Removal of airport homeless encampment could start this month and stretch deep into 2022

Removal of airport homeless encampment could start this month and stretch deep into 2022
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By Wesley Severson - Published on August 05, 2021.

Clean up the massive homeless camp near Mineta San Jose International Airport or risk getting some of the airport’s federal funding stripped — that’s the ultimatum that was dished out by the Federal Aviation Administration in June. Now it appears that later this month the city of San Jose could start the process of getting rid of the encampment. The FAA already reject one plan from city officials but now, according to Mercury News, the city has sent a letter proposing a new, longer three-pronged approach to fully remove the 40 acres of squalor. 

The camp sits in the open space directly east of the intersection of West Hedding and Coleman Avenue. The first portion of the plan would focus on clearing 10 acres in that area starting sometime this month and ending sometime in November. The second phase would start in January next year and end sometime before April. The goal of phase two would be clearing out another 15 acres. The final stage would remove the remaining 18 acres of the camp that leads all the way to the Guadalupe River Trail. The project is expected to be complete by June of 2022.

San Jose officials told Mercury News that removing the entire camp right away in one swoop was unrealistic, unethical, and possibly illegal. “We do not want to break up this encampment to only shift the homeless to other communities/neighborhoods. We want to provide viable and humane options for the people who are ready, willing, and able to take advantage of our homelessness outreach program,” Director of Aviation John Aitken wrote in a letter to the FAA.

Estimates on the population of the camp are as low as 200 people and as high as 500 people. The city says it plans to add more police in the area soon and also beef up social services and homeless outreach to the residents. They could also soon start requiring that all cars, vans, and RV’s be registered and parked lawfully. Scott Largent lives inside the area set to be cleared out in phase one. “I would be playing musical RV. I would be parking back on the street and bouncing from place to place moving every three days. And that becomes really stressful,” Largent told Mercury News.

Aitken hopes that officials from the FAA will come to the site to see its magnitude and why the city needs the extra time to clean it up. “We think that once you tour the site, you will understand the timeline that we are proposing. This timeline balances the need to start the process of abatement with the need to offer adequate homelessness services and allows time to complete construction of nearby interim housing for some of the unhoused residents living on this land,” Aiken wrote. 

The city purchased the land with money from the feds so it would have open space near the airport in case of a crash. San Jose officials are now waiting for word from the FAA on whether they will approve the new cleanup plan.