The City of San Jose, along with associated organizations, hosted a community meeting on Thursday night to discuss the pending “Tiny home” housing developments. Mayor Sam Liccardo and Council Member Tam Nguyen were present along with Jack Morales-Ferrand City of San Jose Director Housing, James Stagi City of San Jose Acting Division Manager, Kevin Elliott of Habitat for Humanity, and Andrea Urton from HomeFirst. Each discussed their role within the project, addressed frequently asked questions, and then addressed questions from the community.
There were approximately 70 people in attendance at the Leininger Community Center. Mayor Liccardo opened the meeting with a strong reminder that the homeless community is “already here” and that the tiny home plans are not a “silver bullet” to the problem but a major step towards mitigating the issue.
The panel presented some important facts about the program:
- This project is a part of AB2176 and is only approved to be in place until January 1, 2022
- The program is expected to provide sleeping arrangements for up to 40 people
- Each individual in the program will be vetted and undergo a background check
- This project is intended for Working or “Ready to Work” individuals, meaning they have cars, valid drivers licenses and other documentation required to obtain or keep them employed.
- The program is intended for transitional living and participants are expected to be relocated to more permanent housing within 3-6 months
- The anticipated participation is anywhere between 250-350 people
- The program will include weekly meetings with participants and case managers
- The program will include two full time staffers, security guards, and facility managers
The most prominent question on everyone's mind was why and how the three locations were chosen. As one attendee asked “Why is (District 3) always the lucky ones” who take on the majority of affordable housing and other such efforts are seemingly “clumped together”. Her concern was not one against the project and helping those affected by our housing crisis, but founded in a greater concern of how these types of city efforts reduce a districts income and ability to fund community building efforts, such as parks. Mayor Liccardo informed her that District 3 already has several plans for parks and community improvements and assured that the council was “very sensitive” to the need of having each district contribute their “fair share”, however the the question lingered.
James Stagi from the Housing Department explained that the location selection process started with over 90 locations and was based on input from the community, the city council, and development partners. Most notably the site locations were required to be over 1300 feet away from any K-12 school. One attendee asked if the locations close proximity to liquor stores and recycling centers was considered but the panel of speakers assured that those in the program are required follow strict restrictions on “alcohol, marijuana, violence, drug paraphernalia, and stealing.” The site will also include 24/7 security that will not only patrol the site but the surrounding area and will coordinate with local police if an issues arises.
The panel further assured that additional community improvements are included in the plan. The plans include creating an advisory committee that will include residence along with program leaders to help create a forum for the neighborhoods to address concerns. Though similar efforts in other programs the committees also assisted the community with obtaining additional street lighting and traffic improvements.
Another concern from the audience was if there has been consideration to how a plan like this will attract more homeless to the neighborhood and if the city had a plan to prevent this potential influx. The panel’s response to this was a reminder that a majority of homeless come from the local community. One panelest referenced the success of Salt Lake City's homeless programs. However, this question resonated with me as our own neighboring communities struggle with this problem. This concern was echoed as the panel discussed how the 101 and 280 location was ideal because of the existing encampment on the site. The existing, unsanctioned, encampment has been “cleared out” 21 times already and is frequently requiring police and fire response. Further, we were reminded of the taxpayers cost to these efforts. However, a concern not addressed was what the city planned to do to assist those from this encampment who would be displaced by the project. With the projects strict rules and qualifications, many of those from this site would not be able to participate.
While none of the three proposed locations are in District 5; two of them are directly next to our neighborhoods and, as a result, we will be affected. As a resident and candidate for City Council I am understanding and supportive of this and similar homeless initiatives, I would like to support the tiny house project, however there are still many questions that have yet to be addressed and little representation given to District 5 during this process, or at this community event.
For those of you who would like to learn more you can visit: http://www.sanjoseca.gov/bridgehousingcommunities
Or attend the next community meeting:
- Monday, February 26, 2018 6:00pm at the Environmental Innovation Center
- Thursday, March 1, 2018 6:30pm at the Wyndham Hotel on Silicon Valley Boulevard.