'We don't need that': SJ pursues dog park, disc golf course at site of airport homeless encampment

Amanda del Castillo Image
Thursday, February 10, 2022
Unhoused community upset by SJ park, disc golf course proposal
San Jose city leaders want to transform the site of a sprawling homeless encampment, into a public garden and recreational area featuring disc golf.

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- San Jose city leaders want to transform the site of a sprawling homeless encampment, into a public garden and recreational area.

Any development would require moving more than 100 unhoused residents - these are people living under the flight path of the Mineta San Jose International Airport.

It is located between West Hedding Street, Coleman Ave, Asbury Street and the Guadeloupe River Park

Where passersby now see people, their motorhomes, makeshift shelter and tents, there could soon be a dog park, disc golf course and public garden.

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Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to pursue plans for a park concept in a 40-acre area they began clearing last year.

"Some of this stuff is ridiculous," unhoused resident Scott Largent told ABC7 News. "And hearing them debate about it... we should be talking more at these meetings about places to put people."

Largent is among the remaining residents at the site's final 18-acres that have yet to be cleared. He said he's lived in the area for a year and four months.

VIDEO: FAA concerned over large SJ homeless encampment where residents say 'we're living in a crash zone'

The FAA is raising safety concerns over a large homeless encampment near the Mineta San Jose International Airport.

During Tuesday's council meeting, Mayor Sam Liccardo pointed out, "Way back a year ago, when this problem clearly materialized to a level that was on everyone's radar, it was very severe."

Severe, when the area was supposed to be barren. According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), it's described as a noise buffer property for the airport.

The sound of roaring jets overhead first led the FAA to order the city clear the large encampment, or risk losing millions of dollars in federal funding.

Back in June 2021, the FAA told ABC7 News the location was exposing unhoused residents to "unacceptable levels of noise."

"They said nobody could be here," Shaunn Cartwright with the Unhoused Response Group said. "But now it seems like everybody could be here for dogs, and soccer, and pickleball."

RELATED: San Jose officials discuss alternative plans to clear homeless encampment near airport

While soccer and pickleball may not be part of the current plan, city leaders are looking to include a 15.8-acre area for disc golf, wildflower meadows that in the future could become community gardens and urban farms, and a 5.5-acre dog park.

The FAA said on Wednesday, "We will evaluate any formal proposal we receive from the city."

"These other activities, most of the people that do a lot of this stuff- I used to own a dog- they have money," Largent shared. "They can go to some of the other dog parks. You know, we don't need that right here, right now."

Instead, Largent and Cartwright emphasized what's needed immediately is truly affordable housing.

"The people who are left are the people who have not been presented options," Cartwright added. "When they say, 'Oh, they declined housing,' it's not that they 'declined housing'- because it makes it sound like 'actually housing.' They declined shelter opportunities."

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Cartwright said shelters aren't always the most suitable environment for people, and could negatively impact their mental health.

"These people will end up in neighborhoods," Largent said. "It's the only other place they can go."

Both Largent and Cartwright are certain answers for affordable housing won't come before the city's June 30th deadline to clear the area.

ABC7 News reached out to the mayor and Councilman Raul Peralez's offices. No one was immediately available. We did not hear back from the city's Parks, Recreation and Neighborhood Services Department.