Apple is one step closer to joining Samsung, PayPal and Cisco in North San Jose, as construction reportedly starts soon on its 85-acre campus near Mineta San Jose International Airport, just north of Highway 101.
As the tech giant has essentially squatted on the 2015 land grab without any timeline for development, dozens of people without homes sought refuge on the dilapidated property off Orchard Parkway and Charcot Avenue.
As it lay vacant, residents coming off the streets and fleeing other nearby encampments carved out pockets of living spaces among the flat sea of dead grass. Clusters of RVs, improvised shelters and vehicles house the estimated 35 to 75 people living alongside Component Drive.
Apple offered San Jose $300 million worth of property for affordable housing development in 2020, but those monies haven’t translated to any physical acreage or numbers of units, and won’t materialize for years—if zoning and legal challenges don’t block the option entirely.
City officials lauded the gesture, but housing advocates liken the encampment to a mirror—reflecting the tech industry’s contribution to the South Bay’s ever-growing housing disparities amongst potentially empty promises.
Poncho Pacheco, who says he’s been on the land before Apple purchased it, wants nothing more than the company to allow them to stay onside or offer mutually beneficial aid, such as footing the bill for temporary housing.
“They’re one of the richest tech companies in the world, and they’re paying HomeFirst [Services of Santa Clara County] a lot of money to come watch after us,” Pacheco says. Apple posted a record $81.4 billion in revenue for its June quarter—up 36% from last year. “Hardly any of that money ever comes back to us.”
Notices taped around the encampment Aug. 25 announced that the lot would be cleared by 7am today—giving less than a week's notice to pack up and get out. As of 11am Sept. 2, the lot clearing had reportedly been rescheduled until tomorrow, Sept. 3.
Since Tuesday, unhoused residents have been offered 30 short-term hotel rooms, resources for shelters and tentative plans for a safe parking lot tentatively being arranged by the city of San Jose. Andrea Urton, the Milpitas nonprofit’s CEO, says the $2.5 million budget Apple offered for those resources has proved vital.
“From my perspective, what Apple is doing is the perfect blend,” Urton says. “They're being part of a larger solution, and they're drilling down to where their offices are located. If everybody did what Apple is doing, we wouldn't have the issue of homelessness.”
Yet, the community flagged Apple’s inability to “think differently” in offering new solutions. Many are concerned about maintaining their belongings, pets and family members if they don’t align with hotel or shelter rules—often a reason people prefer living encampments. Dexter Jones, who moves into his hotel room on Saturday, is disappointed by Apple’s inability to clearly communicate with unhoused residents. When police and clean up crews arrive in the coming days, he anticipates unhoused residents may simply refuse to leave.
“The person who owns this property should have talked to us first before getting the police involved,” Jones said. “Don’t throw us off to the wolves.”