San Jose city leaders debate plans to remove homeless encampment from near airport

San Jose city leaders, Tuesday afternoon, debated a plan to remove unhoused residents living in an encampment near Mineta-San Jose International Airport.

"We have ambitious plans," said Mayor Sam Liccardo, D- San Jose, shortly before the council’s session began. "I have no intention of restricting a public park from the public."

Liccardo announced the proposed plan he hopes will bring the city in-line with existing federal law, and transform the 40-acre Guadalupe River Park and Gardens.

"Some people out here are in tents, some are in cars, some are in RVs," said Steve Wilson, an unhoused San Jose resident.

Wilson and his family moved to Silicon Valley in the late 1970s. After two injuries suffered in crashes caused by alleged DUI drivers, he fell into homelessness.

Wilson has called the corner near Spring and Asbury streets home the past two years. He’s seen the area transformed by an influx of unhoused residents.

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"I, myself, don’t like it. I don’t want to be here. But this is the only thing I can afford," said Wilson.

San Jose’s city council is considering a plan to continue a phased move of unhoused residents, so that the city can be in compliance with Federal Aviation Administration safety regulations. The encampment is near the approach and take off area of Mineta San Jose International Airport.

The mayor and councilmembers Jones, Peralez and Cohen proposed using K-rails to keep vehicles out of the park. San Jose police officers and city park rangers would patrol the grounds, to prevent encampments from returning. And nearly $5 million in city funds would be used to accelerate the re-housing of homeless residents currently living in the park.

Three quick-build apartment sites are being considered: On Monterey & Bernal roads; at Rue Ferrari near Highway 101, and one on Evans Lane near Highway 87.

 "We’ve got a lot of work to do, certainly, to get the pieces into place. That is the human infrastructure, to insure that the park will be a vital asset for the community for years to come," said Liccardo.

Housing advocates such as Ptr. Scott Wagers said the city has a long history of planning, but is short on successes.

"Really what we want to see is people put into housing," said Wagers. "They have had many opportunities to begin to really house people. They have a pretty big budget."

The mayor and others believe using the millions from house and the airport is the best way to jump-start the quick-build apartments.

 The final vote is expected during Tuesday’s council session.

 The K-rails will be put in place over the next two weeks.