Spartan-Keyes neighborhood resident Aurelia Sanchez won San Jose’s Litter Volunteer of the Year award in 2012. But despite her best efforts, Sanchez says the neighborhood’s litter has only gotten worse.
The latest complaint among locals is dirty bus stops.
“As a longtime park volunteer and litter volunteer, it’s overwhelming, it’s very discouraging,” Sanchez told San José Spotlight. Sanchez, former president of the Spartan-Keyes Neighborhood Association, says she mainly does her “own thing” now when it comes to picking up trash and beautifying the neighborhood.
Bus stops and partially enclosed bus shelters line the neighborhood’s intersections along 10th Street. VTA says it has the stops cleaned once a week.
“VTA has requested that Clear Channel—which is responsible for cleaning 95% of VTA bus shelters—add these locations to their high-frequency shelter list, which includes shelters they inspect twice a week,” VTA told San José Spotlight.
VTA acknowledges bus stops along 10th Street have “repeated issues with people dumping garbage, starting fires and other general soiling,” but assures residents it’s giving bus stops in the neighborhood “frequent attention.”
“They tend to get trashed pretty regularly,” said Councilmember Raul Peralez, whose district includes the neighborhood. “Whether they’re VTA riders or homeless people, people litter and leave things behind. We try to keep track of it, at times it’s worse than others.”
Sanchez says she’s frustrated at the slow response from the city and county. She’s concerned that homeless housing developments in the area have overburdened resources and fears the situation might get worse as county officials move forward with the projects and the city pushes for outreach on a plan that will potentially reduce the number of parking spaces around the city.
“I get the reasons why, but the thing is they have to talk about the issues that VTA already has, and they’re not doing that,” Sanchez said. “It’s almost like they’re pushing something and the people who are making the decisions pushing more transit and wanting less parking don’t have to ride the buses.”
And with more people taxing fewer services, she believes it’s going to get worse.
“Do we have enough staff right now if we’re going to push less parking for tenants? Do we have enough police to patrol these areas where, especially at night, women and children ride transit?” Sanchez said. “It’s scary out there. Especially in the evenings and especially areas like Spartan-Keyes where I live.”
Some local businesses share her frustration. Micah Stufflebeam, an employee at Leale’s Auto Repair & Transmission near one of the bus stops, says he sees homeless people walk across the shop’s lot daily leaving their trash behind. But the real problem, he says, is the lack of services they’ve been given.
“I think the biggest problem is they like to hang out under that tree, which intimidates some of our customers,” Stufflebeam told San José Spotlight. “I’ve seen people defecating at the bus stop or on the wall and just leaving trash all over the place. I don’t think there’s enough programs for them. We see it all day.”
Stufflebeam added that he’d like to see resources that treat them “less like pariahs and more like people.”
Peralez says he’s aware of the problems and encourages residents to call 311 or use the 311 app to report blight. He also encourages residents to communicate directly with his office.
“We communicate that with VTA staff, but sometimes (trash is) not at VTA’s bus stops,” Peralez said. “Sometimes it’s private property. Sometimes it’s on city property. And I know some of the trash is created by local business patrons too. We value community members who bring up these concerns (because) that way we’re aware of them.”