The protesters say they won't even go inside the tents during the day because the tents are not for camping -- they are simply protest symbols as the movement evolves.
But city manager spokesman Tom Manheim said the protesters' redefinition of tents as symbols did not change the law.
"City rules define tents as part of camping," which is not allowed on City Hall Plaza, Manheim was quoted in the San Jose Mercury News as saying. "We will continue to enforce our rules as resources allow."
A city ordinance says: "No person shall camp on the City Hall Plaza. No person shall enter or remain on the plaza [except the sidewalks] after closing time, as established by the regulations, unless authorized to do so by the director."
Last week, the city offered to drop all civil charges against Occupy San Jose members since Oct. 2 -- when the group started its local outpost -- if they agreed not to set up tents on the plaza for two years.
But the return of the tents Sunday indicates "we found a way to work outside and within the system at the exact same time," Occupy member Shaunn Cartwright told the newspaper, explaining the plan was reviewed by the group's lawyers.
The city had no immediate comment.
Separately, activist Professor Cornel West told a Pasadena church he supported an Occupy the Rose Parade demonstration.
"Any time you get a chance to bear witness for justice, I support that," West told the Episcopal All Saints Church.
"If I was around Jan. 2, I would be part of it," the Pasadena Star-News quoted him as saying.
The Tournament of Roses Parade is a New Year's Day spectacle of flower-covered floats, marching bands and equestrians, followed by a college football game. It is moved to Jan. 2 if New Year's Day falls on a Sunday.
Protesters have promised not to disrupt the main parade event, and police have agreed to treat them fairly, as long as they keep their word, the Pasadena Sun reported.
The protesters said they planned to display signs across from the main location for TV cameras covering the parade and then carry a 250-foot-long banner of the U.S. Constitution to a post-parade rally at Pasadena City Hall.
They also plan to display "a giant octopus to represent Wall Street's stranglehold on the economy and the political system," Occupy the Rose Parade organizer Peter Thottam told the Sun.