Construction is set to start in late April or early May to turn Bella Vista Inn at 3550 El Camino Real into temporary housing for the homeless. The move is Phase I of a two-part plan to create more affordable housing in Santa Clara.
“In this location, Santa Clara has identified that about three-quarters of the extremely low-income residents or households are paying over half their income on housing costs,” said Alicia Klein during a recent community meeting about the project.
Klein is the Associate Director of Real Estate Development at Resources for Community Development (RCD), one of several local agencies working together to complete the two-step process.
“That’s why our RCD exists,” said Klein. “To address the needs for both permanent supportive housing and like, in this case, the need for rapid interim housing to kind of make that bridge between homelessness and a stable home.”
During Phase I of the project, Bella Vista Inn will undergo minor renovations to make it suitable homeless housing for the next few years. 64 of the site’s 66 units will be turned into interim housing, with the other two rooms designated for laundry, on-site property management and support services.
Crews will also take out the pool, add security cameras to the complex and make the entire facility ADA compliant.
The work is expected to be done by the end of the year and, by early 2023, all of the units are expected to be filled with unhoused individuals and families. They will live at Bella Vista Inn until work can begin on Phase II, permanent affordable housing.
“We’re beginning design development [for Phase II], putting our finances together, and that takes some time. It’s a couple years,” said Randi Gerson, the development consultant on the project. “So, that gives us the opportunity, because we have this underused resource as a motel, to use it for interim housing.”
During that interim phase, Abode Services will work with the residents to make sure they gain the skills and help they need to successfully transition out of the housing. This includes guidance on healthy cooking, getting medical benefits and monthly budgeting.
“The worst-case scenario is that someone exits back to being unhoused,” said Janine Evans with Abode Services. “So, we really want to work with our county partners, our property management partners to ensure that permanent housing is the pipeline, and they’re somewhere to go after the interim housing term is over.”
Phase II is expected to start in Fall of 2024. That’s when the residents will be moved out and work will start on Santa Clara Gardens, a 120-unit affordable housing complex. In Phase II, the motel will stay two stories, but a new building will be added to the lot. The building will be seven stories tall with a two-story garage and five stories above that for housing.
Gerson says planning for both developments took into account neighborhood concerns about privacy.
“We heard privacy is so important to you guys and so, we’re making sure that the stairs are screened. We heard from you, that people were hanging out in the stairs and were able to look into your properties. So, we’re screening not just in the permanent project, but in the interim project as well,” said Gerson. “In the permanent project, there will be windows in the bathrooms that are opaque. Nobody can see through, just to let some light into the bathrooms of the new residents. But we’ve heard you loud and clear about privacy and we’re really taking that very seriously.”