City Council Weighs Contentious Housing Project for Homeless

UPDATE: The City Council went with the temporary housing proposal on an 8-3 vote.

San Jose has come to a political fork in the road in addressing its homelessness crisis. On Tuesday, the City Council will decide which route to take—one that tackles the problem now or one that bolsters affordable housing stock in the future.

The two options center on a six-acre city-owned plot between Highway 87 and Almaden Expressway. The city can use the land to shelter 100-plus homeless people in a cluster of portables by next summer, or it can build 446 apartment units, with half pegged for low-income tenants, by 2022.

Last year, the council directed city staff to think up short-term solutions as part of a sweeping effort to curb one of the nation’s largest homeless populations.

One of those solutions involved placing 17 pre-fab dwellings on the long-vacant six-acre parcel, which lies right off of Evans Lane in San Jose’s Canoas Gardens neighborhood.

The Evans Lane project would cost up to $15 million, take nine months to build and put a roof over the heads of homeless veterans and vulnerable women. It would include features that benefit the surrounding community, including a satellite library, community garden and a dog park.

Screen Shot 2016-08-15 at 8.37.15 AM

Source: City of San Jose

But not everyone took to the proposal. An opposition group contended that the influx of 100-plus impoverished residents would attract crime. They made their case in a series of impassioned public hearings as well as on a website dedicated to stopping the project.

Leading up to the primary election, the fate of Evans Lane became a political issue debated by candidates running to replace Councilman Pierluigi Oliverio in District 6. And at the final council meeting before summer recess, elected officials put off voting on the project until it studied the possibility of instead building high-density apartments.

If the council opts for placing modular on the property, the city would fund the entire development and put low-income housing nonprofit Abode Services in charge of managing the place. There would be a security gate, security guards, case managers and several people maintaining the property. The portables would have eaves, awnings and all the trappings of a permanent structure to make it aesthetically appealing.

After 15 years, the city would then replace the community with permanent affordable homes, according to city staff.

“We could almost have it both ways,” senior city planner Patrick Heisinger told San Jose Inside. “We could house homeless people immediately and build up our permanent affordable housing supply in the future.”

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The Evans Lane site. Source: City of San Jose

If the council decides against that option, it would need upward of $36 million and six years to realize the alternate proposal of building three six-story apartment towers. The Evans Lane discussion will take place after the consent agenda around 7pm tonight.

Never before has the city developed housing for the homeless. However, as part of a regional initiative rolled out in the past few years, San Jose has launched several projects to that end. Some involve reserving spots at new affordable housing developments, while other efforts include flipping old motels into studios with on-site social workers.

City projects underway would add 600 or so new homes for the homeless with the next three to five years, according to housing officials.

Some of the projects have drawn backlash from neighbors who worry that poor people attract crime. Abode Services, which provides housing for 4,400 people throughout Santa Clara, Santa Cruz and Alameda counties, argues that simply hasn’t been the case.

When the city, the county and the Housing Authority of the County of Santa Clara turned the Santa Clara Inn on The Alameda into housing for the homeless, crime reportedly dropped. Drug dealers that once frequented the rundown inn were turned away by Abode, according to the nonprofit manager, which rechristened the place Casa de Novo in a nod to the site’s transformation.

More from the San Jose City Council agenda for Aug. 16, 2016:

  • A grant to tighten up security at the Mineta San Jose International Airport may get bumped from $6.4 million to $15.4 million.

WHAT: City Council meets
WHEN: 1:30pm Tuesday
WHERE: City Hall, 200 E. Santa Clara St., San Jose
INFO: City Clerk, 408.535.1260

Jennifer Wadsworth is a staff writer for San Jose Inside and Metro Newspaper. Email tips to jenniferw@metronews.com or follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.

30 Comments

  1. The more services a city provides for the homeless, the more homeless that city will attract. I wonder if any members of the city council would vote to build either of these projects built in their own neighborhood?

    • because arresting and demonizing them has worked so well?
      would you prefer we bused them out of the area?
      you’re so wonderfully compassionate.

      • No one’s demonizing nor arresting anyone. Majority of these types are NOT FROM SAN JOSE and they’re here because of the freebies, weather, and laid back law enforcement. I’d rather have the city buy a laptop for every child in the ESUHSD or subsidize child care for low income families than spend a dime on able-bodied crackheads.

        We should do as Hawaii has been doing it for the past few years; Out-of-towners are to be “returned to sender” first before we can take care of our native SJ population, otherwise, we’ll become Tenderloin 2.0 in no time.

        http://www.hawaiinewsnow.com/story/29381822/airline-relocation-program-helps-homeless-connect-with-housing-on-mainland

      • > you’re so wonderfully compassionate.

        SAL:

        Who put you in charge of compassion?

        Do you have a divinity degree or something?

        Maybe my church doesn’t believe in your church’s theory of compassion.

        Keep your church’s compassion out of my bedroom, out of my home office, off of my tax bill , and out of my wallet.

        SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE!

        • Yes! Place a “little housing” area near Willow Glen! I absolutely LOVE the idea! By the way, Thank You willow glen for your “vast majority” vote for Measure B.

          • LMAO I can still see the SAM signs sprawled along every street in WG! Now the same bubble people are supporting more of the same old song and dance with Dev Davis… The same people that panic when there are more than 3 patrol cars parked at a scene.

      • I wonder how many homeless folks SAL has living in his home?

        It’s real easy to be “compassionate”, using other peoples’ money.

        ‘Homeless’ isn’t the only H-word…

    • There is no data to support your claim that more homeless people will come to San Jose.
      I know Raul supports homeless housing in his neighborhood.

    • Thank you. I am researching this because we are now having the same conversations in South Gate CA (L.A.C.) except they are not conversations. They are being voted on with no input from Community. Council is also saying permanent homeless housing by Path (Venture) taking Govt. Grant money does not have to ask Council or Community if we want Homeless Housing Units on our very dangerous Imperial Highway. I don’t know but I am going to find out before next Council even though they approved it.

  2. I love section 8 housing bring it on along with more police you will need it. Bit we do need to show compasion and willingness to solve this problem. A tent city will not work. City needs to get it priorities right. Is this PO’s district, if so I can tell you where this vote will go. Homeless vs cut down trees.

  3. I have written this information before, but I’m commenting here because I don’t think that the writer has investigated the situation at Evans Lane. If she has, she certainly didn’t incorporate most of the facts into this article.
    The Evans Lane transitional housing project proposed in Willow Glen is in a small triangular pocket, bordered by Almaden Expressway and Highway 87. It has one road in and out. This block is the residence of people who are poverty-level, working poor, and low-income housing residents, with a Wellness Clinic housing 56
    court-mandated, mentally ill, homeless persons. In this small one-block area, live 1300 persons. There is also a studio apartment building on Curtner Avenue, which houses almost 170 people with either mental health issues, formerly homeless, or they are poverty-level. The median income in the Evans Lane community is $41,000 versus $92,000 in the general San Jose area. I might add, that Abode who is slated to run the proposed project and provide the services, is the same organization that is providing services to 701 Curtner, In the last six-month period, there have been over 1400 calls to the police, preponderantly for 701 Curtner. Because the SJPD is underfunded and understaffed, the response time is very slow. This also goes for fire and paramedic services. Both the professional service people and certain civic leaders realize that they cannot assure that services to that area can or will improve at all, not even to address the existing problems, much less an additional population of vulnerable residents. The residents of Evans Lane/Canoas Garden are more than doing their fair share to house the homeless. In spite of all their problems, the people living in this neighborhood are still willing to have homeless women, homeless families, or permanent low-income/affordable housing on that site. I would hope that when writing about a very contentious issue, both sides are represented fairly. This article did not do that, in fact, the writer’s one sentence on the opposition was about the residents fearing this would “attract crime” and didn’t even encompass the major arguments. To the contrary, that is only one of the arguments and it’s “attract more crime.” The rest of the article was straight from the mouths of Housing and the City of San Jose.

    • As a resident of 701 Curtner, thank you. I’m terrified of “Abode”. I am a single mother of a young toddler with no options for affordable housing. Curtner is my only option after leaving an abusive relationship. And now fighting for custody of my daughter, with court costs, I can’t even afford a bed for myself. I sleep on the floor, but at least I have a home. I asked Abode for help getting a bed. No can do. I’m not a “client”. Only the crackheads who move in and die a month later get any help from them.

      Please don’t let this temp fix happen. We need safe places for mothers like me. These woman on the streets once lived in the same DV shelters I turned too when I left. And we get passed around between shelters until our time is up. The lucky ones find housing. Some weren’t as strong or determined and for whatever reason, they are just faceless nameless homeless statistics now. Just like the Veterans we forgot once fought for us and now lay down under overpasses for shelter every night.

      A temp fix isn’t helping. 4 people have died at Curtner since Oct. At least 2 were Abode clients. The “excuse” given by Abode for persons memorial service was by the time they find housing they are
      . too defeated from the streets. If they got the help they needed, rehab, therapy, support on site, they would be alive today. I have seen management ask Abode for help with dealing with an Abode client (needing to knock on a combative persons door) , and Abode said “it’s not my job”. And these are the same people they want to move into these temp places.

      Please please please, I implore anyone reading this, don’t judge us all. The majority of people living at Curtner Studios are good hardworking people. Just as troubled by this as me. But too scared to speak up. I was once too. I have mental illness. I suffer
      from OCD and PTSD, yet my daughter gives me strength to write this and to speak up. Its her I fight for.

      • To Pokemom:
        I’m so happy you wrote. Having been a single mother myself, I know just how hard it is to be a good parent and support you and your child. It is terrible that you have to live in fright, with no one to turn to. The Evans Lane Coalition is totally committed to permanent affordable housing and you would be part of the target population for housing on the Evans Lane site. If at all possible, please come tonight, bring your baby if you need to, and speak to the Council about your living conditions at 701 Curtner.

    • As a resident of 701 Curtner, thank you. I’m terrified of “Abode”. I am a single mother of a young toddler with no options for affordable housing. Curtner is my only option after leaving an abusive relationship. And now fighting for custody of my daughter, with court costs, I can’t even afford a bed for myself. I sleep on the floor, but at least I have a home. I asked Abode for help getting a bed. No can do. I’m not a “client”. Only the crackheads who move in and die a month later get any help from them.

      Please don’t let this temp fix happen. We need safe places for mothers like me. These woman on the streets once lived in the same DV shelters I turned too when I left. And we get passed around between shelters until our time is up. The lucky ones find housing. Some weren’t as strong or determined and for whatever reason, they are just faceless nameless homeless statistics now. Just like the Veterans we forgot once fought for us and now lay down under overpasses for shelter every night.

      A temp fix isn’t helping. 4 people have died at Curtner since Oct. At least 2 were Abode clients. The “excuse” given by Abode for persons memorial service was by the time they find housing they are. too defeated from the streets. If they got the help they needed, rehab, therapy, support on site, they would be alive today. I have seen management ask Abode for help with dealing with an Abode client (needing to knock on a combative persons door) , and Abode said “it’s not my job”. And these are the same people they want to move into these temp places.

      Please please please, I implore anyone reading this, don’t judge us all. The majority of people living at Curtner Studios are good hardworking people. Just as troubled by this as me. But too scared to speak up. I was once too. I have mental illness. I suffer from OCD and PTSD, yet my daughter gives me strength to write this and to speak up. Its her I fight for.

      • Pokemom…we have heard you speak opposing the transitional housing and you have a compelling life story. Please come tonight and speak at City Council. I am the woman who held your baby girl @ the March 30th meeting at the Masonic.
        While we oppose the transitional housing project WE FULLY SUPPORT PERMANENT AFFORDABLE HOUSING ON EVANS LANE and would hope single moms like you would find a safe home there. I was at Evans Ln @ 5:15 yesterday after noon and once again there were three police cars there dealing with the ongoing problems at 701 Curtner. Abode has absolutely no control.
        I will look for you tonight!

  4. Every district in the city needs to share in having housing for the homeless. The City needs to go forward with the project and also address the concerns of the neighbors on this project. District 3 and District 7 have homeless projects moving forward. If managed right this could work. Please note I find it hard to believe there were 1400 calls for service for 701 Curtner. Bring in your public records request and if this is correct you do have a good argument. This information would of been received from the SJPD Records division and would show all the calls for that address only.

    • Trust me, I live at Curtner. The numbers may be a bit high, but not all calls for service are “legit”. One person here calls the police multiple times a day for something they imagine. Those calls add to the overall number, but don’t let that take away from the fact that many many of those calls are real.

  5. I am appalled at your very biased writing on the Evans Ln. project. It seems obvious that you are not an investigative journalist, but rather prefer to take spoon-fed bites of whatever Housing/City serves up each day.
    What a disappointment! Maybe someday San Jose can produce a good investigative reporter who really cares about truth.
    Evans Lane is 600 yards of 40 already housed homeless, 86 people with serious mental health issues (both of the above fully subsidized;) 100+ residents at poverty level, and 1300 working poor in affordable housing. The City of San José has no problem creating it’s very own defacto socio-economic segregated ghetto. Remember all this is within 600 yards of a tiny neighborhood…but hey…who cares about the poor & their children? Children who already walk a gauntlet of residents from 701 asking them for their lunch and/or their lunch money. So let’s put 100 to 170 more that these children will have to walk by. You have no idea what you are writing about and you have never contacted the coalition for comments or input. Shame on you
    We don’t think they will bring crime, it’s already there…welcome to Abode’s wonderful services
    @ 701 Curtner.
    It would behoove you to educate yourself regarding both sides of an issue before you dare call yourself a reporter unless of course you’re just a reporter supporting the City of San José’s pet projects.
    Geri Navé
    Coalition Opposing Evans Ln. Transitional Housing
    Sent from my iPhone

    • Ms Wadsworth has now been provided with extensive documentation from the Evans Lane Coalition. Hopefully she will use that documentation to present a fair and balanced picture. As you wrote, the Evans Lane Coalition is not opposed to permanent affordable housing. We are opposed to transitional housing for the homeless in this specific neighborhood that will simply continue the spiraling down of a very challenged and tiny neighborhood that already provides an overconcentration of affordable housing as well as a center for addicts, alcoholics and released female prisoners. That site is right next to the site where the transitional homeless housing is proposed. It is also worth noting the recent Supreme Court case about the overconcentration of such housing in low income areas. Most of those who push this project do not live in the neighborhood. They are “activists” who have never met a housing project they didn’t support. That is an unrealistic and untenable position to take but never let facts get in the way of “activism”, right?

  6. San Jose routinely complains about not being respected as a “big city”, but then it doesn’t do the things real cities do, like a housing authority(or even pave streets, but I digress). The issue is the insane housing costs in the valley, and the homeless are but a visible symptom. Twenty years from now, when new tech startups have abandoned San Jose due to poor quality of life(spending 50%+ of disposable income to live in old, poorly maintained housing stock is not an amenity) and residents are seeing their housing investment decline in value, it will be too late to decide that SJ should alter it’s decades old development hostile policies and encourage the formation of affordable housing stock. My family arrived in SJ in 1978, at the height of Mayor Janet Gray Hayes’ slow growth regime, that has remained largely intact for decades. Folks that plan to stay here for more than another decade, and want their real estate investments to not tank, should let their elected leaders know that the current status quo is not desirable or sustainable. This project is a drop in the bucket. How about affordable housing for the wage earning folks that serve meals, provide services and sell the products that all the techies need in their daily lives?

  7. If you build it, they will come.

    SF spends a billion dollars every 4-5 years on the homeless and what do you get? More homeless people of course.

    SJ is warmer than SF, so I expect even more homeless will show up in SJ. Be careful what you wish for SJ, because once you will get it, and more. Much more.

    • Yes, because a project that will only house 100 and will be filled a second after completion is going to bring a horde of homeless to the city. Get real.

  8. And to the people that feed the “pigeons” at every center median intersection. Good job. Hope that dollar you gave made you feel better knowing that the person was able to get a fifth of vodka! Yes Ive followed many of these people to the liquor store and videotaped it. They head back tot he creek where they drink and plan their next theft…. But as long as you drive away feeling warm and fuzzy its all good

  9. The SJ Department of Housing has already determined that this location is in an Impacted Census Tract. More than 80% of the residents are low-mod income. The residents here aren’t afraid that the temporary housing project “could” attract crime, they have experienced that the EXISTING temporary housing for homeless and mentally ill persons at 701 Curtner has ALREADY attracted more crime. Much more crime. When your income is in the bottom 20% of the valley and the majority of residents here are people of color, something as small as a stolen bicycle or broken window can mean you can’t get to work or feed your family. This neighborhood already has more than its fair share of the challenged population in San Jose. It is almost entirely a neighborhood of affordable housing and low-income housing projects to which has already been added over 120 homeless in transition, mentally ill and substance abusers.. Adding MORE temporary transitional housing will double the number of challenged people living in a small freeway locked area and will set back many hardworking, poor ethnic families in their struggles to build or rebuild their lives. Locating this project in this neighborhood would be a regressive social policy decision made on the the backs of the bottom 20%. On the other hand, adding another permanent affordable housing project is consistent with the neighborhood and an opportunity to better the lives of the bottom 20% with an investment in a struggling community.

    • There is a third-option that should be investigated for Evans Lane; modular, mid-rise, permanent micro-housing.

      Panoramic Interests created perhaps the first car-free, micro-housing building in the country. With 160 microunits on just 9,000 square feet (located on 9th and Mission in San Francisco), they were able to create high-quality, relatively affordable, market-rate housing in a 12 story (120′) building.

      The density this would provide would allow for a mix of market-rate, affordable and supportive housing on the property. Given that it is near transit hubs, it might be possible to make it car-free (reducing the cost of construction of parking and/or leaving more land for open space). The founder describes and shows off the Panoramic building here:

      http://winchesternac.com/2016/08/16/car-free-micro-dna-and-modular-part-1/

      In the second part of the interview, he discusses how modular construction is necessary for cost reduction:

      http://winchesternac.com/2016/08/16/10000-homes-in-a-year-on-underutilized-land-part-2/

      He claims he could build 10,000 units a year using the modular technique, installing them over underutilized public spaces, such as city parking lots. In the associated write-up, there is an example of the type of development that could occur over a VTA bus yard.

  10. If you want to know what this place will look like in 5-10 yrs, go drive by Unity Place on Northrup, between Fruitdale & Pedro. The city provided Unity w/ a 0% 50yr loan for “transitional youth housing”. It is a poorly managed s-hole and the executive manager of UP lives in the east foothills in a beautiful mini-mansion. The people of San Jose deserve this – how you vote matters.

    The city of san jose should not provide one cent of benefits to anyone who cannot prove a minimum of 2yrs of residency in san jose, else, get back on the same bus you just got off of!

  11. So, nobody has any idea what to do with the homeless. Anyone who advocates compassion gets mocked. The rest of you are coming off as heartless lassez-faire capitalists with nothing to offer except “put ‘em back on the bus,” which isn’t a very intelligent solution for the mentally ill or the working poor… or yes, even the just plain lazy. You guys might as well advocate roasting them and eating them a la Jonathan Swift, for all the humanity you’re exhibiting.

    But I bet it was satisfying to have your little trollish rant, wasn’t it?

    • I’m pretty sure “SANJOSE1971″ is a proud residential property owner in 95125 who happily paid his/hers 2015 property tax in full and simply can’t wait to make the same for the current fiscal year.

    • > Anyone who advocates compassion gets mocked.

      SANJOSE1971:

      Feel free to be as compassionate as you damn well please with your resources and your property (as long as you comply with all zoning laws, building codes, and occupancy regulations.)

      And since YOU are being as compassionate as YOU feel YOU need to be and are capable of being, you actually don’t need to tell the rest of us about your compassion. Just go about your compassion thing. No need to toot your horn.

      I’ll handle my own compassion obligations, and I assume that others will handle theirs as well.

      Visualize being non-judgmental.

  12. So the city dismantles the Jungle only to build a new one with public resources. How “innovative”