San Jose flooded by parked cars despite push for transit-oriented future

Unlike affordable housing, there is no shortage of cars in San Jose.

This proves to be a burden for many residents returning home to overcrowded or high-density apartment complexes, during the evening or late at night. In San Jose, cars pile up along public streets — some abandoned and others parked for weeks — spilling onto private property and forcing renters to park blocks away from their homes.

And overcrowded apartments amid the housing crisis also account for numerous cars belonging to one household.

“Usually around 4 the parking is starting to fill up,” said Diana Weaver, a resident in an apartment complex near Tully Road and Mclaughlin Avenue in East San Jose.

After 6 p.m., Weaver said she’s forced to park several blocks away from where she lives. For many residents the search for parking on the streets is routine.

But the bumper-to-bumper vehicles on the curbs of several San Jose neighborhoods flies in the face of San Jose’s vision for transit-oriented developments. City leaders talk about getting people out of their cars, but many say city sidewalks are unwalkable and the public transit system here is inadequate.

The city this month received a $31.5 million grant to build transit-oriented affordable housing in two downtown neighborhoods. However, in neighborhoods several miles away from downtown, public transit can be inconvenient for residents with a long commute.

San Jose resident Kevin Richardson rents a room in a single-family home near high-density housing in the Burbank neighborhood. The streets there are crammed with vehicles.

But, he said, taking public transit doesn’t make sense for residents like him, who have jobs with odd hours.

“One of my jobs I work five days a week, I get off work at 2 a.m,” Richardson said. “I think (the buses) are inconvenient with the schedules. I would bike. If I’m racing on my bike with the bus and I leave when the bus gets to the bus stop, I can probably beat the bus because it’s stopping.”

Experts in parking enforcement say city transportation officials must turn their attention to overcrowded streets outside the confines of downtown.

The lack of parking in several San Jose neighborhoods has created a pressing burden for residents and property managers of high-density housing. While the city plans to decrease cars passing through downtown San Jose by improving public transit and infrastructure, there are no specific plans to reduce parking on city streets.

San Jose’s parking enforcement team receives up to 60,000 abandoned vehicle reports per year, said Colin Heyne, a spokesperson for the city’s Department of Transportation.

When a vehicle is reported, it is not immediately towed, Heyne said. Parking enforcement will leave a citation on the car and give the owner a chance to move it. If the vehicle is still there on the second visit, then the city will tow it.

Towing is a last resort, Heyne said, mostly because of the financial burden it creates for vehicle owners.

“You are providing a service they despise,” said Art Amirkhas, the owner of Morris & Sons Towing.

Amirkhas said towing can create a significant hardship on people’s money, time and transportation. Most resident don’t know how to report abandoned vehicles to the city, Amirkhas said, but he acknowledged that there are other hurdles to clearing the streets.

Not every car is abandoned, and some are extra cars from those living in apartments because of a shortage in affordable housing. A mixture of overcrowding and high vehicle ownership per capita has packed streets with vehicles, Amirkhas added.

“The developers they have to grapple with the economics of the development,” Amirkhas said. “I don’t think it’s in their best interest, or best economic interest, to build more parking and less housing in a community.”

Packed city streets lead some drivers to park their cars without a permit in apartment complexes. Several property managers tell Amirkhas that cars pour into their lots because of overcrowded parking on the streets.

But Amirkhas’ company can only intervene when someone is illegally parked on private property. He said the city must come up with plans to improve clearing abandoned vehicles on the street.

“I don’t think 40 years ago they planned on the city being this big,” Amirkhas said, adding that San Jose has the worst abandoned vehicle problem compared to other Bay Area cities he works in. “People are unaware that the city streets are the responsibility of the city.”

Contact San José Spotlight intern Mauricio La Plante at mslaplante19@gmail.com or follow @mslaplantenews on Twitter.

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