SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) – A rat-infested downtown San Jose neighborhood is getting attention from city and state leaders.
Neighbors organized a tour of the area next to Almaden and Vine streets beneath an overpass on Interstate 280 that was a literal dumping ground of debris, homeless encampments and rodents.
"We're all excited over no gas cars in 2035, but we can't clean the city of San Jose?" business owner Steven Pera said, referring to Gov. Gavin Newsom's recent executive order.
Pera was speaking to a group including San Jose Assemblymember Ash Kalra, who got an earful from neighbors and business owners fed up over rats and trash.
To his credit, Kalra was the only politician who showed up to tour the area, which has become a sore spot with neighbors.
"Frankly as a resident, I am sick of it. People shouldn't live here with rats running wild," said Julie Riera Matsushima.
Last month, KPIX 5 cameras caught rats running around a homeless camp underneath the 280 overpass. The rats appeared to be nesting in debris mounds dumped by a company leasing the land from Caltrans.
The company, Prestige Utility, cleared the debris after neighbors complained.
"Our crews cleaned up the dirt piles and we promised we would make it as clean as possible and maintain it. What we can't do anything about is the homeless problem," said Ivan Jimenez, a Prestige Utility manager.
Kalra walked with neighbors into a hidden homeless camp next to the freeway to see another trash heap no one is doing anything about.
Neighbors worry about the pollution and possible fires.
The land is controlled by Caltrans which has stopped homeless camp cleanups during the pandemic.
But when neighbors, the city or even private companies offer to organize clean-ups themselves, they say Caltrans isn't very helpful.
"Give us the ability to go onto Caltrans property, we'll do it. But they don't want to give up the jurisdiction either," Kalra said.
KPIX 5 contacted Caltrans for a response, but have so far not received one.
Kalra said he will keep the pressure on the transportation agency to "do its job."
"All the departments are stretched thin. Having said that, this is a dire situation. We need to move with some urgency here," Kalra said.
Neighbors said it was a good meeting, but just the beginning.
"We need to keep the pressure on and get an organized plan," said business owner Jim Salata.
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