San Jose safe parking for homeless residents delayed
Kruse Drive in San Jose is lined with RVs parked in front of businesses. Photo by Jana Kadah.

San Jose is spending nearly $2 million to lease land it has yet to use for homeless people living in their vehicles—and councilmembers, residents and advocates want things done quicker.

Land at 1300 Berryessa Road has sat vacant since last July. The city agreed to lease the 6.3-acre parcel at $1.7 million annually for at least 10 years to build a safe parking site for unhoused residents living in their cars and RVs. But instead of quickly breaking ground to develop the site and get the people living in their vehicles off busy streets, San Jose has only designed the lot. The city is still months away from construction.

San Jose Councilmember David Cohen, who represents North San Jose where the land is located, said he is “incredibly frustrated.”

“The current pace is unacceptable,” Cohen told San José Spotlight. “It seems (the city) is moving the needle in the wrong direction… But, again, this is an important enough issue that we need to move faster.”

He said city officials had approached him with a tentative opening date for this September—and he pushed back. City officials promised they could shorten the timeline, he said, but a later timeline was released at a December San Jose City Council meeting.

The goal is now to have the site ready by late fall 2024. In these next few months, the city hopes to secure a contractor who can pave the vacant lot, construct four buildings that will host a kitchen, laundry facility, restrooms and office space—as well as storage units. The city also wants to build out infrastructure for lighting, a dog run, community gardens, stormwater management and other amenities.

Cohen said there is no reason the city has to wait for everything to be completed before moving vehicles in.

“We can offer Porta Potties rather than full service bathrooms, at least in the short term. We can move people in while they’re building the bathrooms so that at least there’s there’s a place for people to park,” Cohen said. “We can do this in stages.”

The site is expected to have 85 spaces for RVs and parking for 46 cars. San Jose has roughly 700 people living in RVs, according to city data. The additional 85 spots would make a notable difference in helping that population.

The city’s only safe parking site for homeless residents opened at the Santa Teresa VTA light rail station last July. It took several years to open and only provides 42 spaces for homeless people living in their vehicles. Despite demand for safe parking spots, the site remained practically empty. Some councilmembers said it’s because restrictions to stay at the site are too stringent.

In North San Jose, there is a disproportionate number of people living in their vehicles because there are more industrial areas to park without much harassment from other residents or police. It’s had a profound effect on the business community. On Kruse Drive, business owners are considering closing shop because the dozens of RVs that line the streets are driving customers and employees away.

Homeless advocate Gail Osmer said in some instances businesses have take measures to deter stagnant vehicles from parking in front of companies, such as adding K-rail barriers to block off the streets or continuously calling the police to tag cars.

“They are being harassed on a daily basis by the police (and businesses) and this is not right,” Osmer said. “They can’t wait for another year, it’s ridiculous. Absolutely ridiculous.”

Several residents living in their vehicles attended the December council meeting and pleaded for the city to move faster—with some even shedding tears. Deborah, who only shared her first name, said she has been unable to return to work at Kaiser because she worries her RV will either be towed or stolen if she leaves it.

“Why can’t we just (be a community) in a place where people are not going to bug us or be ashamed of us,” she said, fighting through her tears in the council chambers. “(Where) we can continue to become better society members and come back to work because that’s what we want to do. It shouldn’t take a year and half or two years (to do this).”

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

Comment Policy (updated 5/10/2023): Readers are required to log in through a social media or email platform to confirm authenticity. We reserve the right to delete comments or ban users who engage in personal attacks, hate speech, excess profanity or make verifiably false statements. Comments are moderated and approved by admin.

Leave a Reply