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FAA demands cleanup of airport-adjacent homeless camp, San Jose asks for extension

FAA demands cleanup of airport-adjacent homeless camp, San Jose asks for extension
Photo: Unsplash
By Wesley Severson - Published on June 29, 2021.

The City of San Jose is facing a looming deadline from the feds to come up with a plan to clean up a massive homeless camp near Mineta San Jose International Airport. The encampment sits under one of the landing paths, and with post-pandemic travel surging, it has apparently gotten the attention of people inside private jets and commercial jetliners that fly over it.

According to KPIX, the Federal Aviation Administration sent a letter to the city in mid-May stating “please provide the FAA a revised plan that will result in the City taking a more immediately active role in relocating the homeless. It is not FAA’s intent to show disregard for the homelessness crises, only to ensure that use of airport property does not become the solution to the crises.”

Another portion of the letter sets a deadline for June 30th for the city to respond with its solution. The city has requested that the deadline be shifted to July 31st but so far it’s unclear if the request was ever granted.

The camp is known as the ‘The Crash Zone’ and stretches several city blocks near Hedding Street and Coleman Avenue along the Guadalupe River. The number of people living there is different depending on who you ask. One resident told KPIX that he estimates 600 people are living there but local business owners say they were told the numbers is closer to 400 to 500.

Parks, Recreation, and Neighborhood Services Assistant Director Neil Rufino told KPIX that a recent population count at the camp revealed there are around 200 people living there. On June 23rd, flyers were posted around the area giving residents notice of the FAA’s request and that they had to leave.

Rufino told KPIX that the flyers had to be posted by law even though they spread frustration, fear, and panic throughout the camp. Rufino promised that there would be no full-blown sweeps for at least a month and that any city operations at the camp would be for cleaning purposes only.

Many local advocates believe the request from the FAA is forcing the city to rush to clear out the camp without a long-term solution to provide a place for the residents to go. Local activist Shaunn Cartwright told KPIX “we know sweeps are coming. All it does is put pressure on the city to get rid of everybody. And it certainly seems like the city is complying with that.” 

The City says the airport’s plans to put a fence around the property are still in development and have not been solidified.