Amid rising tensions, San Jose Flea Market owners offer $2M to vendors
Berryessa Flea Market Vendors Association representatives Mariana Mejia, Roberto Gonzalez and Keila Escobedo Vega are pictured in this file photo.

    The owners of the iconic San Jose Flea Market are offering to pay $2 million to a fund to support vendors who for months have protested a development plan they say pushes them out.

    The owners, the Bumb family, have also proposed a contribution of up to $500,000 to match donations from residents to help the vendors. The last-minute bargain announced Friday comes after weeks of negotiations over the fate of the flea market.

    Vendors fear the beloved flea market on Berryessa Road will close after the owners announced a massive development project that includes up to 3,450 new homes and an expansion of commercial space to as much as 3.4 million square feet.

    The project aligns with the city’s vision for an urban village with density and housing near the BART station.

    The payout of $2 million and a $500,000 matching grant will depend on the City Council’s approval of the project. The council is expected to vote on the plan June 22.

    Councilmember David Cohen, whose district includes the flea market, declined comment Friday, saying he would provide a statement next week.

    Erik Schoennauer, a land use consultant who represents the developers, said the market’s owners have listened to vendors’ demands, which include a guaranteed space for a new market and financial support for retailers as they transition to the new market.

    He believes the proposal is a good solution.

    “The City Council will consider whether or not this proposed package is acceptable and they will recommend them as conditions of approval, and we support them,” Schoennauer said. “We support Councilmember Cohen’s proposal and we’re in agreement with the city.”

    If the City Council approves the plan, Schoennauer said a flea market advisory group will be formed which will include representatives from the city, the vendors and the Bumb family. The advisory group will decide how the funds will be dispensed.

    Roberto Gonzalez, a vendor and president of the Berryessa Flea Market Vendors Association, tends to his stand. Photo by Lloyd Alaban.

    Vendors, however, say they’ve been left out of negotiations and said Friday the financial offer from the Bumb family isn’t good enough.

    “Erik touting this as if it is a done deal or a win-win solution is a lie,” said Roberto Gonzalez, president of the Berryessa Flea Market Vendors Association, a group representing the vendors that has negotiated with the city and Schoennauer.

    Flea market vendors worry the market will close permanently as plans to develop the site move forward, potentially displacing hundreds of small, minority-owned businesses. The San Jose Planning Commission recommended the development plan last month.

    The entire flea market site is zoned to include up to 365,000 square feet of commercial space and up to 2,800 residential units. The proposal seeks approval to rezone the 61.5-acre southern portion of the site for up to 3.4 million square feet of commercial space and up to 3,450 homes.

    Cohen facilitated a proposal last month to preserve 5 acres of that space for an urban market, as the fate of the flea market up to that point was unclear.

    Vendors and supporters hold signs outside City Hall. Photo by Lloyd Alaban.

    Vendors have aggressively lobbied the city to preserve more space for vendors over the past few months. They organized a march from the flea market to San Jose City Hall on Thursday, held a rally on May 18, started a petition and met several times with representatives from Cohen’s office to negotiate a plan.

    Gonzalez said the vendors still have not reached an acceptable deal.

    “This is a starting point for our conversations. We as vendors still need more specificity to ensure we are not getting a raw deal,” Gonzalez said. “We are hopeful that our conversations with District 4 will get to a point where we reach a triple-win scenario. But we are not there yet. We will continue to fight and advocate until we reach that point.”

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

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