Many of the vendors who make their livings selling food, clothes, crafts, and other items at the San Jose Flea Market are now left waiting for answers and wondering what their next move may be in the coming years. That’s because, after months of debate, the San Jose City Council voted unanimously last month to allow the owners of the 61-acre flea market plot to build a massive, new urban village development. The early July vote followed a tense couple of weeks in which the council delayed their final decision, and in which vendors and advocates for the flea market pushed for more concessions from the landowner and developer — an effort that included a 50-hour hunger strike.
The flea market is set to be replaced with 3,450 housing units and more than 3 million square feet of retail space near the new Berryessa BART Station, as reported by the Mercury News last month. The rezoning also calls for a five-acre area where only a select few of the current flea market vendors would be able to continue to sell their products. Lam Nguyen, who represents District 4 Councilmember David Cohen, tells the Mercury News this week that the hope is to mainly keep the vendors who can best preserve some of the flea market’s culture at the new site.
Additionally, the city of San Jose will provide $5 million in funds that would help some of the 430 flea market vendors find new locations to set up shop. The owners of the flea market will also kick in another $500,000 to that fund. Another step in the plan involves the creation of an advisory panel made up of city officials, the vendors, and the owners of the flea market which will help figure out where the hundreds of vendors will go.
Some of them, like Miriam Justo, a six-year flea market vendor who spoke to the Mercury News, don’t know what is next but still believe the city is doing the best it can to help them navigate their futures. “It’s very sad,” Justo said. The paper also spoke to Dina Marroquin and Hilda Morales who sell crafts at the flea market. They call the move to end the flea market disappointing. “This is a historic place. They’re pushing away minorities,” they said.
Another vendor, Davis Jovel, is also frustrated the flea market will soon be gone. “This is an iconic place. People love it,” Jovel tells the Mercury News. The good news for vendors, if there is any, is that there is still a lot of time to formulate a plan that would hopefully be a win for them, their customers, and the city of San Jose. The current agreement allows the flea market to stay open for three more years before development begins.