San Jose City Council Signs Off on Tiny Homes for Homeless, Still Unsure Where to Put Them

Despite being one of the most expansive big cities in the nation, San Jose can’t figure out where to place a few clusters of cottages to house the homeless.

The city spends up to $2 million a year dismantling unsanctioned camps, which spring up endlessly throughout the city as the number of homeless people grows and their death toll rises. But plans to build enough bungalows for 250 people throughout San Jose were dramatically scaled down after vehement public backlash. In a 9-2 vote, the City Council on Tuesday approved a so-called tiny home pilot to construct up to three villages at yet-to-be determined sites.

Council members Don Rocha and Johnny Khamis, who wanted the villages placed on private instead of city-owned land, cast the dissenting votes.

The winning motion merged elements of Rocha’s with Mayor Sam Liccardo’s, which he co-authored with Vice Mayor Magdalena Carrasco and council members Sylvia Arenas and Raul Peralez. Under the proposal, the city will build up to three tiny home communities to collectively house about 75 people. Councilors Dev Davis and Sergio Jimenez wanted to nix the city-owned sites, too, but ultimately voted in favor of the mayor’s motion.

Each cottage would be about 70 square feet, according to the proposal, and each site would house about 25 of them. All the villages would come with hired security and case managers and cost $1.4 million on the high end, according to housing staff.

Councilors also decided to ask Santa Clara County, the Santa Clara Valley Water District and other local government agencies to help find land for the tiny homes. They set a two-month deadline to find new locations and draft an improved outreach plan.

The council was supposed to go into this week’s meeting with at least one site suggestion from each of the city’s 10 council districts. But only Khamis and council member Chappie Jones came through. Meanwhile, the city’s housing staff whittled a list of 99 possible plots down to three. And, according to a memo from Housing Director Jacky Morales-Ferrand, that number nearly went down to two.

The vote came after hours of public testimony, in which residents cited fears about the criminality of the unsheltered and how tiny homes would devalue their properties.

A real estate agent said he wants to help the homeless, but not if it affects property values. A self-described sociologist deemed the Thousand Oaks neighborhood in Cambrian Park ill-suited for the homeless because it’s “an aspirational community” where they would be willfully ostracized.

Another speaker suggested that the homeless advocacy nonprofits backing the tiny homes idea are really just lobbyists with ulterior motives. A woman from Cambrian Park said she knows for certain that “the bulk of people” with no homes are drug addicts who don’t want help.

Desmond Carrera said he lived in his car for a time during college and understands the plight of the homeless. But he recently bought a home with his wife in District 2 and wants to protect his investment.

“I don’t want to raise my family around homeless encampments,” he said. “I just don’t.”

Steve Stroup, an Army veteran and longtime homeowner, called the cottage communities “social engineering.”

“I am just amazed at how this project is going forward when so many citiens don’t want it,” he added.

Pilar Lozano, of affordable housing nonprofit Silicon Valley at Home (SV@Home), urged the city to remember the environmental and health costs from a lack of affordable housing and stressed the importance of integrating them into neighborhoods.

“Each community must shoulder its fair share of the housing need,” she said, adding that the city “must reject and take a stand against NIMBYism.”

The council also voted on Tuesday to have nonprofit Destination: Home, which provides services and shelter for the un-housed, to help create a citywide task force dedicated to homeless issues.

This article has been updated. 

Jennifer Wadsworth is the former news editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.


  1. Take a hike Dionne Warwick.
    Make way for Desmond Dekker.

    Dem a loot, dem a shoot, dem a wail.
    At shanty town…

  2. Oppose Tiny Homes in San Jose

    These 7×10 foot “tiny homes” are nothing more than dog houses for the homeless. They lack basic plumbing, toilets and wheelchair access. The city and the homeless would be better served by expanding any of our existing one hundred programs for the homeless.

    These tiny slums are a waste of money and space when compered with other San Jose housing projects such as:

    The Evans Lane Housing Project
    A six-acre city-owned plot between Highway 87 and Almaden Expressway with 446 apartment units for low income people was approved in August 2016.

    Santa Clara Inn/Casa de Novo Housing
    The 56-unit site, formerly known as the Santa Clara Inn, is at 2188 The Alameda in San Jose. The former hotel has been renamed Casa de Novo to convey its transformation into a place where people have a new home and a fresh start. 

  3. Little houses in your neighborhood
    Little houses filled with vagabonds
    Little houses in your neighborhood
    Little houses what a shame
    There’s a green one with a pedophile
    And a blue one with a lunatic
    And they’re all made out of pipe dreams
    And they all fail just the same

    And the dope fiends in the houses
    All dropped out of society
    And they all use methamphetamine
    Their delusions just the same
    There’s the toothless and the tweaker
    And the hopelessly paranoid
    All living on our taxes
    And they all fail just the same

    And they all beg on the corners
    And drink out of paper bags
    And they all have EBT cards
    And their families hide in shame
    And their children are defective
    And raised by the government
    Where they’re given lots of freebies
    And they all fail just the same.

    And the kids go into burglary
    And then the penitentiary
    And then they’re set free again
    In little houses on your street
    There’s a green house with a rapist
    And a blue one with a murderer
    All living on our taxes
    And they all fail just the same

  4. Wow, the blessed have nasty prejudices against the less fortunate. My advice to all who judged others in their comments above is this, tread lightly judging others, for I have found that karma works by allowing you to experience firsthand that which you have judged. More than once in my life. However, maybe that is exactly what people need who are so “above” those they criticize, but are hooked on prescription drugs(acceptable and somewhat hidden drug abuse)

    • > the blessed have nasty prejudices against the less fortunate.

      Oh, great!

      We’ve had Trump shaming, white shaming, gender shaming, Christian shaming, Republican shaming, rich shaming, Bellarmine shaming, and a zillion different other kinds of shaming.

      NOW! We have BLESSED shaming!


  5. Continued
    (acceptable and somewhat hidden drug abuse) such as Hollywood stars are, or they consume enough alcohol to cause them to lose their good judgement and type comments such as those I have read here, or, perhaps they are porn addicts, taboo fetish addicts, dress as babies when they leave corporate America, the list goes on and on.
    We are a classed society that

  6. Continued part 3
    continues to pretend the contrary. What makes crime rates increase is not drug use, per se, but a disparity between upper and lower class so profound that anyone not making a six figure income finds themselves unable to afford to live in the city they have lived in all their lives. I am a holder of two college degrees, work full time, and in the last two years have found myself on the brink of homelessness with my two sons. Watch who you’re deeming as scum. And, honestly, why are you so concerned, and why are you playing God anyway?

    • I would expect someone with two college degrees to know that commenting on what is observable does not qualify as evidence of prejudice.

      In which academic discipline does one acquire a working knowledge of karma?

      Which branch of economics explains the phenomenon of being blessed?

      Few things will sabotage a young woman’s economic plans as assuredly as raising children alone.

      Most Americans were raised to be clean, law abiding, and responsible, making it illogical for you or our elected leaders to expect the majority to agree to share their neighborhoods with derelicts, lunatics, and leeches.

      For you to suggest, without a shred of evidence, that commenters here are alcoholic or sexually depraved is to reveal yourself as being what you are so quick to brand others: prejudiced.

      • Evidently Giuliana’s two degrees lacked religious studies or critical thinking coursework. Her mistaken use of karma logically concludes that her suffering is due to her bad intentions or her bad deeds. Meanwhile those she disparages are appear to be leading happy and productive lives.

    • You are so right! I think we not only put these homes in your backyard but several in your front yard as well. And allow several of these unfortunate individuals to share a room in your house as well.

    • Having never made a six figure income, having no college degree, having lived in a van, having worked for less than minimum wage, I never had the money to get drunk, use drugs, smoke pot, or reason defecate on the sidewalk, break into your home, or rape your kids. I worked hard, did filthy and dangerous jobs, I succeeded because I did not do those things that the problemed people you want to cram into dog house do. Most of these people are mentally disturbed and need to be in institutions that will feed clothe and house them safely maybe someday returning them to society in a useful condition.

      I have known many recovered people over the years. Feeding and encouraging this condition to these people is a fate worse than death and will likely lead to those early deaths. On the other hand we are turning a blind eye to many that only need some help and a job, maybe one of those dirty jobs I used to do. That Americans used to do!
      Destroying the value of good neighborhoods by building tiny ghettos is just rubbing crap into the face of the taxpay.
      Time to start recalling anyone in the city council that is pushing this issue.

  7. City Hall Plaza is perfect! Obviously this would be the most humane, courageous, and logical location. Let’s do it!

  8. I know it’s almost pointless to comment down here amongst the trolls, but I wonder what is so great about a tiny house?
    It’s just a 10′ x 10′ space. And so is a cell in a mental institution, which is probably a far better-suited place for a lot of the homeless currently sleeping and pooping in our parks…

    • Three reasons:

      1) If feels better to put them somewhere out of site

      2) It’s cheaper than building a mental institute

      3) The security contract could be a nice bargaining chip later on

  9. > San Jose City Council Signs Off on Tiny Homes for Homeless, Still Unsure Where to Put Them

    I think this is a variation of the well known “White Elephant Problem”.

    This really neat white elephant followed me home. But, I’m still unsure where to put it.

    Uh huh.

  10. These tiny houses would be ideal dwellings for South Bay conservatives ! These “narrow”- minded,”short”- sighted individuals have “little” compassion & “minuscule” political clout. And much like the homeless,no one wants them in their neighborhoods either. Best of all there are so few of them that they’d all fit into one or two of these houses at most. Conservatives – NIMBY !

  11. Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had arrogance, abundant food and careless ease, but she did not help the poor and needy. – Ezekiel 16:49

    • > – Ezekiel 16:49


      Herb thinks this is baloney:

      > “organized religion is nothing more than a fad based on faith,fiction & superstition. It’s nothing more than modern day mythology & will eventually be scoffed at like the Greek & Roman gods. Anyone who actually buys into that heaven & hell stuff is as delusional as they are gullible. This is why more & more people are fleeing the church,synagogues,mosques & organized religion every day. Televangelists aren’t the only con men lying & stealing in their lord’s name,religion is the greatest fraud ever committed on mankind. “

  12. Turn St. James Park into a “Tiny Home Park”. Kind of like a “Trailer Park”, but with much more class and style.

  13. These so called city leaders obviously havent done there homework and are on a one track solution that seems to me will fail miserably in the long run. Like the results with downtown frwy. 87 with all its Potholes, Cracks, And the lack of more lanes.
    These people need to be housed in a large facilities were the can be monitored, Evaluated and helped accordingly.

    • > These people need to be housed in a large facilities were the can be monitored, Evaluated and helped accordingly.

      Dear E: (May I call you by your first name?)

      Right on!

  14. Also; These people do not need to be housed within the communities of hard working people, With families and children attending local schools and public libraries. Obviously these chosen locations are far from the very prominent S/J nieghboorhoods. As the saying goes ( I cant see them from my house )

  15. Jolly good how the hateful rich hiding behind their funny aliases to a man or perhaps woman – hate the homeless. Blame the homeless for being homeless. Not the Reagan Regime who closed the mental institutions and put the mentally incapable out on the street. So many haters who resent the homeless without reason. I work retail and deal personally with the homeless almost daily. Sometimes it’s cool sometimes it ain’t. But I am just this close to being homeless myself. There are no jobs for the lower class in this beautiful Santa Clara County, unless you are willing to work for a pittance. Entire salary each month goes to rent, utilities, food. I have No phone; No car. I ride a bike to work and can look forward to nothing. I was born in Santa Clara Valley. I am white which of course nobody cares. I have no retirement! Look out for this beautiful American Dream!

  16. Mr Crow,
    Reagan did not close the mental institutions, that my friend was the work of the ACLU. All the low income jobs are for undocumented Democrats, not poor privileged class white trash like yourself who must now pay for the crimes of the Democrat run rebel south. It is of course the fault of white people that the rest of the world live in abject poverty while people like Nancy Pelosi, Dianne Feinstein, Hillary Clinton, and George Soros roll in the money they stole from poor people of color. Yes they don’t give a crap about you.

    That’s why 60 million people like you Elected Trump.

    • > Reagan did not close the mental institutions, that my friend was the work of the ACLU.

      Excellent, Mr. Gun:

      Keep pounding. The underclass stooges of the progressive myth-makers STILL blame Reagan for this every time some progressive blows the “mental illness” dog whistle.

      De-programming the weak minded takes constant repetition and reinforcement.

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