What’s Next for Guadalupe River Park and SJ’s Homeless Crisis?

Every other Saturday, Todd Langton fills his 2004 Lexus with donated supplies—a mix of sleeping bags, canned goods, fruit, bottled water, hygiene kits and hundreds of hot meals. By 10am, he’s off-roading in his little four-door sedan through the walking trails around San Jose’s Guadalupe River Park.

Normally, cars wouldn’t be allowed along the paved walkways of the pastoral park in the middle of the city’s downtown. But for now, only a handful of walkers and bikers are around to be upset, and the unhoused residents camping there—many he considers friends—are waiting for his supply drop.

“I think it’s a shame that more families are not out enjoying what could be a beautiful trail and park, but then on the other hand, some of us outreach people will drive our cars on those trails so we can reach the unhoused easier,” says Langton, a volunteer with Agape Silicon Valley. “When [unhoused people] are looked down upon, that’s why a lot of them will go into areas like the Guadalupe Parkway: they don't have to encounter that scorn or snobbishness from the housed people.”

Hundreds of homeless residents have set up camp alongside chinook salmon, great blue heron and the California beaver on the riverbanks of San Jose’s Guadalupe River Park.

The tents winding through the city’s downtown have long fielded the blame for why many of San Jose’s walkers, joggers and cyclists avoid the three-mile public space. A 2019 survey by park stewards found only 23% of respondents felt welcome and safe using the park trail, while 43% reported concerns regarding unhoused people.

Jason Su, executive director of the Guadalupe River Park Conservancy, estimates there are at least 200 unhoused residents in the core of the park, and as many as 700 if accounting for the entirety of the park, between Highways 880 and 280.

Residents, public officials, urban planning think tanks and homeless advocates have focused their attention on the park in recent months, in part because it may be a bellwether for all of San Jose, Su says.

“It’s a microcosm of all of the opportunities and challenges of our region,” he says. “So whatever happens in the River Park is almost a signal in the direction of the city.”

The park sits near the city’s central business district, a planned BART extension and multiple massive developments or towering development proposals. It’s also a mere mile or two away from the attractions of the city’s downtown that brought in $64 million in tourism revenue and $320 million in local taxes from visitors in 2019—activity downtown boosters hope will return soon. But the dichotomy between that kind of glamour and the realities along the riverbank can be unsettling.

Langton knows the tents and trash in the park can be off-putting. But he’s also heard many of those residents’ stories of lost jobs, divorce, addiction and hardship as he helps them file for stimulus checks or secure cell phones.

Hoping that the encampments will go away, he says, isn’t the solution. “People who say ‘Not in my backyard’ need to be reminded they're already in your backyard,” he says.

Volunteers gather in a parking lot on Technology Drive near the airport to pack food and other supplies to be dropped off at homeless encampments in San Jose. (Photo by Greg Ramar)

‘Proud of this Land’

One of those people is Eugene.

His morning routine includes a stretch before he sweeps outside his home and picks up any trash he sees—a relatable ritual, even if most people can’t picture themselves living alongside him in a homeless encampment at the Guadalupe River Park.

He’s also bothered by the state of the park. Since arriving in July, Eugene has taken on the responsibility of cleaning up the land as if it were his own.

“We want to be proud of this land,” he says. “Just because you’re homeless, doesn’t mean you have to live among the trash. We’re just trying to make ends meet and survive—you can’t blame us for that.”

Gail Osmer, a longtime advocate for the unhoused who visits Eugene and others at the park weekly, says unhoused residents are shouldering more blame for the problems here than they’ve earned. “I’ve seen people dump their garbage here,” she says. “Now people see our unhoused community cleaning up their own garbage, and then [community members] feel they have a right to go and dump.”

“Yes, there is garbage, but it’s not all the unhoused.”

Garbage is strewn around the Guadalupe River Park in downtown San Jose. Homeless residents camping at the park say other people are also dumping garbage at the park. (Photo by Greg Ramar)

But finding the right people to blame for making the mess is less important than the crossroads city officials and the park’s stewards face in addressing the problems, which have been made all the more visible by the pandemic.

“There’s this broad sense of universal under-investment of a lot of our services, which perpetuates the concerns and priorities we see,” Su says.

Of late, those concerns and priorities have been hand-in-hand: helping the unhoused park residents find shelter, picking up trash, revitalizing the park and assuaging the residents upset by the growing unhoused population.

Local politicians and activists say they are trying to lay groundwork to get homeless residents off the streets and out of the park, but those efforts come with layers of legislative hurdles, funding shortfalls and a tight timeline.

“Any of this should be viewed not as the new normal, not as the status quo—the park itself is not a place that is suited for anyone to live,” downtown Councilman Raul Peralez says. “There’s frustrations all around, from local residents, workers coming to downtown, even the unhoused, because this is not an ideal situation for anybody.”

Jim Salata has helped build, preserve and retrofit Downtown San Jose since 1988, when he and his wife Suzanne founded Garden City Construction.

For years, he’s implored government officials to adopt more housing resources, and helped organize hundreds-strong cleanup efforts, but he reached an emotional peak after seeing how run-down Arena Green has gotten in recent weeks—from smashed art and untrimmed trees to the burning of a ranger station he helped build in the 1990s.

“That’s really what kicked off my being fried,” Salata said. “It’s like a cancer—once you let it go, it compounds itself. You have to take care of things now, you can’t wait. Arena Green’s beautiful, but it's been completely neglected.”

Salata knows this is a multi-pronged issue with no sole person to blame, but the years-long San Jose booster doesn’t think allowing folks to camp by the river is a good solution in the meantime, especially since volunteerism can only go so far without long term solutions. “If we want to be a world class city, we need to fix this,” Salata said.

“What kind of image do we want to portray to the world? There’s a lot of investment happening in town, but what scares me is if some of these investors decide they’re fed up because we can’t clean this place up.”

Stay or Go

Local health officials and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that unless permanent or temporary shelter can be offered, encampments shouldn’t be dispersed during the pandemic because it could lead to more Covid-19 spread.

Meanwhile, the Federal Aviation Administration has pushed San Jose officials to find another option for the Guadalupe River Park campers because the noise from the planes flying overhead also creates a health risk, stress and suffering, says Mayor Sam Liccardo.

Indeed, the park was filled with residences until the mid-’70s, when the city demolished 630 homes in the 240 acres in and around the park, per FAA recommendations. The noise and other safety concerns had mounted in the decade after the Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport expanded to accommodate passenger projections of 500,000 annual travelers.

A homeless child looks over the park at an oncoming airplane. Planes travel over the park consistently and the sound reverberates through the park. (Photo by Greg Ramar)

“You can still see the outlines of the city blocks,” Su says, as he walks through the park flanked by the Heritage Rose Garden on one side and an encampment on the other.

More than a half-century later, the sound of the planes taking off and landing nearby reverberates loudly through the park.

“We are facing a mandate to ensure that we move people out of the area, so we have to do so, sensitively and carefully, and recognize that communities have developed among the unhoused,” Liccardo says. “It’s important that we can keep communities intact to provide support in times of crisis.”

But in a region where a single home typically takes years to develop and is about $700,000 per unit, finding alternate options for homeless residents is a lofty task while approximately 10,000 people remain unhoused in Santa Clara County as of 2019.

San Jose has worked with Gov. Gavin Newsom to wrangle funding to build shelters, including three prefabricated modular tiny home developments, where more than 300 formerly homeless people have taken up residence. A future location near the Guadalupe River Park and San Jose Police Department is also on the table.

The projects done so far, fast-tracked by emergency state policies during the pandemic, took just four months and cost $95,000 per unit—14 percent of a typical affordable home. Still, the task of housing everyone is monumental in Silicon Valley. Looking statewide, it would cost $2.4 billion per year to help the 129,972 people sleeping on the streets on any given night, Liccardo says.

“Emergency dollars and emergency orders have helped us to move more quickly, but has not solved the funding issues of getting more affordable housing built,” he says. “As long as the Bay Area is a place where it costs $700,000 to build an apartment ..., we’re not going to see a market-based solution for affordable housing.”

Wish List

That’s where Michelle Huttenhoff’s visions begin. While housing homeless residents is the long-term goal, the planning policy director for urban planning nonprofit SPUR sees a more near-term future where the Guadalupe River Park and other public spaces across the country could be shared between the homeless and housed residents in harmony.

She used the Guadalupe River Park as her case study in a newly released “Coexistence Toolkit,” but said the report is for any organization that wants to shift public perception of the homeless and rethink public space design to work for everyone.

With some changes, the River Park could be useful for everyone, Huttenhoff says—but the biggest challenges are public perception, city support and committed funding.

“There’s this notion that the future and success of Guadalupe River Park is tied to a presence of homelessness there,” Huttenhoff says. “That has never resonated well with me, and I felt that we needed to take a pause and really unpack that.”

Her approach isn’t trying to eradicate homelessness, like so many reports and visions in the region. Instead, her recommendations focus on infrastructure and safety in public spaces—some of the few places people without homes are allowed to settle.

Such changes could look like the “living room parklets,” in Seattle, flush with magazines and music; or pairing social workers armed with board games to talk with homeless residents, as is done in Atlanta’s Woodruff Park.

Another option might be installing “zoned lighting” to keep walking paths bright without waking homeless residents, similar to Folkets Park in Copenhagen. A simpler, and cheaper, solution could be creating rules that accommodate the homeless and agreeing on who will enforce them, the report suggests.

The recommendations come as the pandemic’s entrance into Santa Clara County stretches past its one-year anniversary and some residents remain housed only by the grace of a ban on evictions, while landlords say they’re struggling under the moratorium.

On top of the emergency tiny homes, San Jose officials have approved a list of short-term solutions to ease the homelessness crisis during the pandemic. Among them: sanctioning a now-defunct encampment program, expanding job opportunities for unhoused people and building emergency interim tiny house communities.

But the recommendations to re-think the park itself, as proposed by SPUR, aren’t currently on the to-do list, officials say.

Whether such changes will make the cut as cities stare down staggering budget shortfalls due to declining revenues during the pandemic, remains to be seen.

SPUR is trying to translate its new toolkit into concrete policies and projects.

But in the meantime, Huttenhoff says the ideas have started to get reactions from locals, which is a good first step for an issue that starts with negative perceptions of homeless residents and often ends in frustrated finger-pointing. “I really do believe that we don't spend enough time really unpacking some of the challenges we have when it comes to safety—or our perception of safety—and these other elements,” she says.

Todd Langton talks with unhoused residents, many he considers friends, on Saturday, March 20 while delivering supplies and food to encampments in San Jose. (Photo by Greg Ramar)

The Talk

Indeed, the conversations about homelessness in the park can be one of the hardest parts of addressing the issue, Su says.

A peek at NextDoor in many Bay Area neighborhoods makes the frustration over the growing homeless population in the region apparent, including in San Jose, where the park has been dubbed the “Homeless Mansion” by some NextDoor users.

Those kinds of posts also frustrate Eugene, who says he wishes people understood that he doesn’t want to be homeless or sleeping in the park.

“I wish that person would come and spend one night here,” he says. “How dare you—it’s your worst nightmare. God forbid you ever have to live like this.”

At this point, anything that helps temper antagonism toward the unhoused people who have made the park home would be progress, Su says.

“We are willing to try anything to help facilitate this, because right now, we’re not feeling that the conversations are productive,” Su says. “If we could use little bits of that momentum to get people to either do more, think harder or advocate stronger, that could snowball into something more.

Langton, the volunteer who visits every other week with supplies, wants to see some of SPUR’s recommendations put into action.

But he’s clear that more than new lighting, parklets or social workers, he wants shelters, like tiny homes or pallet structures, alongside the river.

Then, the people he delivers good to every other week can finally call themselves “formerly homeless,” he says. “Let’s provide a better situation for them to live if we’re going to let them coexist in the Guadalupe Parkway.”

27 Comments

  1. “We want to be proud of this land,” he says. “Just because you’re homeless, doesn’t mean you have to live among the trash. We’re just trying to make ends meet and survive—you can’t blame us for that.”

    Nope – no one can.

    While yes the “housed community” does dump their trash so do many in the unhoused. So how about we all pick up our trash and be responsible for our own actions?

    Second, trying to make ends meat in San Jose is incredibly difficult. It is far better to establish yourself in a town or community in which rents are $500-$600 a month or a house cost $150K or less. There are so many places outside California that one can live a modest professional life but an abundant personal life. Under a bridge, staying one step ahead of the sweepers is not a solution, it is not safe, and it is not clean for the unhoused or the housed.

  2. Brain-dead Biden treats illegal aliens to hotels, food, clothing, medical care, dental care and convention centers.

    I propose;

    Homeless people have created a “Public Health” problem affecting themselves and society.
    Federal Emergency Management Camps must be created in unpopulated areas of California.
    The California National Guard should be activated and Federalized to “round-up” and transport the Homeless population to their new homes.
    The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) should be reactivated.
    The Works Project Administration (WPA) should be reactivated.
    Those that can work will be able to do so.
    Those that cannot because of drug addiction and mental health issues will receive treatment.
    That’s for starters.

    The Homeless must be removed from the Bay Area, for they have no chance in succeeding and or regaining their dignity without individually winning a large lottery payout.

    The days of allowing nonprofit and or public benefit corporations to parasitize homeless populations and governments for financial enrichment should abruptly end.

    Government can’t keep printing money.

    Somewhere in the process, thoroughly Scr*w SPUR and be rid of them.

    Remember to Vote Newsom out of Office.

    David S. Wall

  3. The headline uses the word “homeless”. In the text of the article however the word “houseless” seems to be preferred by the experts. So please. Enough with the micro aggressions SJI. If the bums and the bum advocacy industry professionals want us to call them houseless then we would be bad people not to do so. But anyways…
    Those of us who understand and have an appreciation for science could clearly see, a decade ago, what the long term outcome would be of being tolerant of people illegally setting up camp on public property. Anybody with even a slight familiarity with Darwin’s concept of Natural Selection knows that organisms thrive and multiply in environments to which they are uniquely adapted. Our Democrat leadership- you know, the ones who continually self righteously lecture us to “follow the science”, have created the ideal habitat for houseless bums, losers, mental cases and drug addicts. These same Democrats are now puzzled- what, WHAT could possibly account for this sudden concentration of human debris in our midst?
    They keep looking outward, conjuring up villainous people and organizations to blame, never ONCE having any humble introspection or self reflection to consider that maybe, just maybe they themselves caused the problem. And that they themselves can make it go away. Not “solve” it. Make it go away.

  4. Here’s a nice zillow map of sub>$20,000 homes.
    https://bit.ly/3tSDHhW

    Most are 2 bedroom mobile homes. Could easily fit 2-3 people in them. That’s where we run into a rub though. If San Jose’s homeless population is around 10,000 then it would be $100m to buy enough to house all these people (if we packed in 2 per)

    Still cheaper than a tiny home.

  5. Sanctioned encampments with rules and enforcement of no camping everywhere else. What’s so hard about this?

  6. The County and the city have armies of analysts who can pick fly poop 💩 out of the pepper — and do so all the time on obscure and mundane concerns. Why have they never calculated how much urine and feces the homeless dump (no pun intended) into our environment every year.

    Talk about pollution! Where are the environmentalist?

    So, my SJWs at SJI, how about a probative poop report? Or are you just too obtuse to dare cross the orthodoxy of the noble homeless victim and their allies?

  7. PART I: …The Least of These My Brethren…

    Thanks to Mss. Stetson and Lauer for focusing attention on the vitally important question of houselessness in our community. The main problem with the piece, and so many others, is the lack of insight into the houseless themselves and what has made them houseless. Charitable, non-profit, advocacy, volunteer, municipal, county and homeowner agents get their say but, except for Eugene’s fleeting appearance, and the photo of a nameless child, the houseless are the subject of discussion but are not themselves discussants. The mainstream media almost never provide the houseless with a way to speak for themselves and about themselves.

    While I have not had any sustained interactions with houseless people in San Jose or elsewhere and, therefore, cannot in any way speak on anyone’s behalf, I can provide a more nuanced view of who they are based on the last biennial county census of the houseless conducted in January 2019 (https://www.sccgov.org/sites/osh/ContinuumofCare/ReportsandPublications/Documents/2015%20Santa%20Clara%20County%20Homeless%20Census%20and%20Survey/2019%20SCC%20Homeless%20Census%20and%20Survey%20Report.pdf. The 2021 census was postponed for one year due to COVID-19 conditions. See https://sanjosespotlight.com/could-canceled-homeless-count-in-santa-clara-county-affect-funding/). This point-in-time count provides insights that are routinely ignored, downplayed or concealed by too many involved in the issue of houselessness.

    The 2019 census arrived at a total County headcount of about 9,700, a 31.2% increase relative to 2017. Three-quarters were 25 years old and above with 17% between 18-24 and 8% under age 18. About 62% were men, 36% women and 2% transgender. The data on racial composition indicates that 44% were White (including those of Hispanic/Latino ethnicity who identify racially as White), 24% were multi-racial, 20% were Black and 8% were American Indian or Alaskan Native. Ethnically, 43% identified as Hispanic/Latino.

    Some 81% of the houseless resided in the County prior to their recent houselessness with 15% having previously lived in other California counties. Only 4% of the houseless resided outside the state before they became houseless. About 86% had resided in the County for one year or more, with 69% resident for at least 5 years, prior to becoming homeless. At the time of the census more than two-thirds had been homeless for at least one year and another 27% for 1-11 months. The houseless are clearly not “nomadic” migrants seeking the most generous social safety net, as libertarian and neoliberal sociopaths suggest.

    A lost job (30%), alcohol or drug use (22%), divorce or separation (15%), eviction (14%), fallout with family or friends (12%) and incarceration (11%) were the six most frequently cited events or conditions leading to houselessness. While about 90% indicated they would take permanent affordable housing as soon as they can get it, the most frequently cited obstacles to such housing reasons were rent affordability (66%), a lack of a job or income (56%), the unavailability of such housing (40%) and a lack of money for moving costs (35%). About 70% of the houseless reported receiving assistance of some type with meals (73%), bus passes (36%), community drop-in center (25%) and religious-based services (13%) being the most common. The houseless are, thus, people with low or precarious incomes, who have difficulty finding or holding jobs and who have had marital or domestic problems in their former households.

    These are neighbors, friends and community members caught in the tangle of a precarious and inequitable socio-economic system characterized by lopsidedly-distributed income and wealth, by a tiny minority that devours the vast bulk of resources, where more than two-thirds of the population lives paycheck to paycheck (https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/number-of-americans-living-paycheck-to-paycheck-on-decline-despite-pandemic-301134207.html), and where the political stratum is captured by the primary beneficiaries of the social order. That is the objective side of their reality, as it is ours; substance use/abuse, domestic disputes and/or mental health challenges are the subjective side, as it is ours to a lesser or greater extent. As such, the houseless are the early warning system that foreshadows what may come to the exponentially larger mass surviving on the margins of sufficiency. In short, the Houseless “Я” Us.

  8. Jim Salata for congress! Great insight. Wife and I are 10 year st leo’s san jose residents. Un registered and un sanctioned cars on guadalupe trail, no traffic control, how can that be right? Used to jog to willow glen then down the guadalupe part from virginia to downtown, but not possible anymore. Still frequenters from SAP center to airport by bicycle, to get the bay trail and palo alto, but always feel like there are a lot of risks. Seriously, un sanctioned cars on the trail are not being policed? Time to start calling parking compliance on a regular basis.

  9. PART II: The Houselessness We See is But One Facet of Social Decay

    As recently as a generation ago, college and university students were considered a relatively privileged segment of the U.S. population. Only about a quarter of adults in the U.S. had university degrees as recently as the year 2000 and these were overwhelmingly from relatively well-off families (https://www.statista.com/statistics/184272/educational-attainment-of-college-diploma-or-higher-by-gender/). Degradation of material conditions for vast swaths of the U.S. population in the past half century has altered the character of college graduates and the benefits and burdens associated with such an education.

    In the years before the COVID-19 pandemic, studies revealed that public college and university students in California at every level were experiencing houselessness and food insecurity at alarming rates. In 2018 it was estimated that houselessness afflicted about one in five community college students and food insecurity affected about one in two such students (https://hope4college.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/RealCollege-CCCCO-Report.pdf?utm_source=Main+list&utm_campaign=db67037b20-MailChimp-Mar%232&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_96caefa5d6-db67037b20-44923941; https://www.cep.ngo/blog/nearly-1-in-5-california-community-college-students-is-homeless). The problem was so dire that an Assembly bill introduced in 2019 would have allowed homeless community college students to sleep in their cars in designated lots on community college campuses (https://dailybruin.com/2019/02/13/the-quad-assembly-bill-302-shows-promise-for-assisting-students-who-are-homeless; https://medium.com/laney-tower/bill-302-dies-but-for-wrong-reasons-3b87d32912e6).

    Likewise, unprecedented shares of students at the 33 campuses of the California State Universities and Colleges and the University of California also suffer from houselessness and food insecurity. University administrators and state legislators addressed the issue with expanded funding for expanding relatively low cost on-campus housing and subsidized food programs (https://www2.calstate.edu/impact-of-the-csu/student-success/basic-needs-initiative/Documents/BasicNeedsStudy_Phase_3.pdf; https://www.ucop.edu/global-food-initiative/_files/food-housing-security.pdf).

    Mss. Stetson and Lauer’s article quotes Jason Su, the Executive Director of the Guadalupe River Park Conservancy noting: “There’s this broad sense of universal under-investment of a lot of our services, which perpetuates the concerns and priorities we see.” What Mr. Su is alluding to is the long decades of social safety net attrition vis-a-vis the poor.

    But the case of California college and university students, historically a relatively privileged segment, indicates the erosion has been much broader, hitting traditionally middle class, even upper middle class, social supports. Combined with unprecedented levels of student debt, getting a college education now entails houselessness for a significant share of students and indebtedness for the majority of students (https://www.valuepenguin.com/average-student-loan-debt). Such a situation was rare in the U.S. 25 years ago. In any other advanced capitalist country–where college education is almost always publicly financed (even for foreigners) and students receive generally receive stipends for housing and food–would today be as foreign as visitors from Jupiter (https://www.edmit.me/blog/countries-with-free-or-virtually-free-college-tuition; https://www.topuniversities.com/student-info/student-finance/how-much-does-it-cost-study-europe).

  10. It’s amazing to me that people that work their asses off to buy homes and pay $9,000 + in property taxes a year are labelled. villainous “NIMBY’s”, such horrible, cold-hearted people that they don’t want garbage, tents and shacks set up behind their house. Oh, the humanity.
    Most of the homeless are mentally ill, alcohol or drug dependent, and a lot pushed off on us by other states/cities with a one-way bus ticket. It’s a fact. New York has done it, Nevada has done it, Colorado has done it. Many others states have done it.
    The “affordable housing” pushers are making a boatload of money off of this with tremendous markups, and pushing it on the poor taxpayers. Politicians are politicians, bowing to the whim of the loudest complainers and fattest wallets. God forbid you say something about it, or you’ll be a victim of the on-going cancel culture.

    But hey…in the small chance that you’re actually sober and of sound mind, why not use some common sense? If you can’t afford to live here comfortably without living under a tarp/in a tent/in a shack, then move to some place more affordable. Do some research before moving somewhere. Look into the job market, salaries, the cost of living in an area before buying that bus ticket to the promised land? Naysayers, I speak from personal experience. I’ve done it.

    Your Bay-Area nurtured “sense of entitlement” will only get you so far in life. The real world outside of the Bay does not operate like that.

    SJW’s have at it!

  11. Guadalupe River Park never was a popular destination for SJ residents and upkeep and maintenance were ignored by the City right from the beginning. Maybe this is the ideal sacrificial area to which all the City’s ferals should be relocated. Have a zero tolerance policy everywhere else. Hire 50 people whose job it is to keep the trash cleaned up and maintain porta potties to try to reduce the amount of pooping in the river. Let them live their so called lives. Just keep them contained and hidden away.

  12. I’ve lived in SJ for 45 years and homeless bums have always been a problem in the parks and water ways. This should be where the high end housing should be, but SJ just seems to be the the Bay Areas wrong side of the tracks. For years I wanted the city to clean up it’s act and deal with these people, but now that I have moved to a better place, you can keep them!

  13. Econoclast, keep deluding yourself that all your analysis, statistics, articles, and studies sum up to anything that’s actually useful. Except of course for perpetuating the continued expansion of the burgeoning but futile houseless advocacy industry.

  14. The Guadalupe River park had a master plan to be a beautiful park with walkways, gardens, boats, paddle boats, and luxury high rises. Whatever happened to that plan to would enable San Jose to be the next best city next to SF?!! This should be the goal; NOT to find ways in which the housed and unhoused can coexist!! This would never work as visitors don’t want to witness the unthinkable activities that occur in these homeless communities. Plus, the city would need round the clock security which they most likely can’t afford.

    We need sensibility and accountability to make progress.

  15. PART III: Say It Again, Sam.

    Mss. Stetson and Lauer’s article quotes San Jose Mayor Liccardo saying: “Emergency dollars and emergency orders have helped us to move more quickly, but has not solved the funding issues of getting more affordable housing built…As long as the Bay Area is a place where it costs $700,000 to build an apartment …, we’re not going to see a market-based solution for affordable housing.” Coming from Liccardo, a dyed-in-the-wool, Harvard-educated neoliberal, that is quite an admission. Does this mean the Mayor is on the cusp of reversing his career-long commitment to almost nothing but market-based solutions for everything?

    Just recall that Liccardo and neoliberal Council majorities have been responsible for selling City assets (particularly land) to the private sector, for showering downtown developers with tax, fee and affordable housing mandate exemptions and concessions that have and will cost the City tens of millions in revenues, and for “partnerships” with mega-corporations–not least of which are Google, AT&T, Verizon and Adobe. Liccardo has promoted market-based solutions as necessary, fiscally responsible, and “in the public interest.” In reality, these are the returns the local power elite expect from their investments in Liccardo and politicians of his ilk.

    (https://www.courthousenews.com/san-jose-oks-huge-google-downtown-deal-amid-opposition/; https://www.sanjoseinside.com/2019/09/25/sj-council-extends-high-rise-housing-incentives-on-split-vote/; https://sanjosespotlight.com/san-jose-city-council-whopping-break-for-high-rise-developers/; https://sanjosespotlight.com/san-jose-city-council-commercial-linkage-fee-gaining-favor-ahead-of-vote/; https://sanjosespotlight.com/after-years-of-debate-san-jose-releases-study-on-commercial-developement-fees; https://www.sanjoseca.gov/your-government/department-directory/office-of-the-city-manager/civic-innovation/broadband-strategy-and-small-cell-deployment-5147; https://sanjosespotlight.com/san-jose-approves-plan-to-expand-internet-access-to-all-students/)

    If Liccardo would just look out his 18th story City Hall office window, he would see the non-market solution to affordable housing staring right at him some seven blocks to the southwest. That would be the government-built, government-owned and government-operated housing on government land on the San Jose State University (SJSU) campus. That housing serves students, faculty and staff consists of a three-block area of 12.68 acres called the “Campus Village.” The six residence structures, built between 1960 and 2016, have vary in height between 3 and 15 stories and offer a wide range of residential/living arrangements, including efficiencies and apartment units consisting of studios, one-bedroom, two-bedroom, three-bedroom, four-bedroom and five-bedroom apartments. In all, these residences can house about 4,200 people with additional space for a few hundred more if needed.

    Amenities and services include off-street parking; accessibility for the physically challenged; furniture and kitchen appliances; all basic utilities (water, electricity, sewerage, heating and cooling); wi-fi internet access; and internet-based TV. There is a Resident Activity Center, a common area available to all residents, with billiards, ping pong and fussball tables, a piano, and meeting, study and TV rooms. There are also a Village convenience store, a Computer Lab, staffed courtesy desks in each building to provide safety, security and information 24 hours a day.

    Campus housing is well-maintained, located at walking distance to many other government-produced amenities and services at SJSU, not least of which are public sports and health facilities, restaurants, theaters, a library, a primary and specialty healthcare facility and a campus police force. Public bus and light rail stops are 5-15 minutes by foot and all facilities.

    The monthly rental rates—that include housing and all amenities—range between $933 and $1,251 or an average of about $1,120 per living space. This is about half of what housing space costs in the private market and the latter does not include the significant amenities and services available to SJSU residents.

    (https://www.sjsu.edu/fdo/docs /sjsu_complete_master_plan_hi-res.pdf; https://www.housing.sjsu.edu/docs/HousingBrochure_2020.pdf; https://www.sjsu.edu/wellness; https://www.sjsu.edu/campus-life/safety.php; https://www.sanjoseinside.com/news/displaced-sunnyvale-homeless-residents-are-a-symptom-of-a-broader-regional-issue/#comment-1698724)

    Maybe Liccardo and company can enter into a “partnership” with SJSU and learn how they produce high-quality, low-cost housing, combine it with multiple services to residents, and do it so well. (Part of the answer, no doubt, is that they don’t have so many for-profit and/or non-profit actors taking a cut of rental and other revenues.)

    Say it again, Sam, and again and again and again.

  16. Econoclast, walk along the Guadalupe Creek Trail from San Carlos St. to Hedding like I did last weekend. You will see zero people who would pay even $112 per month let alone $1,120 for a living space.

  17. And BART and VTA were Too Effing Stupid to put a BART station near SJSU, just as the city with all its recent infatuation with planning still hasn’t promoted the development of a thriving student community along that part of East Santa Clara Street and other adjacent areas around the campus.

    It’s not too late for BART and VTA, at least. Changing that planned ventilation facility at 16th to a station is the easiest thing to do. 10th-11th is better. It’s interesting that no BART station was placed at City Hall. (Why not?)

  18. Guadalupe River Park is hardly fit these days to become Guadalupe River Estates.

    Say, the city isn’t going to think someday of high-rises in the park for public housing, where a park already exists, is it?

  19. Thank you for a very well-written article. Before the pandemic, I used to commute everyday on bike along the trail. Parts of it were a dump, and some segments were very scary to ride along because of mentally ill or intoxicated people living along the trail. What the pandemic is over and I go back to work, I won’t be commuting along the trail, it is far too scary and unsafe to even consider doing that.

  20. SJSU housing is more expensive than Palo Alto. SJSU crams 6 living space in one 3BD and everything is double (and even triple) occupancy. Its cheaper to house them almost anywhere else in the state. Your numbers are BS and anyone who stops and thinks about it for five minutes understands everything in Universities are over priced and over cost burden. How can you keep lying to people?

  21. Hi, I was looking to help out and volunteer with Agape Silicon Valley, but a google search turns up nothing. Does anyone have their website? Thanks.

  22. For years before the pandemic, I used to do 3-5 mile runs on the Guadalupe River Trail starting from about San Fernando, heading north to 880 or into the airport area. Sometimes there were homeless folks that looked sketchy, but that was very rare. What would worry me more would be anyone that might be hanging around, obviously not homeless, looking to start some trouble. That, too, was rare, and I’ve never had a problem.

    One very risky thing for the unhoused to be camping out there (between Coleman and 880) is that the river rises quite high, and flows very fast, during heavy rainy periods. They could be washed away and drown. Hopefully, local public safety personnel already have this on their radar, to warn campers and clear out those camps, if big wet storms come through. Doing nothing would be tragic and preventable.

  23. A few years ago, I did a 10-year stint as a Transit Officer on the Light Rail. In that time, I got a very close-up view of thousands of homeless people and found there are distinct differences. There are people who recently became homeless for a variety or reasons, many who had mental problems and the last were long term, perfectly able physically and mentally who just did not want to work. The first group had hope for a “helping hand” to get them out of their despair. The second group did not know what day it was, but seriously needed help they often were not getting, but instead just got “pushed down the tracks” to make their problems someone else’s. The last group I never understood. I guess it was my upbringing that made me work my ass off since I was young. The most I ever was without a job was one month and that was scary to me. I often have had a main job and multiple part-time jobs to make ends meet. I am over 60 now and I work 7 days a week, surprisingly, it makes me feel better and I must do it to make ends meet in this expensive place we live. So, what, that is me, but I am not looking for a “free ride” and instead, I volunteer and help local charities. Why do many, mostly males not want to work? There is no easy answer, but there certainly were many available jobs to do pre-Covid. Talking to many, I got a sense that they just do not want to work. One Ex-homeless man told me after I had refused a panhandler because I told him I give another way, “Thank you for not giving him anything”. I had never heard that. He explained that he HAD been homeless but got so tired of seeing countless job offers on pages of paper handed out to those he was with, he could not stand watching people lie, ignore, and essentially not even try to work. But they did not have a problem getting their monthly “check”. This is made easier, especially, if they can get free meals (Churches), free money/food from the Government, and then many steal the rest. Yes, the truth was simple as I saw stores (Safeway, Walgreens, etc.) close their doors, not because there was not enough business, but because they had unbelievable amounts of shoplifting and all the trouble due the problems from trying to stop it.
    I believe that those living in their tents locally should be held more accountable. If they have true mental issues, they need real help. Any others that are proven to be able to work, should be required to work for some sort of charity or government/public need. When money/aid is given without any need to do anything for it, entitlement begins, and motivation ends. Give away a free house and you will find that the first group above will take care of it, but the last group will take a dump and trash the inside like their own private landfill.

  24. You wankers in Silicon Valley don’t have a clue what’s happened or you don’t care. Your city council has turned a blind eye to lower economic classes and sold themselves out to developers for years and now you’re crying because the same leftist baboons you voted for have foisted his garbage on you.

    So glad I left the Northern California crap hole for sunny Florida.

  25. What is not mentioned here is the clean up garbage efforts in Guadalupe Park and around homeless encampments. Residents and businesses went to the press to show the overwhelming blight and danger to health for all. Danger to waterways. The response was good and both the City of San Jose and volunteers are making efforts to not sweep camps away but sweep clean areas around camps and used by everyone. A warm shelter is very important for everyone to avoid the danger posed by warming fires. Too many times the fire department has saved a neighborhood from fire. And our mentally ill neighbors need treatment. Our drug addicted need treatment. And lawbreakers need discipline housed or unhoused. Thank you sincerely to Mayor Liccardo, Rep. Raul Peralez, Jason Su, all of our homeless advocates, Social Workers, Philanthropists, SJPD and volunteers. If you have a complaint be part of the solution. Help is there and hopefully more help is coming.

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