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FAA Pressures San Jose to Clear Homeless From Tent Encampment by International Airport

SAN JOSE (KPIX) -- A Mineta San Jose International Airport spokesperson confirmed Thursday that they must follow the Federal Aviation Administration's request to remove a massive homeless encampment under a flight path in order to continue receiving federal funding in the future.

But homeless advocates and the unhoused population in what may be the Bay Area's largest homeless encampment told KPIX there's nowhere for them to go.

"I just need a place I can be at for three or four months to then figure out my next move," said Scott Largent, who lives on the vacant city-owned land off Hedding Street. "I know seeing this can kind of be scary from a distance but when you go in here you have people that are disabled, they're elderly people, they're kind, nice people."

City officials have estimated roughly 200 people live at the encampment but homeless advocate Shaunn Cartwright said it's more like 400 people.

"There's no place in the shelters, there's no new tiny homes and housing," said Cartwright. "There's no magical solution to this."

The FAA told city leaders that "airports that receive federal funds must ensure airport property is used for its intended purpose. The city of San Jose designated the area as incompatible for homes due to noise impacts" and that "the noise buffer property on Norman Mineta San Jose International Airport being used as an encampment for the homeless residents is exposing them to unacceptable levels of noise." The agency said it provided San Jose with roughly $97 million for projects around the airport, including noise mitigation.

An airport spokesperson confirmed with KPIX that the "FAA's request is in line with its requirements for the airport, which must be observed to retain federal grant assurances."

"I think it's heartless and ridiculous," Cartwright said.

Earlier this week, the city posted flyers at the encampment that informed unhoused residents of a clean-up but that they had to leave the area or they would be accused of trespassing. A parks and recreation assistant director told KPIX they wouldn't conduct sweeps and only clean-ups after the flyers caused panic among the unhoused residents.

Largent said he witnessed and captured on his cellphone a sweep of tents with the use of large equipment.

"I thought they were just supposed to be out here cleaning up, you guys just witnessed a mow-over, three tents and a structure where people were living," Largent can be heard in his cellphone video showing crews using a tractor to run over a pile of property before it was hauled away.

"Several other gentleman I spoke to just now over here, they lost all their work tools, another man basically lost everything that he owns because he was at a social services appointment," he said. "I'm just confused. Where's the social workers? Where's behavioral health? Where's the help for these people out here?"

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