By the end of 2018, Santa Clara County had allocated a quarter of its $950 million Measure A housing bond to create or renovate nearly 2,000 homes in six local cities.
Now, after a unanimous vote by the Board of Supervisors last week, it’s trying to find what lands the county already owns on which to build below-market-rate housing for the region’s poorest residents.
“Now that we’ve had plenty of success approving housing for the homeless community, I know we need to start to prioritize the opportunities on county land,” county Supervisor Cindy Chavez said from the dais before she and her colleagues took a vote on the plan at the Aug. 13 meeting. “We already own vacant land right next to the hospitals and clinics. I think it would be good locations to be considered for disabled housing, for example, and people who are medically fragile.”
In a memo to the board, Chavez urged the county to focus on five empty sites near some of its medical facilities, including Valley Medical Center in central San Jose and the county’s newly acquired St. Louise Regional Hospital in Gilroy and De Paul Health Center in Morgan Hill.
Some members of the public used the discussion as another chance to persuade the board to also consider building homes on the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds.
De Anna Mirzadegan, a Willow Glen resident, launched a Change.org petition imploring the board to consider the property for future housing. As of today, the online signature drive has garnered upward of 1,200 names. “All it takes is three of the five supervisors to say, ‘Yes, let’s set this up,’” she told San Jose Inside in an interview. “If they won’t do something immediately, we’re going to keep on this.”
Not everyone’s on board with turning the fairgrounds into a housing hub, however. Shaunn Cartwright thanked Chavez slammed it as a “relocation plan” for the homeless.
When asked about the petition, Chavez said she and her colleagues have already voted to build 500 housing on the 80-acre fairgrounds. “I think we’re going to have to do more,” she conceded. “The issue about whether it’s at the fairgrounds or other locations is an issue that I think we’re still going to need to discuss.”
When the board receives a new report on the fairgrounds’ master plan, Chavez added, “then I think that’s the right time to have any conversation about this.”
It should also be noted, she said, that the neighborhoods surrounding the fairgrounds “have more affordable housing in them than almost any part of the entire county.
“One question in my mind would be: how do we share the responsibility for those who are most in need across the county, and not in one council district or in one neighborhood?” Chavez continued. “And I think that we have some communities who have very little affordable housing in them, and others that have all of it.”
As officials continue to dole out more Measure A funds and figure out where to site future projects funded by the bond, the county did celebrate a significant milestone recently. Just last week, the county hosted a grand opening celebration for The Veranda in Cupertino—the first Measure A-funded permanent supportive housing complex to open its doors in the county.
“However, the truth is that we need to put our foot on the pedal and move even faster,” Ky Le, who leads the county’s Office of Supportive Housing, wrote in a Mercury News op-ed co-authored by West Valley Community Services Director Josh Selo.
Despite recent progress, they said, Silicon Valley lags woefully behind its state-set affordable housing goals. To meet its target for very-low-income housing units, all cities in this county would have to build a combined 16,000 units by 2023. By the latest count, however, the region has met only 10 percent of that number.
“We must significantly accelerate the development of more affordable housing in Santa Clara County,” Le and Selo wrote. “And this will require every community to step up.”