State Bill Aims to Curb Nuisances on Communications Hill

About five years ago, word got out on social media that Communications Hill, with its grand staircases and stunning views, is a great workout spot. People checked in on Facebook, posted photos, even started a Yelp page, drawing droves of visitors.

Neighbors started complaining as streets became clogged with cars, the stairs littered with wrappers and visitors loitered late into the night, sometimes blaring music, drinking, taking drugs and/or showing more affection than public decency laws permit. Because the stairs are zoned as a public right-of-way, like a sidewalk, the city can't enforce curfew or do much, if any, crowd control.

But a state bill could change that. Sen. Jim Beall (D-San Jose) is proposing legislation that would give cities authority to regulate pedestrian right-of-ways. SB 236 was penned with the Communications Hill footpath in mind, but would apply to all cities.

“Cities would have greater latitude on controlling the public use of staircases in order to address the needs and concerns of its residents like those who live on Communications Hill,” Beall said. “It’s time we get ahead of this issue before the development expands and things get worse for the residents.’’

San Jose city officials asked for the bill after fielding hundreds of complaints over the years from residents of the south San Jose hillside neighborhood.

“I want to thank Sen. Beall and the state legislature for helping San Jose solve the problems the Communications Hill neighborhood is facing,” said San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo. “Without this critical bill, the City and the residents will be challenged in our efforts to clean up and maintain order with the Communications Hill staircase.”

Jennifer Wadsworth is the news editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Newspaper. Email tips to [email protected] or follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.

37 Comments

  1. This is a joke and a waste of our money and political kiss ass. Jim Beall has more important issues to take care of. This is a public access area and if people want to use it to get fit so bee it! Sounds like the same council women is a pain to others but is protective only of her area. Hell if more lazy voters looked like the guy on the stairs we would be in a better place.

    • Cities have curfews for parks, why shouldn’t they have them for public staircases?

      • Ya and why stop there? Next sidewalks, doorways, bus stops, front lawns and porches, beaches, lakes the ocean. Let’s just impose a general curfew for everyone everywhere!

        • Nice slippery slope fallacy. Parks and this staircase are publicly owned areas in residential neighborhoods. Don’t worry, your front lawn and porch are safe.

    • lady Nguyen”s interest in keeping her neighborhood staircase stranger free did create….??? If you said “payjob* then you are correct.

  2. Thank you, Senator Beall, for helping our residents! Public spaces make it difficult to find a balance in some cases, and this was exactly one of those cases. I’m sure the residents of Communications Hill thank you for your efforts.

  3. If the voters and the sellouts they elect had more interest in the people of San Jose and our natural environment than in enriching developers in the name of the bogus ideal of “affordable housing”, then Communications Hill would be an attractive public park instead of the squalid eyesore that it has become.

  4. Sam,

    I hope you ride the bike lanes that you created and screwed you downtown traffic. Have you noticed how many delivery trucks park in theses so called bike lanes and make us ride in traffic. And now we cannot run steps to stay in shape. Step into our shoes. God help us all under your leadership.

  5. Thank you, Senator Beall, for addressing an issue we didn’t have the power to address as residents of San Jose. Removing the pedestrian right-of-way issue will work wonders for controlling the noise, litter, loitering, and excessive disruptive and mostly illegal activity in our neighborhood. For people that are bashing this move, you obviously don’t understand what it’s like to be powerless from controlling the public from invading your “home space.”

    • I understand what it is to be powerless from the public from invading my “home space”, so do the 300 other residents of the Jungle on December 4, 2014. All those people were housed until they were kicked to the curb and made truly homeless. Now they are scattered all over the county and on April 1st, will be joined by all those people “housed” in a cold weather shelter as they are closed. April fools, all you citizens that believed that the city actually had a plan to house all the homeless.

      Good luck with your precious staircase.

      • I also forgot to mention, I attended the council meeting when this was being discussed. The builder was there to defend the stairs saying that it was designed to be an attraction and that another staircase was being planned on the other side of the hill and would be built when that property is being developed.

        Another thing, why are you outside at 2 AM? The staircase is public property for ALL public uses and not belonging to the luxury homes on Communications Hill. Where was your “make-out spot” when you were in high school? As far as the trash, hire Downtown Streets Team to clean it up. Many neighborhoods have done that and their neighborhoods are kept clean. You can inspire some homeless to “learn a skill” and work their way to being housed. You get a bonus by assuaging your guilt at the same time!

  6. As a resident living in a condo along the running path, I absolutely love living here. I enthusiastically support the use of the staircase and sidewalks for walking and fitness. The neighborhood is well designed and beautiful. An unintended consequence of the design has been overwhelming popularity and problematic activities late at night. I appreciate the actions to limit parking and this bill which is needed to deal with the small minority who abuse the staircase area.

  7. A small minority abuses something. Typical government reaction: don’t deal with the small minority; just ban everyone. So, everyone suffers for the sins of the few.

  8. Questions: Does this staircase provide a way to get from Point A to Point B ? Was the staircase built with the intent to connect A and a currently nonexistent B at some point definite or indefinite future time? Would closing this staircase mean persons wishing to run/walk/climb/descend from A to B or B to A have to take A longer route of/when the staircase is closed?

    • Mr. Stufflebean: Please identify which City of San Jose parks are closed and during what hours? I know that I have walked through several city parks and never saw any signs indicating they were closed.

      • From the City web site: “Neighborhood parks are open from sunrise to one hour after sunset. Regional Parks are open from 8am to one half hour after sunset with the exception of Emma Prusch Farm Park(8:30am-one half hour before sunset), the Japanese Friendship Garden(10am-sunset) and History Park. Some Regional Parks are closed on Monday: Almaden Lake Park, Alum Rock Park, Emma Prusch Farm Park, and Overfelt Gardens.”

    • I get that (who WILL enforce the closures?) . Is there an alternate way to get from A to B for time the staircase is closed? If the staircase is closed and the closure is enforced with say a criminal citation – will “I live here!” Be a valid defense?

  9. In the current situation, if people are hanging out in a park at 2 in the morning, park rangers or the police can require them to leave since the park is closed. However, if people are hanging out at 2 in the morning on the staircase, there is nothing that can be done. All the neighborhood is asking and what the bill would allow is that the staircase have closure hours like a park so that the staircase can be closed. If someone wants to walk from the bottom of the hill to the top during the hours that the staircase is closed, they can easily walk up the sidewalk along the nearby streets.

    • There are not enough police to enforce anything on the staircase like there are not enough police to enforce anything on sidewalks on streets in parks etc… park rangers? Ya right.

      What prevents persons from hanging out on side street sidewalks? Should non-existent police and ranger resources be detailed there too?

      Maybe instead of being a drain on nonexistent police resources and spending time making/changing laws for the exclusive benifit of staircase neighbors the residents of Communications Hill should secede from San Jose and incorporate as its own municipality? Then it could levy it’s own taxes, create its own laws and its own police force to enforce those laws.

      As it stands now you can take all existing laws and demand all be enforced until you are blue in the face. It isn’t going to happen because the police force is understaffed and spread so thin across the city that little if anything gets done

      Multiply Communications Hill’s frustration with issues affecting that neighborhood time the number of other neighborhood associations across the City. Then accept the fact that of the 862 officers (ya 862 and I know the budgeted strength is 1109 and Sam wants to increase that to 1250 at the soonest …) there are only about 450 assigned to Patrol and those 450 are spread across the 24 hour -7 day work week.

      I want I want I want… that’s nice good luck!

  10. So frustrating when ignorance tries to decree right of way on neighboring paths. Some just won’t understand unless they were an actual victim in their own community while strolling with their own young family.

  11. We are acutely aware of the problems facing San Jose. I for one appreciate that rather that throw their hands up in despair, the neighborhood worked with the City to develop a set of measures designed to improve the situation, one of which is getting authority to close the stairway at night. I applaud their efforts.

    • What good are these “measures” if there is no one available to enforce them?

      My experience with situations like this is more indignant outrage from citizens who want the laws and the new laws.and laws that don’t exist yet enforced. Instead they call 311 and 911 and never have an officer respond. NEVERMIND there are no officers because well there arent any and those that are working are detailed to higher priority calls. Frustrated citizens call 911 and vent their anger at call takers and diapatchers. They demand a supervisor respond …they get told the facts – “people hanging.out.on the stairs” is so far down list of public safety.priorities that it doesnt get.a second thought when a supervisor decides to let it pend indefinitly or cancel it outright.

      This leads to calls to the chief, the mayor, the local councilmember, the media who all fake compassion and outrage and promise citizens the moon in terms of police attention to this localized irritation. Maybe an officer or two is detailed maybe and most likely not. Either way the problem continues and the foolish demand for more laws and more enforcement are demanded.

      Rather than cry for new laws that can’t possibly be enforced due to a serious lack of staffing the public should be demanding that their elected officials get SJPD back to a staffing strength that supports law enforcement and crime suppression. That is the solution to so many problems facing Comm Hill , Almaden, downtown and everyother neighborhood in SJ.

      Until that happens all the working groups and committees working to solve problems like the staircase are just a big waste of time and energy.

  12. This sounds like something out of T.C. Boyle “Tortilla Curtain”.
    I would say enforce existing ordinance don’t put another layer of policy on top.
    This sounds like a privatization play. If you live nearby and see some monkey business, call it in.

    And yeah, I will drive 30 minutes from the 650 to check it out. Once. Thanks for the tip.

  13. Again more ignorance. If you don’t understand the problems and criminals that families in this community have to face on some evenings, then please just focus on your own. The point is that the city cannot enforce many laws in this area as on public sidewalks.
    Thank you to everyone who supports minimizing the “monkey business” during late hours.
    Work-out: great.
    Abuse: NO!

    • Like I said in another post…the problems on the stairs are not unique to that area. EVERY neighborhood has problems just like this. Every neighborhood has residents begging for police attention while those same neighborhoods have graffiti and burglaries and speeding stop sign runners and loud tv sets and noisy neighbor and barking dogs and domestic violence and on and on and on…

      there is a finite number of police officers hours in the day days in the week meanwhile because the.police Deparment has staffing issues it’s ability to respond to high priority in progress life/property threatening calls in a timely manner is getting harder and harder.

      People “hanging out” smoking pot or drinking anywhere in SJ on the stairs, at any park, or anywhere else in the entire City is so far down the list of priorities as to be non existent. No new law , no amount of calls to Councilmembers no amount of complaining will change this simple fact.

      If you want these little things addressed you better get on the City to do everything possible to attract and retain police officers…remember that as of right now There are 862 officers in a department that is supposedly funded to employ 1109.

      • The staircase is unique in that it is a park-like area but given its legal status the City can not apply the typical rules that govern parks. We all understand that San Jose has lots of problems. But why not correct this deficiency? We can do this small thing that is a positive move, and still start to address the other issues.

        • Again, there are so many neighborhoods with so many “small problems” where well meaning residents want “teency – weency” solutions … Comm Hill wants the stairs restricted , Almaden wants burglars caught, Eastside wants gangsters, burglars, robbers and gambling dens shut down , First Street from Charcot to (Monterey) Stauffer rid of prostitutes , DTSJ wants gangstgers dope dealers homeless gone, everyone wants racers gone….

          Sure lets put all those other little things on hold and pass a law that will not be enforced because there are not enough police to enforce it and to many other little problems to deal with. If it makes you feel better…

          One simple request, After the law is enacted and the staircase continues to be a nuisance DO NOT waste any time or energy telling us how many times residents have called anon poi e showed up … I know it is too much to ask but I’m asking anyway. Remember, this is not Sunnyvale and neither the politicians nor the residents value their public safety here.

          • I could hardly disagree with you more. Doing this small but important thing will help, and this does not prelude working to address the other problems. I guess I’m just a “glass half full” kind of guy.

          • I would encourage everyone to read SB236, which is just a few lines short. I am sure it took legislators a lot less time to write it than it took you all to debate on it.

  14. The communication hill homes came onto the market at a ridiculously high price because they were luxury. But it is NOT a gated community. Its a neighborhood just like any other with some areas with high traffic. Plenty of other neighborhoods – on a hill or otherwise- deal with the same issues. If u see someone having sex on the stairs or breaking bottles on your house -CALL IT IN! You don’t need a new bill or law to enforce things that are already illegal. This is a large city with a hell of a lot of people. stop victimizing yourselves and move to Morgan Hill or San Martin if you don’t want to see your fellow residents after dark.

  15. As I stated earlier, I love the fact that everyone can use the hill for walking and exercise and I’m glad it is not a gated community. Come up and exercise and enjoy the view. And if we see illegal activity, we do call it in. But just as there is no reason for anyone to be in a park at 2 in the morning, and therefore the City has the authority to close parks at night, there is no reason anyone needs to be on the staircase at 2 in the morning. All the neighborhood is asking is legal action so that the City can have the authority to close the staircase, just like they close parks in neighborhoods all over the City.

    • A while back I asked council to consider making the NorthEast portion of the hill a model glider park. Maybe they could reconsider this, and include the staircase as part of it.

      It is the *only* place in San Jose proper you can reliably fly a model glider on most days. Not to mention, we’re good patrons. Everyone in the glider scene (myself included) picked up a ton of trash off the NE slope.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B444WCSO8tE

      • “Up up up, fly a little higher. Go up in the clouds because the view is a little nicer”. So nice to hear any positive or constructive input.