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Moving 1,000 People Out of Our Creeks

Dear Neighbor,

All across America, cities are required to comply with the Clean Water Act. But San Jose's plan to come into compliance has been rejected by our Regional Water Quality Control Board – not just once, but three times.

And for good reason. We’ve let our waterways degrade until they have become what you see today. We’ve allowed over 1,000 people to live in unmanaged conditions along these waterways, creating waste that flows directly from our creeks to our oceans. No longer.

We have a mandate from the Water Board that requires us to do what is right – and that’s move people out of our waterways. And we have to do this in a way that doesn’t simply send people directly into our neighborhoods.

We don’t have time to waste. If we don’t have a serious plan to address the issue by June 2025, the Water Board can fine the City up to $60,000 per day per pollutant found in our waters.

To address this, we'll need millions of dollars amidst a fiscal moment in which we already are predicting deficits. I am going to be honest with you — this is going to be hard. This is an unprecedented moment in our city’s history. But we will get through it together and be a better city for it.

I hope that this is what our city, county and state needed to get serious about addressing homelessness at scale. We are not the only city affected by this mandate, but we will be the first to say thank you. Thank you for making clear that we can longer afford to allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good. During this year’s budget process, we will prioritize strategies that address this crisis in a way that scales, and doesn’t simply move people out of our creeks and onto our streets.

To do that, we will have to explore the creation of safe sleeping sites and an expansion of congregate shelter. We will have to look at establishing no encampment zones along about 25 miles of discharge areas mandated by the Water Board. And along the way, we will need to begin the massive project of cleaning up formerly unmanaged encampments that have been polluting our waterways. I hope you will join my virtual townhall tomorrow at 7pm to hear more and learn how you can help.

We won’t be able to do this alone. We need our County to add in-patient treatment beds for mental health and addiction. We need the state and federal government to increase their investment in solutions that scale. And we will need our community to say yes to the solutions to homelessness because it is far better to get people indoors and into treatment than to leave them in our streets and creeks.

Amid crisis comes opportunity. It creates community. I am excited to continue working toward a solution with you, neighbors across San Jose, and my colleagues on the council.


Mayor Matt


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