San Jose Cancels Overnight Parking Program for Homeless Families at Seven Trees

Families who have been parking overnight outside Seven Trees Community Center will soon be moving onto a different kind of shelter: a motel room.

The San Jose City Council on Tuesday voted unanimously to end the family safe parking program at Seven Trees amid low participation and concerns about safety from neighbors. City officials will begin the search for a new site that will potentially be for adults only and return to council in two to three months.

The program, which gave families living in their cars a more secure place to rest their heads at night, launched as an experimental pilot last November. The nonprofit LifeMoves has been running the day-to-day operation since then, providing services such as case management, security and access to showers.

But while the lot’s capacity can hold up to 17 vehicles, housing officials say that there have been about four to seven families on average each night. That’s a stark difference from San Jose’s adult safe parking sites at Roosevelt and Southside community centers, which on average turn out about eight to 10 and 10 to 12 vehicles a night, respectively.

San Jose Deputy Housing Director Ragan Henninger said that during a review of the program city officials spoke with a number of families that declined to participate. Some 303 families—out of the 689 contacted overall—said they weren’t interested in the program. Many of them were reportedly on wait lists for shelters.

“Some of the most common reasons are families with young children prefer to stay with family or friends or they prefer to stay in motels or hotels if they have that option,” Henninger told San Jose Inside. “We have the opportunity with the motel voucher program and it’s really a better opportunity to move families inside.”

The motel voucher program, which was also approved by the council on Tuesday, would focus on transitioning families at the Seven Trees lot into motels. City officials envision that it would add capacity to already overloaded emergency shelters.

Meanwhile, the city will start searching for an alternative safe parking site.  

Neighbors of the Seven Trees Community Center have voiced concerns about illicit activity, illegal dumping and a spike in the number of RVs parked along nearby roads. City officials suspect that the complaints are misdirected, and that they actually involve people who are not enrolled in the safe parking program.

“There’s been a poor implementation of this program,” said Jonathan Velazquez, the president of the Seven Trees Neighborhood Association. “At this point it’s not so much that the safe parking program is the real issue, it’s what’s going on on the street. The community sometimes has a hard time differentiating.”

Mayor Sam Liccardo said he believes the city “dropped the ball” when it came to providing the community with support services.

“We need to be more focused and committed where we are making facilities available for formerly homeless individuals to ensure the surrounding community gets all the attention they deserve and need from the city,” Liccardo told San Jose Inside.

Councilwoman Maya Esparza, who represents the Seven Trees neighborhood in District 7, said that the location was a “poor choice”—especially since it's next to two schools. It also has multiple entrances and exits, which is something she says private providers would typically try to avoid.

Esparza, who said she doesn't want her position to be “mischaracterized” for a lack of support, is offering other sites in her district like the Leininger Center. The council also approved one of her recommendations to explore ways to support private and nonprofit safe parking programs. “Private operators know what they're doing,” Esparza said. “I’m not sure this is something that the city should be in the business of doing.”

Next time the city hopes to take a more “coordinated” response and include the police department, code enforcement, public works and parks, recreation and neighborhood services, among other department's, in the conversation.

“We have to make sure that we treat everyone with respect, that we choose the right site and we set it up for success and provide the right resources,” Councilwoman Pam Foley said. “[We need to] find the safe parking projects close to where the unhoused are, where they're comfortable, where it will set them up for success. And we need to make sure we include the community in it, as well.”

Per the request of Councilmen Raul Peralez and Sergio Jimenez, city officials will also be exploring options for more "effective enforcement" against vehicles that are leaking sewage or waste, are illegal dumping trash or are creating a traffic hazard. One of the complaints from Seven Trees neighbors was that RVs not a part of the program began to line the streets.

“We do not have the luxury to fail at these sites,” Peralez said. “I think the message is really clear to me. This was not the traditional sentiment we’ve heard before, but a community that experienced things that were not resolved.”

Peralez also wanted the city to explore a potential daytime safe parking program. A site won't be immediately brought back to council, but Peralez hopes that city officials think more about where people in their cars go in the mornings. Most safe parking programs kick participants out when the sun comes, leaving some people living in their car with no place for their vehicle during the day.

But while family safe parking will come to a close at Seven Trees, the city will consider it as a strategy to address homelessness and housing insecurity for families with children.

“I totally agree this was not the right location. It was our first attempt to serve families,” said Sylvia Arenas, the councilwoman who proposed the initiative. “We have to sometimes be bold and then we learn lessons through that boldness. One of the lessons is we need to learn a little bit more about what these families are going through.”

Grace Hase is a staff writer for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Email tips to [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @grace_hase.

5 Comments

  1. The City of San Jose is a joke and caused this problem forcing even more people onto the streets that where holding on by a thread.

    The City has been stealing motor homes and cars that are being used as shelter with no legal justification for many years. No property releases….. no access to anything….no tow hearing….no 72-hour notices….no CHP180 inventory list…. nothing… This is also the case with homeless encampments….

    Then if you have the BALLS to challenge these crooks they will come after you with a whole load of Bull Shat Muni Codes and try and silence your Free Speech rights….. When you don’t back down the City Attorney will rig your case and really turn up the heat. Be prepared for a massive civil law suit since these little cry babies don’t understand the United States Constitution.

    Yes folks…. The Anti-Democratic City of San Jose files lawsuits against the Homeless after all their belongings are stolen (Stolen by the same city that is suing them)

    This behavior has reserved special seating in Hell for our City Leaders since they all knew this was happening (They like to try and play dumb)

    And don’t even think that Internal Affairs or the Independent Police Auditor are going to stand up for your rights if you are Homeless or Poor. You might as well go complain to a statue at Saint James Park…

    The people that are tearing our town apart are pissed off and the City threw the first punch. For every 1 dollar the City took the Homeless are going to destroy 50 buck’s worth of city / county property.

    Two wrongs don’t make a right, but when it comes to stealing from people that are suffering, I don’t blame anyone for this type of behavior.

    The City got their hands really dirty in preparation for Super Bowl 50 and pretty much started to exterminate the people living on our streets.

    This safe parking program was protecting the people that have it the hardest and will now put them in the line of fire to have SJPD violate all their rights by stealing their Motor Homes (and Cars)

    Many of the Churches in San Jose started offering these types of services to help people many years back but SJPD but pressure on them to boot people off private property and straight into Mayor “Stinky” Sam Liccardos trash compactor.

    The CITY OF SAN JOSE is lying to its residents about the process for all of their interactions with the Homeless.

    * Also….. Most of the Homeless do not trust the City of San Jose since they are a SCAM and like to set people up to fail. Maybe that is a BIG Factor on why this “Safe Parking Program” was not at full capacity.

    Talk about poor leadership in the Anti Democratic City of San Jose.

  2. This video below (Filmed last week) is an example of how San Jose Cops lie about interactions with the Homeless. This Police Officer is LIAR and got caught in the act running over someones stuff downtown….. This is how SJPD does it folks and it’s been going on for a very long time.

    When my property was taken (Motor Home / Everything I own / Father’s Ashes) SJPD lied all over the police report and did everything to protect the shady rookie officer (San Jose Police Officer Steven Gaona Badge# 4416) that did this to me….Same process happened with protecting the City from liability and screwing me over even more….

    I have spent years digging into these crooks and they will not get away with what they are doing to the people that have it the hardest in our community.

    Please watch this Video below and Share…. It’s time that the residents of San Jose fully understand how the Homeless are being treated on our streets.

    We must stop throwing people out like trash in the City of San Jose when they lose their way in life.

    San Jose is just a Big Bully and a Mean one at that….

  3. Award ceremony for another BIG LIAR at SJPD….. San Jose Police Officer Steven Gaona Badge# 4416…… He likes to steal motor homes, cars, personal property, and whatever he can get his hands on from our homeless population in the City of San Jose.

    Maybe….Just maybe one of these days officer Steven Genoa Badge# 4416 can tell me where the final resting place is for my father since I never got his ashes back when my my motor home was taken never to be seen again (No Property Releases)

    Oh….. did I mention my DOG was taken to animal control and almost got gassed!!! Also…my Cat was left to wander the streets after SJPD let him out of my RV… They though this was funny and laughed at me in the back of a police car. I was crying and begging them to get my Elderly Cat out of the road since it was playing “Frogger” with passing cars…. They did nothing and left the cat to DIE….

    The City of San Jose let this COP off the hook and pretty much covered for his bad behavior. We gave him a FREE PASS to continue this disgraceful activity.

    Sometimes when the system cannot provide community justice we have the power to publicly shame these crooked cops….

    Welcome to YouTube San Jose Police Officer Steven Gaona Badge# 4416….. you should have been fired!!! Same with your Boss that signed off on your totally BS police report that threw a Homeless Man in Jail that was doing nothing wrong. Thanks again for taking my temporary registration TAG out of the Window of my motor home to cover your illegal impound…. You Rock Steven!!!!

  4. Let me be the first to offer the City Hall Parking garage to migrants and the homeless.
    Another problem solved!

Leave a Reply