By Lloyd Alaban
The owners of the San Jose Flea Market are offering $5 million to vendors who fear displacement in light of a proposed mixed-use development.
The Bumb family agrees to give $5 million to a transition fund—double the previous offer—to help vendors relocate should the proposed Berryessa BART Urban Village move forward at the flea market site.
“The availability of financial assistance for the vendors during the future transition has always been of the utmost importance,” Councilmember David Cohen, whose district includes the flea market, wrote in a memo released Monday. “Adding certainty to the funding source will help the vendors cover expenses at the time the existing market closes, whether to wind down their business, relocate to a new place in San Jose or transition to the new urban market.”
If the development is approved, the Bumb family will give $500,000 to the fund by October. They will give an additional $2 million when they issue a one-year notice for vendors to leave the current flea market on or before July 1, 2023. The last $2.5 million will disperse on the flea market’s final day of operation.
“We support Councilmember Cohen’s recommendations,” Erik Schoennauer, land use consultant and the project’s representative, told San José Spotlight. “Based upon city staff’s input, the hoped-for $2.5 million in federal COVID relief funding is uncertain. So, we are helping to fill that funding gap.”
The negotiations are part of a months-long process that seeks to approve the Berryessa BART Urban Village, a plan to 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.
Mayor Sam Liccardo issued a memo Tuesday asking the city to explore ways to expand the market on weekends to accommodate more vendors, such as expanding beneath BART’s elevated tracks. He also suggested using dollars from the American Rescue Plan, taxes from the development of the project and economic development grants to further bolster the flea market vendor fund.
The latest agreement is far short of what the Berryessa Flea Market Vendors Association, a group representing the market’s approximately 430 vendors, proposed on Friday.
According to a document obtained by San José Spotlight, the vendors association asked the Bumb family for $15 million and a 10-acre market. They also demanded three-year leases for current vendors, giving the vendors association the sole right to represent retailers and the rights to all intellectual property, logos and historical records related to the flea market.
“We are grateful the City Council gave us more time to come to an agreement because the Berryessa Flea Market Vendors Association did have a valuable meeting with flea market owner representatives and city officials on Friday,” said Roberto Gonzalez, president of the vendors association. “We are hopeful that these conversations will bring a quadruple-win agreement—one that will benefit the vendors, our community, the flea market owners and the city.”
The Berryessa Flea Market Vendors Association has aggressively protested against the proposed development, holding rallies and staging a hunger strike for more than 50 hours last week in an effort to delay the vote. Vendors allege that they’ve never been included in any negotiations with the city and the Bumb family’s representative, Schoennauer.
Supporters of the proposed urban village say that denser development is needed around the Berryessa BART station to encourage future residents to use public transit. They point to the approximately 11,000 jobs that will be created by the development. The vendors and their allies, meanwhile, believe the plan will displace hundreds of small, minority-owned businesses.
The San Jose City Council failed to reach a consensus on the project after a marathon meeting that ended Wednesday, voting 6-5 to delay a decision until today. That led Cohen to call a meeting with the association, Schoennauer and Councilmembers Magdalena Carrasco and Raul Peralez, who both supported the one-week delay.
In addition to the revised agreement, the Bumb family promises not to evict any vendors before the current flea market closes, to give first choice to current vendors to move into the new market and to offer rents comparable to other local open-air markets.
“We hope the flea market owners will accept the last proposal we shared with them so the city can enthusiastically support the next generation of La Pulga,” Gonzalez said. “If they fully accept our fair proposal, (the vendors association) stands ready to support the redevelopment of the flea market and will encourage our coalition partners to do the same.”
The City Council meets on Tuesday at 11 a.m. To learn more about how you can watch and participate, click here.
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This article was originally published by The San José Spotlight.