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Neighbors Express Frustrations Over Homeless Camp Next To Mineta San Jose International Airport

SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) – As the City of San Jose mulls over its plan to remove hundreds of people from a homeless encampment adjacent to Mineta San Jose International Airport amid pressure from the FAA, neighboring business owners and workers expressed their frustrations.

"I am fed up. I am beyond fed up. I'm frustrated of being here and dealing with these issues on a daily basis," said Simon Aslanpour, owner of Blooming Bouquet.

Aslanpour, who has owned the business on Coleman Avenue for the past ten years, says 2020 was the worst he has seen.

Federal health guidelines meant sweeps of homeless encampments were paused for much of pandemic. The encampment, encompassing 40 acres, grew to more than 200 people. Unofficial estimates peg the count closer to 400 to 500 people.

San Jose Airport Homeless Encampment
Encampment near Mineta San Jose International Airport on July 2, 2021. (CBS)

As a result, Aslanpour continuously clears out piles of trash dumped on his property, and dumpsters filled with hazardous materials has resulted in increased disposal fees.

Employee vehicles are routinely burglarized. A wrought iron fence is repeatedly broken as trespassers enter the grounds to fill water tanks and charge cell phones, Aslanpour told KPIX 5.

A security camera was destroyed in the latest incident. And the catalytic converters were stolen on both Aslanpour's delivery truck, and the subsequent replacement rental truck.

"I'm frustrated of being here and dealing with these issues on a daily basis," said Aslanpour. "I have spent thousands of dollars on repairs. I'm very compassionate about them but then there is a difference between being homeless and harming others."

At Club Rio, employee Peggie Gallardo recounted one break-in where the thieves ignored expensive audio equipment, but stole food and water, and then defecated in the kitchen and bathroom, and smeared feces on the walls and mirrors.

Recently, an inhabitant from the encampment used a machete to chop landscaping and dig holes around the business.

"I can't even come here by myself, because my boss does not feel that I'm safe," said Gallardo.

Gallardo's nephew recently purchased a used minivan and parked it at the club, as he worked to save up money for insurance. A man from the encampment entered the club's parking lot and smashed all the windows to the minivan, according to Gallardo.

"This is ridiculous. This is just utterly ridiculous for somebody to do this and not understand how much it affects people's lives," said Gallardo.

On Monday, the city began an "enhanced cleanup" of the area, entering the sprawling parcel with teams of workers, bobcat bulldozers, and police escorts.

The FAA is threatening to withhold funding for future airport projects, if the City of San Jose does not clear the encampment, which lies directly underneath the flight path of approaching jets.

So far, the city has not released any plans regarding a timeline of the sweep, long-term housing, or fence that would surround the property.

Keonnis Taylor, public information manager for the airport, released this statement to KPIX 5 Friday evening:

"Mineta San Jose International Airport is working closely with our partners throughout the City to address this important civic issue. The Airport understands and sympathizes with the realities of homelessness. We need to find a balanced approach between providing safe, reliable air service in accordance with local and federal regulations, and a thoughtful solution to mitigating the encampments on Airport property. The work we are doing inside our terminals and on our runways to keep them clean and safe, also extends to the area immediately surrounding the airport. This balanced approach includes time for collaboration with our partners in support of the camp's inhabitants, and maintaining an environment safe for aircraft and for people on the ground."

The city has until July 31 to submit its plan to the FAA.

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