SAN JOSE - The long awaited BART extension to San Jose is taking some key steps forward, but the progress could lead to some longtime downtown small businesses getting squeezed out.
When Jose Landin first strapped on an apron, he was new to the country and working the overnight shift at a Yum-Yum donuts.
"We learned the way of doing business," Landin said.
That was more than 30 years ago. Now, Jose and his four brothers are co-owners of 3 Mexico Bakery-Taquerias including the one at 3rd and Santa Clara in downtown San Jose.
The brothers' pan dulce is a favorite among modern foodies and traditional customers.
"Baking is in our blood, it's in our DNA," Landin said.
Jose and his brothers want to expand the bakery, but now they're worried about just trying to hold on to what they have.
The Valley Transportation Authority Board has authorized using eminent domain to take over properties needed to extend BART and the bakery is in the target zone.
The agency's plan is to buy the land and remove the bakery building to build vents and emergency exits for the new underground station on Santa Clara Street.
"We want to invest more money so we can make it even bigger and more accessible for everyone, but now with VTA and BART they want to take over. All those dreams and days of hard work are going to be wasted," Landin said.
VTA says it's trying to complete the massive project with as little disruption as possible to existing businesses.
"The BART extension brings a lot of benefits, but this is one of the challenges. It does create some impacts," said Ron Golem, VTA's Director of Real Estate.
"So, we're absolutely committed to seeing how our agents can work with the businesses to help them successfully relocate," he said.
But Landing is concerned about transperency. He went outside to show us vacant areas next to and behind the bakery that could be used by BART and would cause little or no business disruption.
"lt's not fair because there are other options, easier, less expensive. But they want to take over, they want to keep bullying the businesses and tenants of the building," Landin said.
VTA says the vacant areas were looked at but dismissed in 2018 in part because of size and complications that could destabilize the adjacent high rise.
"When you look at all of these considerations, we're talking about 2 or 3 or more years of delay for the BART project, and another couple of hundred million dollars in cost," Golem said.
Landin and his brothers realize that this location is probably going away.
VTA is already negotiating with their landlord. The brothers worry about their 12 employees, and whether VTA's relocation services will be fair.
"I think we agree mass transportation is needed but it's unfair how they just picked this location to be moved," Landin said.
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