Water shut off for East San Jose tenants without warning
After running water was shut off at Foxdale Village, tenant Kashana Ashford said some of her neighbors tapped into a water main just outside the complex. Photo by Vicente Vera.

    Tenants at Foxdale Village Apartments in East San Jose went without water for two days after management failed to tell them of a ruptured water main.

    According to several residents, taps went dry at approximately 7:30 p.m. on Saturday with no notice for when they could expect to bathe or flush their toilets.

    Mayra Peterson, director of asset management for KDF Communities which owns the apartment complex, said in a statement to San José Spotlight that plumbers worked on the water pipe Saturday night through Sunday morning—then another pipe burst forced work to continue into Monday.

    But none of this information was disseminated to the tenants affected by the dry spell until Monday morning when employees of the apartment complex distributed a letter signed only as “Foxdale Village Management.”

    “If you are in need of drinking water, please contact or visit the Leasing Office,” the letter reads.

    After a ruptured pipe led to the capping of all running water in Foxdale Vilage, workers called out to remedy the problem put wooden boards over the pipe in the ground. Photo by Vicente Vera.

    Management has turned off the water without notice in past emergencies, said tenant Rachel Barreras, but never for more than a few hours.

    “The last (emergency) was about five or six months ago, and I knew it was an emergency because there was a big puddle in the lawn right outside our section and it smelled like sewage,” Barreras told San José Spotlight. “A lot of the pipes and stuff around here are ancient or old, this whole complex is old, and there’s always something wrong.”

    Foxdale Village is home to tenants who speak little English, are undocumented or sublease their units just to make enough for rent—which recently went up by $175.

    The low-income apartment complex is no stranger to criticism about its housing conditions. Tenants have previously complained about water damage leading to mold and a 2019 fire that killed one resident.

    By Monday evening, Foxdale Village management distributed another flyer stating all tenants will receive a three-day rent credit, and those who booked hotels will be reimbursed.

    Flyers blown away by gusts of wind alert Foxdale Village tenants of a three-day rent credit, and additional reimbursements for those who were inconvenienced by the water shut off on Saturday. Photo by Vicente Vera.

    Local volunteers and nonprofits distributed bottled water to tenants in need, though many didn’t have enough to bathe—leading some to tap into an above-ground water main just outside the complex. Tenants brought buckets, five-gallon water jugs and empty milk bottles to fill up with water from the valves of the emergency sprinkler system. According to NBC Bay Area, the San Jose Fire Department deemed the water unsafe for consumption.

    Of the six tenants who spoke with San José Spotlight, none said they knew of anyone who actually drank the hazardous water.

    “Water is a basic necessity of life. My neighbor directly next door to me has a four-year-old baby,” said 10-year resident Kashana Ashford. “And (there are) seniors on the property who take medication and need access to water to take their pills.”

    Ashford spent much of Monday pulling a wagon filled with donated bottles of water and passing them out to neighbors. But as the sun beat down on her throughout the afternoon, Ashford headed home to take a bath—in the bathroom sink.

    A quick bird bath was all she could take without having enough water to fill the bathtub. As for using the toilet, Ashford said tenants had two options: use bottled water to flush, or use another route of disposal.

    “Silicon Valley is one of the richest places… and people are having to dump feces in the dumpsters because we can’t do it in our toilets,” she said.

    Foxdale management brought 22 portable toilets and 12 hand-washing stations to the property, but only hours before the water turned back on at approximately 4:30 p.m. on Monday.

    “We have another 14 temporary toilets and 24 wash stations scheduled to be delivered (Tuesday),” Peterson said. “The temporary toilets and water stations are scheduled to remain on site for the next couple of days in the event of any additional issues.”

    East San Jose Councilmember Magdalena Carrasco who previously told San José Spotlight the apartment owners are a “faceless, corporate slumlord” said her office helped deliver water, food and other resources.

    “We are alarmed that Foxdale Apartments have been without water for 36 + hours and we are concerned about the welfare of our residents,” Carrasco posted on her Facebook page Monday. “As of now, we have contacted the appropriate agencies to resolve this situation and find out what exactly happened and how we can prevent it.”

    One longtime tenant in her 70s, who asked not to be named out of fear of retaliation from apartment management, said her neighbors never raise complaints about their housing conditions because they too fear retaliation.

    “I hated that they made the people out to look like criminals stealing water from the hydrant outside the gate,” said the tenant. “(Management) should have let us know about the water situation on Saturday—at least we could have prepared.”

    Contact Vicente Vera at [email protected] or follow him @vicentejvera on Twitter.

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