San Jose Approves Emergency ‘Bridge Housing’ for Homeless Amid Coronavirus Outbreak

Old tensions ran high at Tuesday’s virtual San Jose City Council meeting over a proposed site for emergency shelter for the homeless at Monterey and Bernal roads.

The Covid-19 pandemic, which has infected at least 1,962 and killed 94 people in Santa Clara County, has created an even more urgent need to find shelter for the more than 6,000 unhoused residents in San Jose. Two weeks ago, the council declared a shelter crisis and allocated $17 million in state funding from the Homeless Housing and Prevention program to erect up to 500 prefabricated modular homes for the homeless.

Late Tuesday evening, the council settled on a site to put up the first 80 units: a 2.5-acre plot of city-owned land at Monterey and Bernal roads in District 2.

Despite the support of eight council members and the mayor—council members Johnny Khamis and Sergio Jimenez dissented—the proposal drew the ire of many residents.

Three years ago, city officials suggested using the same site for a tiny home community. The proposal, however, was shelved after an onslaught of backlash from District 2 residents who cited concern over increased crime and blight. Many of those same residents reignited their cause on Tuesday.

“Santa Teresa is a bedroom community of families that have worked hard to purchase homes and pay taxes,” Suzanne Johnson told the council. “The last three years my family and neighbors have had several run-ins with the homeless stealing and harassing us...Currently there's trash, tents [and] human waste across the street. How can this be different when they add 80 more beds right there close to our neighborhoods?”

Other residents expressed their concern with the fast-tracked process and lack of community input. The state of emergency declared in light of the pandemic has allowed city officials to bypass red tape that’s typically part of project approval.

“The residents of District 2 are rightfully outraged and it’s a shame that the city council and mayor are hiding behind the guise of bureaucracy and using a global pandemic to suppress the voices of the residents in order to push forward their agenda,” resident Michelle Liu said at the meeting.

Jimenez, who reps D2, expressed “concern and discomfort” with the pace of the process.

“Those opportunities for dialogue were quickly set aside by the current emergency that we find ourselves in,” he said. “The state, the county and the city have recognized that this current pandemic coupled with our existing housing crisis has really exposed as I see it the sort of chasm amongst our residents. These acknowledgments have led to mandates that we quickly house as many houseless residents as possible setting aside the normal course of things.”

Because of the concerns conveyed by many of his constituents, Jimenez suggested using a Caltrans site elsewhere in his district that is further away from residential neighborhoods. But his colleagues disagreed, saying the lease negotiations could be lengthy and a contractor is already poised to begin immediate construction at the Monterey and Bernal road location.

They did, however, agree to a proposal from Jimenez to create a plan for each council district that receives emergency housing and how “enhanced services,” like police patrol, litter and blight services and outreach will be implemented.

Mayor Sam Liccardo emphasized the need to use the funds for housing and not just services, citing frustrations from the governor and legislators who approved the money.

“When the news broke that we were launching on this effort on three different sites because of [Deputy City Manager] Jim Orbtal’s great work and many other members of the city team, I received congratulatory texts from the governor and 3 other members of the legislature,” Liccardo said. “They're so tired of seeing this money being spent on us really spinning our wheels rather than actually expanding inventory of housing that we critically need in our communities.”

San Jose opened its first Bridge Housing Community in the form of tiny homes earlier this year on a plot of land on Mabury Road that’s being leased from the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority. A second location on Felipe Avenue near the Highway 101 and I-280 intersection is also currently under construction. Habitat for Humanity, which was tasked with development of the two existing sites, will help launch the emergency shelter at Monterey and Bernal roads, as well.

On Tuesday, the council approved an additional $6 million to a previous contract with the nonprofit for its role in getting the latest site off the ground.

Grace Hase is a staff writer for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Email tips to [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @grace_hase.

12 Comments

  1. If a hard working, tax paying citizen wants to build or remodel a home, endless months of time are tied up in red tape. But the homeless are now gonna be fast tracked. Yet more proof that liberalism is a mental disorder.

  2. > San Jose Approves Emergency ‘Bridge Housing’ for Homeless Amid Coronavirus Outbreak

    Yet another bad idea.

    Bad ideas are more contagious among progressive snowflakes than coronavirus.

    It’s like they’re having a bad idea competition.

  3. Sneaky. Unprincipled. Opportunistic. Disrespectful.
    That’s our City Council.
    We’re number 1! We’re number 1!

  4. On August 21st, 2017 Sergio Jimenez the CM of D2 at the time, hosted a meeting at the Hayes Mansion for only 25 units of the Bridge Housing to be located at Bernal & Monterey Highway. The resultant meeting had attendance so high that the room holding 400 people overflowed into the upper levels and corridors of the mansion. At the time Sergio was in favor of the homeless housing at that site. However, the large showing of his constituents that evening were extremely agitated that this had his approval. Meanwhile District-7 has stepped up again to supply the needed housing at Felipe Road and Hwy 101/Hwy 280.

    To get a feel for that night’s meeting and overblown response by the D-2 residents you may go to the following link for video and photos of the meeting:
    https://www.icloud.com/sharedalbum/#B0wG6XBubJs9uYV

    • > To get a feel for that night’s meeting and overblown response by the D-2 residents . . .

      Well, there’s a new twist from the progressive’s narrative factory.

      The “right to peaceably assemble” and “petition for redress of grievances” is now an “overblown response by the … residents”.

      How did D-2 ever get such disgruntled and unruly residents who are so prone to “overblown responses”? Too many home owners? Two many hardworking taxpayers concerned about the quality of life in their neighborhood?

      What’s wrong with D-2. What does the City Council need to do to straighten those losers out?

      • Mr. Bubble, my point is that D-2 residents are no different from D-7 residents in how they feel about the homeless or low to no income housing in their neighborhood. But the reality is that we here in D-7 get most of those projects, whereas D-2, D-10, D-8, D-1, and D-4 get very little. Actually D-8 has none and none planned. So I refer to the disparity between the districts and the fairness of the process. Three districts carry 90% of this type of housing in the city and that needs to change. So this is part of that change. Either the city and State get out of the business of housing or they distribute it fairly among the population. Why is someone else’s neighborhood any more valuable than anyone else’s? Fairness in distribution of this housing for all areas of the City, County, and State should be the guiding principle. No one area should be overwhelmed by low income housing and no one area should suffer in home values due to that saturation.

  5. This article would benefit from an objective, non partisan academic or expert commenting on whether or not the residents’ concerns about crime/trash/disruption are backed up by verifiable facts and case studies from similar developments.

    • There is no such thing any longer as a non-partisan academic. They are all mushy-brained liberals. Sorry, that’s redundant. As for so-called experts, we are all experiencing the disaster experts like Fauci and Birx have led this nation of lemmings into. The absolute last thing this nation needs now are academics and experts. There is no verifiable scientific evidence that the house arrest of 200 million Americans has had any direct effect on the death rate by COVID. It’s merely post hoc, ergo proper hoc. Look it up if you’ve never heard of that logical fallacy.

  6. When the Voters continue to “vote” for leftist Democrats whose policies constantly bring down civilized society, enjoy the fruits of those “votes” and cease your whimpering on the Homeless population increases and their ancillary deleterious effects to; your lives, property-values and peace of mind.

    At some point in your useless lives, you will realize “the most vulnerable population” are and have always been, the taxpayers.

    “Escape from San José-the Movie” is the title of a screen-play under production.

    Suffer in silence for you have wrought this crap upon yourselves.

    David S. Wall

    • I for one am not a “leftist democrat” and I fid not CHOOSE any of this! It is fine for you to say we should not complain…they are not putting these people right down the street from your home as they are me! I worked gard and rented for nearly 30 years before I was finally able to buy my first home…bringing drug addicts and former inmates into our neighborhood is NOT what I saved all my life for!!

  7. Putting homeless schizophrenic drug addicts into some BS “home” will not solve the homeless problem. It’s an total waste of taxpayer money. Remember, government provides only the money it takes from taxpayers. 80% of the chronically homeless need to be institutionalized in a live-in facility from which they cannot just walk out. That requires repeal of the LPS Act and its equivalent in every state. Nothing short of that will work, as billions spent without results nationwide has shown anyone with a brain.

  8. Great idea to put a bunch of drug addicts/alcoholics right next to a bar!! Granted it is closed now, but someday it will re open! I feel for the plight of the homeless…we help them at my hospital…but I don’t want them living right down the street from my home that I worked so hard to get!! It would be better to put them by caltrans as the one official proposed. While it may not be their fault they are ill, it does not mean I want them trashing our neighborhood and bringing in drugs and crime!!

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