SAN JOSE (KPIX) -- A massive flea market that has become a San Jose institution may be torn down for a new transit development, but families who have worked there for generations are pleading with the city for help.
Built in 1960, when land was cheap, the Berryessa Flea Market is 30 acres in size. With its massive parking lot, it is one of the largest flea markets in the country.
But it sits right next to the new Berryessa BART station, and the property owners want to develop the land to build a new urban housing and transit village.
The San Jose Planning Commission has recommended that the re-development go forward, which would spell the end of the existing market.
"It would be the closing of a landmark for the city. It's a lot of people's livelihoods that would be put at stake," said shopper Taylor Oryall. "It's a lot easier for them to say, 'Let's just take this down. It doesn't mean that much to us.' It's not making as much profit as some other places might for bigger corporations, rather than small businesses."
The newly-formed Berryessa Flea Market Vendors Association spoke out Tuesday, pleading with the city to find a place for them.
The developer is offering a "public market" within the new complex. But it would only be 3.5 acres -- about a tenth of the current space -- shutting many of the small businesses out.
"For some families, it means their only way to have income and to put food on their tables and to have a roof," said Alma Jaco, a second-generation vendor at the flea market. "This income is the way they're making a living in San Jose."
The vendors don't have much hope of stopping such a massive project, but they're asking the San Jose City Council to require a community benefits package that will provide a place for everyone, ideally in the same location.
"We understand that 30 acres wouldn't be able to fit on this plan," said Roberto Gonzalez, president of the vendors association. "But we could always build up. They're getting higher densities with these plans, right? So why not build a world-class, multi-level market that will accommodate all the vendors that are there currently?"
While it seems clear the days of the old flea market are numbered, the question is will this be the beginning of a new chapter, or simply the end of the story?
The City Council will have to give its approval for the development to go forward. They're expected to address the issue at the June 15th meeting.
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