May 2, 1992
By Yolanda Reynolds
Last week, San Ion City officials announced the start of projects that are meant to improve the quality of life of San Joseans. On Tuesday, May 21, District 5 City Council woman Blanca Alvarado and District 7 Council George Shirakawa announced the clean-up and rehabilitation of a large complex of apartments on Poco Way and McCreery Ave. in San Jose.
These apartments are owned by six different absentee owners whose only interest seems to be the collection of rent. The exteriors of the apartments are covered with grafﬁti and they are surrounded by weeds and debris of all sorts.
While it is difﬁcult to imagine the interiors as being even ﬁlthier that was suggested by the exterior of the apartment, it was still a shock to see the actual condition of two apartments.
Holes were punched in the ceiling, there was evidence of burn spas all over the bathroom and in the kitchen. One official described as evidence of the use of crack cocaine.
The toilet along with absolutely with every major appliance heaters, stove, showers, plumbing were inoperable. It is hard to believe that anyone could live in those apartments.
What is so disturbing is that many people do have to live there, even though the apartments are costly – rents range over $500 per month – numerous people crowd into these one and two bedroom apartments in order to have shelter. Many of those living in these apartments are children – some with mothers and fathers who, though working, earn very little.
Not one person that La Oferta spoke to said that they liked living there. One man said that he had lived in one of the apartments in the complex and, in that unit, not one of the toilets flushed properly. He said that he counted himself as one of the fortunate few in that he no longer had to live there. He said that conditions were terrible when he lived there and that the landlords did no pay attention to the conditions of the apartments.
Another older woman, Carmen, said that she had sought help from the Red Cross because of the filthy, dangerous situation in which she found herself. She said that they said that they could not help her. She said that desperately wants to move away but that she has not choice because she has no money. Carmen said that she now shares an apartment at Poco Way with another woman and her two children.
Two men with families, Juan and Salvador, said that they were concerned for the welfare of their children, but that they too could not afford to live anywhere else. They said that during the day the drug situation was always present, but not in the dangerous way that it became at dusk and through the night. They said that their sleep was disturbed by the volume and type of street traffic caused by the thriving drug activities that take place during those hours.
Alvarado and Shirakawa were accompanied by other important community leaders at the press conference. In a significant move, the clean-up of the area will involve a diverse but significant array of community leaders and agencies. This project will be one of the most comprehensive efforts to end the blighted and volatile situation that exists in that complex of rundown, filthy apartments.
Others at the conference were: San Jose Police Chief Louis Cobarruvias; Arbuckle Elementary School Principal, Lou Henry; PACT leaders, Father Baldonado, Mary Contreras and Apolonia Castrita; Alum Rock School Superintendent, Larry Aceves; Alum Rock Trustee Gary Serda and Deputy City Manager Nabar Martinez. The Parks and Recreation Department is another important department that will be involved.
These apartment buildings adjoin the playground and playing ﬁeld of the Arbuckle Elementary School. Mayor Hammer has proposed the creation of “drug free zones.” These “drug free zones” will encompass a distance of 1,000 feet adjoining the school grounds of selected San Jose elementary, junior and senior high schools.
The enforcement of this law will increase the penalties for those found to be distributing and selling controlled substances in or within 1,000 feet of a private or public school.
The Poco Way apartments are located within such a distance, it would seem that with enforcement, it will become too expensive for dealers to do business in that immediate area.
Currently, the appearance of the apartments and parts of the neighborhood invite the wary drug dealers who like places that look as if “no one cares” so that they may carry on their business without fear of being apprehended.
According to the San Jose police department, “severe crime problems in that neighborhood include gang violence, drive-by shootings and open display and sell of narcotics.”
Adding to the neighborhoods problems is a severe shortage of jobs. A nearby shopping area has become an unofficial location for workers seeking day labor. Since there are long waits, some enterprising drug dealers seek out drug sales among those gathered at the shopping center. That, combined with the loitering is also a menace to nearby neighbors and the people at the shopping center.
The City has planned a three-phase program. The first phase, already in place, is to develop a plan of action for the clean-up. The announcement on Tuesday by Alvarado and Shirakawa was to further publicize the plan.
The City has scheduled numerous meetings in the near future. Meetings are scheduled for May 1 and on May 16, to organize a community Clean-Up. On May 18 the Community Action Team will have its first meeting.
According to members of the City staff, one of the most difficult aspects of the project will be finding replacement housing for some of the residents. The City staff will be conducting a census to assess the extent of overcrowding, which has been a of source of the problems at apartments. The most costly aspect of this program will be locating replacement housing, which is part of the second phase.
The Redevelopment Agency will be involved in the project and, if all goes as planned this project will be one of the few instances in which Redevelopment Law in San Jose has been used for the original intent of the law – which is to rid a community of vermin and filth and to eradicate blight
At Poco Way. the city may use eminent domain (which allows government to take property away from its current owners). In doing so it is to the benefit of the larger community. That is a likely conclusion in this instance since it appears that the absentee landlords have no interest in working among themselves and with their tenants to find a solution to the unhealthy and dangerous conditions at these apartments. in fact, it is surprising that there has not been a major fire there already. Should a fire occur because of the poor maintenance and lack of code enforcement – the property owners and the city could be liable for the damage to person and property that this would cause.
For more information on the upcoming meetings contact Nabar Martinez at 277-4000 or PACT 258-7057 and ask for Mary Contreras or Councilmembers Alvarado and Shirakawa at 277-47/11.