SAN JOSE, Calif. (KRON) —  In San Jose, with cleanup efforts underway for the 40 acres of land that sits just outside Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport (SJC) city leaders are set to discuss how it will ensure the land remains clear of trash and the unhoused.

Over the course of the pandemic, a substantial number of homeless individuals set up camp throughout the Guadalupe River Park and grew exponentially. 

As a result, the Federal Aviation Administration directed the city to clear the encampment. 

The 40 acres of land, which was bought with FAA funds for runway approach protection purposes and noise mitigation for the airport.

“We have a master plan where we want to try to expand our Guadalupe River Park Area and access out there but it’s such a large undeveloped area of land that right now, and for the last five to ten years it has been an attraction point for individuals that are homeless,” said San Jose District 3 Councilmember, Raul Peralez. 

Ahead of Tuesday’s San Jose’s city council meeting, city leaders will decide whether or not to install a fence around the federally regulated land near the Guadalupe Gardens and to temporarily close a section of Asbury and Irene streets 

The city is currently finishing up phase one of its Corrective Action Plan in clearing up approximately 10 acres between West Hedding and Asbury streets, and from Coleman Avenue to Walnut Street.

“You want to do it consciously of the people that you’re impacting, you don’t want to simply just come in there and give people a 72-hour notice and then start moving them,” said Peralez. 

“So each individual person, we’re trying to work with them to determine what they may need to be able to help them out and get them in a better housing situation before simply clearing out the area.” 

Instead of installing a fence Mayor Sam Liccardo, Vice Mayor Chappie Jones, Councilmember David Cohen and Peralez have put forward a memorandum that aims to accelerate the restoration of the Guadalupe River Park and Gardens. 

The memo recommends that the city identifies housing solutions, enhancing park safety, cleanliness and vibrancy the six following approaches: 

  1. Housing – Accelerate rehousing for current unhoused residents at Guadalupe that have been identified through the HomeFirst census currently being conducted at the site. 
  2. Securing the site – Immediately secure areas from vehicles reentering cleared phases.
  3. Human presence instead of fence – Explore allocating additional resources from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to enhance safety in the area and deter re-encampment of cleared phases, and return to the City Council in November with cost estimates 
  4. Illegal dumping – Explore allocating additional resources in the City/Airport budget to increase cleanliness and security of the Guadalupe River Park and Gardens 
  5. Activation – Explore and prioritize creative options for interim uses that ultimately enable uses that align with the Guadalupe Gardens Master Plan and create more vibrancy while discouraging future encampments. 
  6. Funding – Create a funding plan for various plan elements.

If the San Jose leaders move forward with installing a fence around the federally owned land, it would cost the city approximately $1.5 million. 

The city plans to have cleared out the homeless encampment near the SJC airport by mid-2022.