Rangers or fence: San José to vote on plan to clear homeless camp

The Guadalupe River Park homeless encampment is on borrowed time from Federal Aviation Administration flight zone requirements. If the city fails to clear the camp, it will lose millions of dollars in federal airport funding.

The city must relocate the park’s 250 to 300 homeless people who live on the 40-acre site. The land is federal property that lies directly under the flight path of Mineta San Jose International Airport. The location is dangerous to life due to its high noise pollution and proximity to the slopes, according to federal officials.

The area is meant to be a buffer zone for planes in an emergency.

The city council will be discussing various options for cleaning up the camp today. The original plan was to erect a $ 1.5 million, 8-foot-high fence around the 40-acre area of ​​the Guadalupe River Park encampment to prevent the homeless from moving in.

Some leaders, including Mayor Sam Liccardo, Deputy Mayor Chappie Jones, and council members David Cohen and Raul Peralez, suggest relying on a “human presence” from park wardens, San Jose bridge workers and San Jose Police Station instead of building a fence. The fenced-off plan, which will rely on patrols from park rangers, homeless residents trained in park clean-ups, and possibly police, will cost around $ 2.15 million per year.

“The fence was never going to be foolproof, and you’re talking about a really big area to fencing,” Peralez told the San José Spotlight. “We can try to activate space and other areas, working on a mix of patrols.”

The four leaders also want to establish a secure parking space on private or public land for the park’s recreational vehicles. To fight against illegal dumping, the group wants to invest in “no dumping” panels and cameras. Some of the proposed efforts will be funded by US bailout dollars.

The cleanup of the area, which is already underway, will cost an additional $ 1.5 million.

The city originally planned to clear the encampment in June, according to a letter from the airport’s director of aviation John Aitken, but the decision has been delayed.

“It can’t be a city where we build fences and walls to keep members of our public out of public space. We just can’t do that,” Liccardo said at a press conference. Tuesday. “Our parks are going to be for everyone. We are going to make sure that everyone can enjoy our parks. This means that we are going to make sure that they are free from encampments so that no one feels intimidated by use the parks.

Leaders are also calling for a working farm for homeless residents and an area with running tracks, dog parks and activities like disc golf. The plan would be funded with $ 1.5 million from airport funds, $ 3 million from the city’s housing department, $ 1.4 million set aside in Liccardo’s budget message, money of the American rescue plan and possible state funding.

The Guadalupe Park River Conservancy, a community environmental group that looks after the park and its surroundings, has a long history of advocating for the development of the park. But its former president, Jim Alves, instead supports the closure of the gardens, calling the alternative “too little, too late”.

“It pains me to oppose the alternative to the 40-acre fence in the gardens of Guadalupe,” Alves wrote in a letter to council. “I have no confidence in the city’s ability to provide rangers or the other services listed in the proposal.”

The number of homeless people living in the park has increased exponentially since the start of the pandemic. City estimates place the number of homeless residents between 250 and 300, although informal figures put it at over 400.

The city plans to clear the camp by mid-2022.

San Jose City Council meets Tuesdays at 1:30 pm To learn more about how you can watch and participate, click here.

Contact Lloyd Alaban at [email protected] or follow @lloydalaban on Twitter.

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