San Jose flea market changes prove costly for vendors
A vendor sells food products to a customer at the San Jose Berryessa Flea Market. File photo.

    San Jose Berryessa Flea Market vendors will have to pay more rent for their stalls as part of ongoing changes in the massive redevelopment of the property.

    The property owners are asking for an additional 5.5% per location. Vendors learned about the rate hike days after the first meeting of the Berryessa Flea Market Advisory Group, which discussed several issues: the amount of funds available to help vendors relocate, how vendors can provide input at group meetings, advising city officials on the design of the new market area and how vendor spots will be determined. The group was formed to help transition vendors through a downsizing that will shrink the market from 60-plus acres to roughly five acres.

    Roberto Gonzalez, one of 11 advisory group members and president of the Berryessa Flea Market Vendors Association, said the increase means he and his dad will pay an additional $200 a month for their spots.

    “I get it, it’s a business decision with the rising costs of everything,” Gonzalez told San José Spotlight. “But again, that is done without the involvement of vendors and without our voice.”

    Erik Schoennauer, a land use consultant who represents the flea market owners, said rent hasn’t been raised in years and the increase accounts for necessary operational costs.

    “The flea market as a business is facing extraordinary inflation, just like everyone else in the economy,” he told San José Spotlight.

    Despite the rent increase, Gonzalez wants to keep up the collaboration between the vendors and owners spurred by the newly formed advisory group.

    “We have vendors directly talking and having a seat at the table, which is really what we were advocating for,” he said.

    He said about 50 vendors attended the May 17 meeting, with the goal of locating another space in San Jose to accommodate all 450-plus sellers. Gonzalez said getting vendors to attend is difficult because flea market rules prohibit them from going stall to stall to promote future group meetings.

    Most of the market will be replaced by the Berryessa BART Urban Village project, approved in June 2021. The redevelopment will encompass 3.4 million square feet of residential and commercial space, with up to 3,450 homes, a 1.4-acre public park and parking structures.

    The Bumb family, who owns the flea market, must give a one-year notice to the vendors prior to closing the market for redevelopment. The earliest the market can close is Oct. 1, 2024, but Schoennauer said it doesn’t seem likely that the closure will be announced Oct. 1 of this year.

    “We are hopeful, now that the process has formally begun, that the city will keep moving forward at a brisk pace so that decisions can be made and opportunities can be found,” he said.

    The advisory group also went over the $7.5 million vendor transition fund created to aid vendors affected by the property changes. An estimated $3 million is available now from the owners and the city. The Bumb family will contribute the other $2 million with notice of closure and $2.5 million when the market closes permanently.

    An estimated 15% of available $3 million funds have been allocated, according to advisory group data, including monies to fund studies examining the market’s economic benefits. The remaining funds will be allocated based on the advisory group’s recommendations in November.

    District 4 San Jose Councilmember David Cohen, who represents the market’s area, attended the advisory meeting and said he was happy the group was able to meet for the first time. He declined to comment on the rent increase.

    “I was frustrated that it took this long for them to have their first meeting, but now that it’s happening, I was really optimistic after that meeting that the group was going to work well together,” he told San José Spotlight.

    The advisory group meets again in June to discuss its approach and preliminary data from the studies; in August to discuss the studies’ findings and potential opportunities; in September to discuss all potential funding ideas and support for vendors and in November to dole out its recommendations for the vendor transition fund.

    Contact Annalise Freimarck at [email protected] or follow @annalise_ellen on Twitter.

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