The future of San Jose’s historic flea market

New 2023 proposals suggest that the flea market could become housing instead of office space, as originally planned in 2021.

The "Welcome to San Jose" sign at the Garden at the Flea.

The Garden at the Flea hosts many weekly markets and pop-ups.

Photo by SJtoday staff

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In June 2021, the city of San Jose approved rezoning San Jose’s historic flea market to make way for a Berryessa BART Urban Village.

The redevelopment initially pitched replacing it with a massive tech campus, but developers are now proposing a mixed-use housing development.

Let’s take a look back at the complexities of this project.

An old picture from the 1960s-1970s of the flea market.

Check out the flea market during the 1960s-1970s.

Photo via San Jose Flea Market Archives

🕰️ A community hub

It’s hard to come across a San Josean who hasn’t yet been to or heard of the swap meet, or La Pulga to many Latinx residents, at Garden at the Flea.

When it opened in 1960, there were ~20 sellers. Today, the market is host to more than 6,000 vendors every week and draws in nearly 4 million people each year.

It has become a cultural + social hub for residents looking to purchase affordable goods from other locals for decades. When redevelopment news was announced, vendors pushed back about the fate of their trade.

An overhead view of the project site for the Berryessa BART Urban Village.

This is the overall site of the Berryessa BART Urban Village where the flea market will be affected.

Photo via City of San José

🏗️ A change of plans

Developers have switched around plans quite a bit of times.

After moving from an office to residential focus in late October — the proposal, dubbed Market Park, envisioned:

  • 451 townhouses, 399 apartments, and 90 condos (20% will be deed-restricted for lower-income households)
  • 45,000 sqft of ground-floor retail space
  • Neighborhood park + creek trails

The developer also planned to put ~$5 million towards supporting a 5-acre urban plaza space for a public market, but it does decrease the flea market’s current 15-acre span.
However, because of cost concerns, developers are backtracking + hoping to downsize the project from 3,500 units to 1,000 units.

The developer is seeking to invoke the “Builder’s Remedy” to do so — a law in which the city would be required to approve housing projects as long as 20% of the homes are low-income or 100% are moderate income.

The law’s original intention is to help developers bypass restrictive zoning laws to add more housing. Opponents of the development say this project is taking advantage of the law to lessen housing.

🔎 Next steps

It seems that we can all enjoy La Pulga for a little bit longer.

In mid-December 2023, it was announced that the Berryessa Flea Market will be open until Jan. 1, 2026.

The developers are still holding to their promise of notifying the vendors one year before the development begins. The city is currently working on a plan for relocation, but nothing is set in stone yet.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on this redevelopment — give us a piece of your mind.