Protest planned over new parking site in San Jose for people living in vehicles

Amanda del Castillo Image
Tuesday, September 7, 2021
Protest planned over SJ parking site for people living in vehicles
In San Jose, a new safe parking site meant for people living in their vehicles is not getting a warm welcome from people who live in the area.

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- In San Jose, a new safe parking site meant for people living in their vehicles is not getting a warm welcome from people who live in the area.

The temporary site is on City-owned property at 71 Vista Montana, the former Supertex building in north San Jose. Neighbors there told ABC7 News the location is too close to two parks.

The site is scheduled to open on Tuesday, despite efforts from residents already living there.

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Those assisting in establishing the temporary safe parking site explained the site could hold up to 20 vehicles, equating to dozens of people.

"They've lost a lot of their resources over the time that they've been unhoused," Andrea Urton, CEO of the non-profit HomeFirst Services of Santa Clara County said. "The stress on them physically as well as mentally. So they need more support and we need more affordable housing."

Urton said HomeFirst will be assisting at the location.

"We'll have case managers on location. We'll be able to connect people to needed resources, whether it's medical, whether it's benefits," she described. "Helping people apply for their IDs, things like that. That's crucial."

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Urton said the residents will be relocating from a lot along Component Drive, where Apple plans to put its North San Jose campus.

"For the next nine months, they will have a motel room for those that want. Or safe parking for those that want it," she continued. "And then Apple will be nine months of temporary housing and 12 months of case management."

HomeFirst is working with a number of organizations and city officials to make this happen for the group of unhoused people.

Longtime homeless advocate, Shaunn Cartwright with the Unhoused Response Group spoke with the group of residents who say something's got to give.

"They're hoping that this program gets them into some real housing," Cartwright told ABC7 News. "Because if it doesn't, they don't have any place to go."

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Cartwright shared she's looking forward to the safe parking program and hopes that it's a great success.

"I think we could all work together to make that a better situation than this has been," she said.

When asked about how the residents are feeling, Cartwright said they are anxious.

"They're a little nervous. They definitely see the hateful response by the neighbors," she said. "And I think that they're just looking forward to greeting them with compassion."

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Around Renaissance neighborhood in north San Jose, there are already signs organizing a move-in day protest, with residents pushing a petition to stop the relocation.

"We're not the bad guys," Julio Llerenas told ABC7 News. "We want to be part of the process. We understand the situation of homelessness, but right now it's not about shoving it down our throats, it's about including us in the process."

Llerenas and other residents said they only learned about the project last Wednesday. They said after reaching out to city leaders, Councilman David Cohen joined about 80 residents on Friday for a meeting on the subject of safe parking. Though neighbors feel their questions were not answered.

"A lot of passionate people are asking questions. Who's gonna be the security, what are the phone numbers in case we need to call them," he explained. "And pretty much, they had no answer."

Residents admitted they're worried the proximity of the safe parking program to two neighboring parks could be problematic for families and young children.

"This park is highly used," Llerenas shared. "We have families, we have people exercising."

"These are pretty much newborn babies, strollers and so forth. There's a lot of families here. It's not just singles and so forth," he said.

Llerenas is part of a group of residents that plan to protest on Tuesday.

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"I certainly hope that nothing... that they never have a medical emergency, that they never have a natural disaster befall them to where they end up in this kind of a situation and that they're greeted by such intolerance," Cartwright responded.

The city plans to keep this temporary site open for at least nine months. A city memo pointed to, "a remote possibility of staying open longer if the need remains after nine months and the operation is functioning in a safe and effective manner."

The memo continued, "However, the current plan is to transition to longer-term, larger-scale safe parking sites that are still to be identified and stood up."

ABC7 News reached out to the City of San Jose's Deputy Housing Director, the City Manager's office and to the office of Councilman David Cohen on Monday. We have not yet heard back.