SAN JOSE, Calif. (KRON) — A 40-acre parcel of land sitting just outside Mineta San Jose International Airport (SJC) is home to hundreds of the city’s homeless population.
The homeless encampment has grown over the last year as the coronavirus pandemic severely impacted the city’s most vulnerable populations, but the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is demanding the city and the airport to clear the site.
“The largest concentration of homeless residents in our city right now in this particular encampment, the numbers fluctuate, but estimated around 300,” said Councilmember Raul Peralez.
“The city was not abating encampments unless they were in a public right of way throughout the pandemic, we didn’t start to manage and abating them until just a few months ago.”
The property where the encampment is located sits between West Taylor and West Hedding Streets near Columbus Park.
The land is owned by the city and purchased with federal funds.
If the encampment is not cleared, the airport could end up losing millions of dollars in federal funding.
“Which is not something that was a surprise to us, we know there used to be homes here, those homes were demolished and funding for that came through the federal government,” said Peralez.
“And we’re not allowed to have people occupy this area and that would include those that are homeless.”
Efforts to clear out the encampment site include a three-phased approach:
Stage 1: Clear out approximately 10 acres between West Hedding and Asbury streets, and from Coleman Avenue to Walnut Street between August and November.
Stage 2: Clear out approximately 15 acres between West Hedding and Asbury streets, and from Walnut and Spring streets between January and April 2022.
Stage 3: Clear out approximately 18 acres between West Hedding and Asbury streets, and from Spring Street to the Guadalupe River Trail between May and June 2022.
The airport tells KRON4 News in a statement:
“The Airport has worked closely with our partners in several City Departments to develop a revised plan that will result in the City taking a more immediately active role in relocating the homeless to a property that is aligned with City zoning for the purposes of residential use, as requested by the FAA.”
“Nothing is formalized just yet, there are a lot of discussions,” said Peralez.
“We recognize the major challenge there but we do have opportunities and we’re working on some opportunities for tiny housing nearby on Taylor Street,” Peralez added.
“And so we have opportunities to try and relocate people, that’s going to be a major goal of ours.”
In addition to the phased approach, a fence will be built around the property once it is cleared out to stop new people from moving in.
The city and airport have invited the FAA to tour the encampment site to better understand the magnitude of the situation.
In a statement to KRON4 News, the FAA says “On Aug. 4, the FAA approved the city of San Jose’s Corrective Action Plan to address the homeless encampment at the Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport.”
“This is not uncommon in this particular area,” said Peralez.
“And so it’s a recurring issue as we know, not only in this area, it’s a recurring issue really all across the city and we’re not unique,” Peralez added.
“Here we have a particularly large challenge now.”