San Jose flea market fees frustrate vendors
Roberto Gonzalez, a vendor and president of the Berryessa Flea Market Vendors Association, tends to his stand in this file photo.

    The parking and entry prices at the Berryessa Flea Market in San Jose are increasing—and vendors are furious.

    All parking and walk-in fees are set to increase today, although Wednesdays at the flea market will still be free. Friday through Sunday costs will rise. On Fridays it will cost $5 to park, but walk-ins will still be free. Saturday parking will cost $10 and walk-ins will pay $3 per person. The busiest day of the week, Sunday, will see parking shoot up to $20 and the walk-in fee $5 per person.

    Vendors and their workers may end up paying additional fees to go to work because parking is only free before 8 a.m. While some vendors come as early as 6 a.m. to set up shop, others have later shifts, so parking costs could add up. The same will hold true for shoppers.

    Vendors see it as an act of bad faith from the Bumb family, who owns the land, and an effort to squeeze out vendors before construction on the new Berryessa BART Urban Village begins. The project will rezone a 61.5-acre portion of the flea market site to include up to 3.4 million square feet of mixed-use space and up to 3,450 homes.

    As part of the development, the flea market will shrink to five acres—one-third of its current size. The new market space could squeeze some vendors out, creating fear that they will lose their businesses.

    Roberto Gonzalez, president of the Berryessa Flea Market Vendors Association that represents the 450-plus vendors, said increasing prices may turn customers away from coming, which means less profit for vendors—eventually forcing some to close shop.

    “They’re trying to shrink the market’s footprint right now so that in two years from now, once they begin to develop, that headache of vendors wouldn’t be there,” Gonzalez told San José Spotlight.

    He said a family of five visiting on a Sunday could pay up to $45 in parking and entry fees, which makes what is supposed to be an affordable outing, a fairly expensive one.

    Erik Schoennauer, a land use consultant who represents the Bumb family, said the price increases are to keep up with inflation. The last time the flea market increased parking was in 2018 for Sunday and 2012 for Friday and Saturday.

    “Parking is being increased to cover significant increases in operating cost that have incurred over the last several years,” Schoennauer told San José Spotlight.

    Market costs

    The reasons for the increase are primarily because flea market security costs have gone up 25% in recent years to respond to the homeless population and damages to property, Schoennauer said. General inflation also increased 5%-20% for the cost of fuel, PG&E electricity, trash disposal, food & supplies for concessions and water.

    The flea market was also closed for two months during the pandemic. The Bumb family still paid employees and did not collect monthly space fees from vendors. Fee waivers were extended two months after the pandemic-related closure and discounted for another two months.

    But Gonzalez said it’s a pattern of malice from the landowners and pointed to the reduction of free-parking hours in April 2021; the six-month lease agreement that forced vendors to pay upfront for all six months instead of monthly; and adding a $300 security deposit implemented in September 2021.

    Community members are echoing the frustration. Land use consultant Kelly Snider turned to social media to voice her frustration, calling the Bumb family and associates “cruel, selfish and liars.”

    “They earn millions of dollars in rent and parking every year,” Snider wrote. “Disgraceful and harmful to our economy.”

    Jesus Flores, president and CEO of the Latino Business Association, said some vendors have already decided to move on because of the parking increase, but the number is still not clear.

    “Im sure the owners are very happy and smiling because they’re making more money and at the same time they’re going to start eliminating more vendors,” Flores told San José Spotlight, noting shrinking the market now avoids bad press of displacing hundreds of vendors when development could start in two years.

    Promises broken

    The city already slated the land for development in 2007 and at the time there were not protections or plans placed to support the hundreds of vendors who could be displaced, Councilmember David Cohen said. So when the Berryessa Urban Village plan was approved by the council in 2021, councilmembers made it a point to create a smooth transition for vendors.

    That’s why Gonzalez has turned to the City Council to ask for their support against fee increases and sent a letter  to the mayor and councilmembers this week. He also started a petition with over 200 signatures asking the Bumb family to reverse the increases.

    Cohen, who represents the Berryessa area, said there is not much the city can do because it is a private business dealing.

    “But what we can do and what we’re doing in our office is facilitating a meeting between the vendors association and the flea market business so they can talk and express their concerns directly,” Cohen told San José Spotlight. “Because that that’s the piece that’s not happening.”

    Flores said because the city has been a supportive partner, especially in creating an advisory committee that would determine how to spend $5 million from the Bumb’s in vendor support, he hopes they can help.

    “We have to recognize the vendors at the flea market are local family-owned businesses,” Flores said. “They are our neighbors and their kids go to school with our kids. So anything that happens any impact to the vendors of the Free Market send a direct impact to our local community.”

    Contact Jana Kadah at [email protected] or @Jana_Kadah on Twitter.

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