Homeless encampment in San Jose removed to make way for a dog park

San Jose has built possibly the largest dog park in the South Bay at Columbus Park, and though it’s all ready to use — it’s still closed.

A ceremonial public opening has been tentatively scheduled a couple of times, but canceled due to issues with the homeless living in the park.

Asbury and Spring streets are almost completely cleared of cars and RVs people have been living in. 

But weeks ago it was full when police posted notices giving car owners 72 hours to vacate.

The streets are where the new 5-acre city dog park is located, and those who had to move say there’s been a lot of emotion and tension.

“I have puppies myself, but, yeah, it’s just not that important,” said Eugene Blackwell of San Jose. “I don’t think it’s right putting dog lives over human lives. It shouldn’t be that way.”

In fact, that tension may have led to an earlier delay in the dog park opening.

City leaders said the recent stabbing death of a homeless man here cancelled their plans to open the park sometime after this last sweep.

Homeless advocates contend the anxiety created by the city sweeps is partly to blame. 

“They’re definitely treating dogs better than they’re treating people,” said Shaunn Cartwright, the director of the Unhoused Response Group. “They’re just, if you look at it as, they’re creating a human puppy mill over here. Just cramming a bunch of people into a small space to make a giant space for dogs.”

But Mayor Matt Mahan has led a move with other city leaders to make public space, such as the dog park as well as city trails, more open to the public.

He said the city is working with agencies to help unhoused people relocate to safe, dignified places, and find alternatives to sprawling encampments.

“I have to defer to our city work force to make the call on whether it’s ready to reopen,” said Mahan. “We’ve got to have safe ingress, egress places for people to park to be able to access this public space.”

There are still a lot of vehicles as well as the riverside encampment nearby and it’s hard to predict just how much has to be cleared out before the general public will come to the park.

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