San Jose Flea Market Vendors Protest Development Plan
A three mile walk in 80 degree heat is tough as it is. But for San Jose flea market vendor Cesar Pardo, he felt it was his duty to support his fellow retailers.
Dozens of vendors, along with representatives from labor and advocacy groups Latinos United for a New America (LUNA), Working Partnerships USA, SIREN, Catalyze SV and other supporters, marched from their stalls to the flea market. from San Jose to City Hall Thursday to protest a plan that will significantly reduce the historic market’s footprint.
“We try to support everyone because everyone here is like family,” said Pardo, who sells skin rejuvenation products at the flea market. “Soon they could tell everyone it’s their last month to sell. We don’t want the flea market to go away because people come here from all over the world to walk around and buy things.
Last month, the San Jose Planning Commission recommended the Berryessa BART Urban Village Plan, which aims to rezone a 61.5-acre southern portion of the flea market site on Berryessa Road near Highway 101 to allow up to ‘to 3,450 new homes and expand commercial space to up to 3.4 million square feet.
Flea market vendors are skeptical of the project, saying it will displace hundreds of workers and leave dozens of men and women – disproportionately Latinos, people of color and low-income workers – out of work .
San Jose City Council will vote on the plan on June 22. If approved, it will reduce the seller’s space footprint from 15 acres to 3.5 acres, or about 11% of the overall market footprint.
Representatives of the Berryessa Flea Market Vendors Association, a loose-knit group of vendors, organized Thursday’s social media march to convince council to reject the plan.
Can you join us tomorrow June 3 at 4:30 p.m. to protect the flea market vendors and defend the development of justice without displacement!
The sellers depend on the flea market. Thousands of families livelihoods #BayArea #sanjose # savethemarchéauxpuces #demonstration pic.twitter.com/a0NNTrhHa3
– BERRYESSA FLEA MARKET SELLERS ASSOCIATION (@FleaVendors) June 3, 2021
“We hope that they will take us into consideration, and in the future we hope that we will be able to find a fair and win-win solution,” said Roberto Gonzalez, president of the association. He and three other vendors formed the group in March to protest the development.
Market representatives and council member David Cohen, whose district includes the market, reached an agreement on May 5 to establish 3.5 acres for an urban market at the current site.
The proposed site is smaller than the existing market, meaning that sellers will either have to downsize or find a new location. There are approximately 430 vendors who collectively rent approximately 750 booths.
The public market plan causes many sellers to fear losing their business.
“None of the vendors could live in the posh apartments that were built right across the street… In my opinion, it’s like they’ve kicked us out of the area,” said Mayra Pelagio, an organizer for LUNA. She said one of her first jobs was selling plants at the flea market over a decade ago.
Representatives of the plan, land use lobbyist Erik Schoennauer and the Bumb family, owners of the flea market, say the vendors’ concerns are unfounded.
“We are responding to all concerns expressed by suppliers. There would be no reason not to approve the project, ”Schoennauer told San José Spotlight hours before the march. “The project has a lot of benefits for the city and the community.
Schoennauer said on weekends, when the market is usually operating, homeowners will close the streets of the development so vendors have more room to settle in. When the streets are closed, he said, the space will be almost equal to the market’s current footprint and will be able to accommodate most vendors.
The plan will bring 11,000 jobs and greenery along the nearby stream, according to Schoennauer. The Bumb family has promised all vendors at least one year’s notice before starting any construction on the new market space.
Vendors say the rent for a brick-and-mortar stall would be significantly higher than what they are currently paying, and opening and closing streets would lead to new storage problems. The sellers association demands that retailers be included in plans and an economic relief program if they are moved.
“There hasn’t been a lot of progress outside of what they (the city) have said publicly,” said Kaled Escobedo Vega, one of the association’s founding members.
The city first approved the flea market site’s rezoning in 2007, and the 120-acre market’s footprint has gradually shrunk over the years. Nearly 1,000 apartments have opened in the area, and the latest addition to the property is a multi-business plaza near the market anchored by a Safeway that opened in April.
In anticipation of the city’s first BART station, which opened less than half a mile from the market, city authorities envisioned dense urban development with a pedestrian and friendly space containing residential and commercial uses centered around from the station.
While officials have pushed the idea of dense development in Berryessa for nearly two decades, vendors fear it will come at the expense of their livelihoods. With many of them speaking English as a second language, the association is concerned that salespeople may not be able to find employment elsewhere.
Gonzalez said the association is not opposed to the project, as long as vendors are included in making decisions about the future of the flea market. He said excluding suppliers from the plan threatens “the region’s largest small business incubator.”
“We want to have something not only for current suppliers, but for the future. Something we can be proud of, something the city can be proud of, ”said Gonzalez. “What better place to have this business incubator than in Silicon Valley?
Contact Lloyd Alaban at [email protected] or follow @lloydalaban on Twitter.