SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) — Officials and local residents in San Jose are clashing with Union Pacific over reports of debris, homeless encampments and noise stemming from railroad property.
The problem has persisted for years, but the city plans to meet with Union Pacific officials Wednesday after issuing a memorandum last week to explore possible legal action related to alleged nuisance and blight.
South San Jose Councilman Sergio Jimenez has received dozens of complaints from residents in District 2 about the Monterey Road railway, which shares walls with multiple residential neighborhoods.
Neighbors in San Jose’s Japantown have been complaining noisily about being woken up by loud nighttime trains from Union Pacific, but others are chiming in about the railroad’s spotty record of cleaning up trash and graffiti along its tracks.
“The condition is deplorable, especially all the graffiti,” said Gail Osmer, who lives in South San Jose. Osmer attended a Wednesday press conference held by Jimenez.
The councilman claims the railroad has long neglected its responsibility to clean up the area along its tracks.
“We feel Union Pacific hasn’t been a good partner,” Jimenez said. “The city’s wiling to help do some of the work. We’ve gotten funding to help paint over the wall of graffiti. Unfortunately, we haven’t had a willing partner on the other side. And that’s what we hope to change with the litigation.”
The city of San Jose may be on the verge of filing lawsuit against Union Pacific claiming the railroad has become a public nuisance running trains through downtown neighborhoods at all hours of the night.
“Union Pacific is obviously looking for ways to maximize profits by running trains at night through very crowded residential neighborhoods,” said Mayor Sam Liccardo. “And thousands of people are not getting a good night’s sleep. And if they’re not going to relent, then obviously we will consider every legal option that we have.”
Neighbors say they began to notice changes to the railroad’s operating schedule in recent months with train which normally ran during the day gradually shifting to later and later in the evening.
“It started coming a little later like 9 o’clock. And then 11 o’clock. And then all of a sudden, it was multiple times throughout the middle of the night. And that’s when I decided this can’t be OK,” said neighbor Liezl Cruz-Hou.
Cruz-Hou posted and handed flyers in San Jose’s Japantown, hoping to galvanize neighbors who have grown increasingly irritated with the noise.
“We live about 75 feet from the train tracks, so it’s blaring and multiple times throughout the night,” she said.
A spokesperson from Union Pacific noted that the railroad tracks were laid long before the neighborhoods grew up around them.
In a prepared statement, the spokesperson said, “Due to the nature of our extensive network and our role in supporting a reliable interstate commerce system, we operate 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.”
That’s a fact that neighbors have noticed and are far from happy about.
“At nighttime, that’s when I hear it. And it’s pretty loud too. And it’s not like a car horn that’s very light. It’s like that — times one hundred,” said area resident Ashwinder Singh.
As the city looks to settle the issues, neighbors in South San Jose say they don’t want trash and graffiti cleanup to be neglected again.
“It doesn’t look good. It’s not art. Sometimes, graffiti looks like art. But this is graffiti on top of graffiti on top of graffiti. And it’s ugly,” said neighbor Greg Peck.