SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) — The ever-growing homeless encampment along the Guadalupe River is often the first thing many Silicon Valley visitors see when they land at Mineta San Jose International Airport.
The paved 11-mile bike path that cuts through downtown San Jose and ends in the southern part of the bay has seen a sharp rise in trash, encampments and RVs in recent weeks.
San Jose Councilmember Raul Peralez says “there’s probably a direct correlation” to the recent massive cleanup of railroad track encampments by Union Pacific crews, which likely pushed the homeless into the downtown core.
“When we clear out encampments and there aren’t enough shelter beds to go to, they find another place to camp,” said Peralez.
At the beginning of the trail from W. Virginia Avenue, there are about a half dozen encampments, some elaborately constructed with ties down, complete with lawn chairs and privacy shielding. One area had dozens of bikes and bike frames.
A high concentration of tents can be found under the Interstate-280/Highway 87 interchange, using the overpass for shelter from the elements. A large cluster is directly off Woz Way as well as Park Avenue, in the shadow of the corporate headquarters of Adobe and Cohesity.
The homeless have hauled refuse and debris to the curb, placing mounds of trash that were once hidden, but are now in plain view.
Further north, a one-third mile stretch of city property bounded by W. Hedding, Spring and Asbury Streets has seen a steady increase of RVs and vehicles utilizing trees and bushes for shade. The dozens of encampments that dot the landscape resemble a burgeoning shantytown, visible from private jets and commercial airliners landing at Mineta San Jose International.
Rachel Rodriguez, who drove her RV onto the dirt field several months ago, estimates there are 75 to 100 people living in the immediate area now. Rodriguez said police officers informed her on Friday that RVs and passenger vehicles must be moved off the property by Monday or Tuesday or else face towing and impounding, and tents will be cleared out soon after.
Rodriguez said passengers arriving to Silicon Valley and looking down on her encampment should reserve judgment.
“Well, we’re not doing nothing wrong. What business is it of theirs? We’re not bothering them, we’re doing anything to upset them. We’re just trying to make a living, we’re just trying to stay off the street,” said Rodriguez.
“I think it’s embarrassing when you have it (at the airport), or whether you have it here (near the Children’s Discovery Museum),” said Peralez.
Peralez said the 40 units at the Tiny Homes Village adjacent to the Berryessa BART station will be finished by the end of the year, and will help alleviate some of the problem. But Peralez expressed frustration at the widespread opposition from neighbors for citywide plans for a Tiny Homes Village to be built in every district.
“We don’t have enough of the political will, we don’t have enough community support to be able to do this. And we absolutely need to find a way to get this done faster. To get them to understand this problem is not going away. This is not all of sudden just disappear. And it’s not going to be solved somewhere else. We need to commit to solving it within our own communities, right here,” said Peralez.