start.” “I will continue to promote the maintenance of this website which can be incorporated into the new development.”

The entire flea market area is divided into commercial areas with an area of ​​up to 365,000 square meters and up to 2,800 residential units. The original proposal, heard and then submitted by the planning committee, was to approve the rededication of the 61.5 hectare southern portion of the site for up to 3.4 million square meters of commercial space and up to 3,450 apartments. Plans to include the flea market were unclear until agreement was reached on Tuesday.

A suggested sketch of the final design. With the kind permission of Erik Schoennauer.

Proponents of the city and the project call the deal a victory for proponents of affordable housing, public transport users and the flea market itself.

However, some flea market providers want to have a say.

“They are going to try to divide us and make us fight to see who can get a place there on those 3.5 acres,” said Roberto Gonzalez, a salesman and president of the Berryessa Flea Market Vendors Association, a group that the 700- represents the market. plus provider. “We weren’t asked to join these plans, even after our demands sternly said, ‘Get the salespeople involved.'”

Gonzalez founded the association in March together with the other providers Mariana Mejia, Keila Escobedo Vega and Kaled Escobedo Vega. The group would like to help other vendors – many of whom do not speak fluent English or are undocumented – to negotiate with the city and the developers.

A list of the claims that the association has applied for. Image courtesy Roberto Gonzalez.

Over the weekend, the Berryessa Flea Market Vendors Association is encouraging people to sign a petition against the city’s plans and asking for more transparency from the developers. By Wednesday, more than 6,100 people had signed the petition.

A salesman from flea market management accompanied Gonzalez, Mejia and the Escobedo Vega sisters from the construction site on Sunday and banned them for at least two weeks because the group had requested flyers.

A violation of Gonzalez, Mejia and the Escobedo Vega sisters before escorting them from the flea market. Photo courtesy Roberto Gonzalez.

The plans are part of a broader city initiative driven by the nearby BART station that provides for a dense residential and commercial area that revolves around the transit station. Proponents say the plan will reduce the city’s carbon footprint and encourage more people to use public transport near where they live. A Safeway-anchored multi-business mall opened in the area just last week.

“This won’t happen overnight,” said Erik Schoennauer, a land use lobbyist who represents the project’s representative. “We will work with vendors and find the best way forward.”

Mariana Mejia, Roberto Gonzalez and Keila Escobedo Vega are handing out flyers in March. Photo by Lloyd Alaban.

Schoennauer claims the market will remain open during the construction of the project and vendors will be given a year ‘s notice before they have to move. He said precise plans for the transition to the new public market and which providers will be selected to fill it will be worked out in the coming months.

The San Jose Planning Commission will re-examine the plan on May 12 with Tuesday’s additional proposal. Flea market owner Brian Bumb called the plan “a tremendous benefit”.

“It will also be great to see a new version and the continued legacy of the San Jose Flea Market,” Bumb said in a press release.

Gonzalez said the additional market is a good start, but it will keep pushing developers to add more storage for vendors.

“This was clearly done to calm us down,” said Gonzalez of the plans. “That is not enough. We will keep fighting until every provider is considered.”

Contact Lloyd Alaban at [email protected] or follow @lloydalaban on Twitter.

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