RVs line a street in an industrial area of San Jose
Kruse Drive in San Jose is lined with RVs parked in front of businesses. Photo by Jana Kadah.

San Jose officials say they've found a way to cut the cost of a $16 million safe parking site for homeless residents in half, just months before it opens.

City leaders announced Thursday a redesigned safe parking site planned for 1300 Berryessa Road that will offer sanctuary and services to homeless residents living in their RVs and cars. The redesign reduces buildings for workers from four to two, which cuts the cost of the project by about $7 million to $8 million without eliminating programs or services.

“That doubles our potential impact if you think about it. So, that's a really big deal,” Mayor Matt Mahan said at a news conference last week. “We're gonna need more of that from government, particularly over the coming years when you look at the fiscal situation our state, county and city are all facing.”

The 6.3-acre site is expected to have 85 spaces for RVs and parking for 46 cars. San Jose has roughly 800 people living in RVs, according to city data.

The location has sat vacant since last July and will likely open in the fall. The city agreed to lease it at $1.7 million annually for at least 10 years, but one of those years is just prepping to open. Construction is expected to begin next month.

Councilmember David Cohen, who has led efforts to open the site in his district, is critical of the city's delays, but celebrates the drop in cost. In North San Jose, there are a disproportionate number of people living in their vehicles because there are more industrial areas to park without much harassment from other residents or police.

It’s had a profound effect on the business community. On Kruse Drive, business owners have considered closing shop because the dozens of RVs that line the streets are driving customers and employees away.

“There are three locations within walking distance of this site, where RVs are currently parked that have been there for a long time,” Cohen said. “The new safe RV parking site is a much needed refuge allowing us to relocate individuals from our neighborhoods into a secure space. This not only addresses the immediate need for shelter, but also contributes to neighborhood well-being.”

Cohen said while $8 million may seem pricey for a parking lot, it will save the city money and cleanup efforts in the long run. On average, the city spends about $60,000 on cleanups, social services and public safety, he added.

Once in operation, this will be the city's second safe parking site. San Jose's only safe parking site for homeless residents opened at the Santa Teresa VTA light rail station last July. It took several years to open and provides 42 spaces for homeless people living in their vehicles. As of Feb. 26, the site is 98% full and 13 people have self-reported placement into permanent housing. 

“While this may seem like just a parking lot, it will be someone's launching point out of living in a vehicle on our streets and into permanent housing,” Public Works Director Matt Cano said.

Contact Jana at [email protected] or follow @Jana_Kadah on X, formerly known as Twitter.

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