SAN JOSE (KPIX) — Neighbors of San Jose’s first city-sanctioned recreational vehicle parking site for the homeless are pushing back on plans to open the facility, saying the decision was made behind closed doors, with no public meetings or community input.
“Why was this kept hush-hush? People were putting up a fence for a week and wouldn’t tell us what it was for,” asked one neighbor at an emotional town hall meeting Friday afternoon at Vista Montaña Neighborhood Park, adjacent to the proposed site. City of San Jose councilmember David Cohen led the meeting, in attendance with staff members from various city departments.
The RV parking will be located at 71 Vista Montaña, a vacant 4.2-acre parcel owned by the city. The property, which was home to the now-defunct 62,000-square-foot Supertex office building, has room for up to 20 RVs. The Vista Montaña parking site will only accommodate 8 to 9 inhabitants with RVs who were displaced from the Apple homeless encampment that was cleared out this week. RV owners who are homeless often reject offers to move into interim housing because of lack of parking and storage options for the RVs.
“We may not be the perfect bunch. We may not be the cleanest bunch but we’re still human,” said Robert Carlson, who had saved up for four years to purchase his trailer home.
The parking site will have 24-hour security, trash bins, restroom facilities and a strict code of conduct. The RV dwellers are not allowed to have guests. Residents in violation of the rules will be removed from the site. The city will conduct periodic reviews and will shut down the site if it is deemed unsuccessful, Cohen said.
“While this is uncomfortable for this one particular neighborhood, I’m somewhat excited to see how this works because this could be a model for being able to create a safe location across the city,” Cohen said.
According to Cohen, Apple had requested help from the city for years to relocate the encampment residents. The company’s Sept. 2 deadline to clear the encampment pushed the city into swift action with various departments signing off on the Vista Montaña site within the past week. After receiving final approval, Cohen notified neighbors with a posting Wednesday on NextDoor.
“It’s forced us into actually getting the city to test out how this could work in a way that maybe wouldn’t have happened if we didn’t have this other (Apple) site getting closed down,” said Cohen.
“Yes it was rushed, yes it was quick. We’re hopeful we’re able to make this pilot work,” Cohen said. “We are moving quickly to make sure we don’t end up with a bigger problem with people scattering. That’s been my goal.”
Neighbors have formed a change.org petition against the site that has garnered more than 300 signatures.
Ofelia Hernandez had recently moved into nearby apartments in order to escape the growing encampments of east San Jose. Hernandez learned of the safe parking site from a notice taped to her front door Friday morning and was “disappointed” and “upset.”
“They don’t know what’s going on in those RVs. Are they continuing to use drugs in those RVs? Are they drug tested? They can easily pick up the phone and give the address to their friends, which means that their friends might start popping tents up in our parks and around our neighborhood,” Hernandez said.
Apple will fund the relocation of the vehicles but the city will cover the operational costs, according to Cohen. The safe parking site is scheduled to open Sept. 7 and the pilot project will last for nine months.