Santa Clara Valley Water considers ordinance banning encampments along creeks

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By Yosi Yahoudai
Founder and Managing Partner

A proposed new ordinance could soon force unhoused people living along Santa Clara County creeks to leave.

Santa Clara Valley Water says creekside camps are posing a growing hazard to the environment and water managers are relying on the new proposal to ban those camps.

“The idea is to protect the natural resources of the area, to reverse the effects the amount of garbage, trash debris, hazardous materials in the waterways,” Mark Bilski, an assistant officer for Valley Water Good Neighbor Program.

Valley Water says creekside camps are harming the environment. The water district’s Safe Clean Water Program recently hauled off 797 tons of debris from creekside land and waterways.

“From furniture to shopping carts, to trash to biowaste, to hazardous waste,” Bilski said.

Valley Water leaders are proposing a new ordinance that would ban creekside camping along 295 miles of property the district owns and manages in Santa clara County.

If approved, the ordinance would ban creek camping and those who refuse to leave could face up to $500 in fines and even jail time.

“If they want to ban encampments, then they need to focus on giving us permanent housing instead of temporary housing,” said Isolda Matamoros, who lives in an encampment in San Jose.

Dozens of people consider an encampment alongside the Guadalupe River in San Jose their home.

Matamoros said she believes people who reside there actually help the environment.

“We actually clean up the debris where we live,” Matamoros said. “The rivers are clean.”

If the district board approves the ordinance it could take effect as early as this summer. The public will get a chance to weigh in on the ordinance at 1 p.m. Friday at Santa Clara Valley Water headquarters.

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About the Author
Yosi Yahoudai is a founder and the managing partner of J&Y. His practice is comprised primarily of cases involving automobile and motorcycle accidents, but he also represents people in premises liability lawsuits, including suits alleging dangerous conditions of public property, third-party criminal conduct, and intentional torts. He also has expertise in cases involving product defects, dog bites, elder abuse, and sexual assault. He earned his Bachelor of Arts from the University of California and is admitted to practice in all California State Courts, and the United States District Court for the Southern District of California. If you have any questions about this article, you can contact Yosi by clicking here.