Flooded river by building.
San Jose officials want to remove existing homeless camps between Woz Way and Julian Street by April and create a "no return zone." Photo by Jana Kadah.

San Jose officials are doubling down on efforts to revitalize the Guadalupe River Trail and prevent homeless residents from seeking shelter there.

The San Jose City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved allocating $200,000 to remove roughly 20 people living by the river and work with community partners to encourage residents to frequent the trail. Mayor Matt Mahan and Councilmember Arjun Batra were absent.

The city will remove existing tents by April and establish a “no return zone” so the city doesn’t have to do multiple sweeps of homeless camps in the area between Woz Way and Julian Street. The goal is to make the trail a popular place for people to walk through and help revitalize downtown.

The city sees the trail as a major downtown amenity that connects neighborhoods like Washington Guadalupe to businesses like Adobe and Zoom.

Last fall, officials allocated $2 million in state funding to clear dozens of tents in the same area. The city moved some of the unhoused residents into interim and permanent housing, including the Arena Hotel.

However, there are no housing options this time around. Instead homeless residents swept from the Guadalupe River Trail will have to find another place to live.

“There will be an impact on the neighborhoods around (here) because we require the people that are there to leave, but we don’t have anywhere for them to go in terms of housing,” Parks, Recreation and Neighborhood Services Director Jon Cicirelli said.

Even when the city had housing available last year, Cicirelli said the surrounding neighborhoods still had to absorb some of the homeless people forced to leave the area, because there wasn’t enough shelter for everyone.

Councilmember Dev Davis — who made the initial request for money to clear the area with Mahan and Councilmember Omar Torres — asked the city to sweep the area earlier than April. She also wants the city to detail how exactly the $200,000 will be spent.

Davis emphasized that walking trails are some of the most costly city projects — upward of $2 million per mile.

“A trail is an expensive endeavor and if it’s not available to the full public for use, we’re not getting the full benefit,” Davis said. “Our residents are not getting the full benefit of their tax dollars that were used on their behalf.”

The city plans to coordinate with the Guadalupe River Park Conservancy to sustain revitalization efforts. The San Jose Police Department also has a bike patrol program that will help ensure residents don’t set up camp again, after existing tents have been cleared.

The plan to allocate those dollars has received support from the environmental group Sierra Club and the Children’s Discovery Museum, which sits right next to the trail.

“Right now we are at a critical point as new tents are beginning to arrive so I am here to ask for your help in not backsliding,” Marilee Jennings, executive director of the Children’s Discovery Museum, said to councilmembers. “We know first hand how hard it is to raise millions of dollars and about the risk associated with future funding if you can’t show that you’ve maintained what you have achieved.”

Contact Jana at [email protected] or follow @Jana_Kadah on X, formerly known as Twitter.

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