The Silicon Valley Voice

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Protecting Neighborhoods or Cutting Student Housing?

When is a house not a home, but a boarding house? That’s the question the Neighborhood Protection Ordinance Committee (NPOC) attempted to tackle in a second of a series of meetings on so-called mini-dorms on Aug. 4.

The problem under the microscope exists largely due to the shortage of housing near Santa Clara University; and to a lesser extent, the lack of affordable housing currently available in Santa Clara and surrounding towns. The NPOC last met on July 7, and Monday’s meeting was to present the updated version of the ordinance.

The committee discussed changing the existing code to “regulate boarding houses in single family residential zones.” The example often cited is 2325 Park Ave., as reported in the Santa Clara Weekly (City Desk, April 16, 2014), a house that was originally proposed to be converted under the current permitting system to a 6-bedroom, 3-bath house renting for $8,000 per month.

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Students objected to the potential loss of available housing; although some seemed ignorant of the provisions of the actual ordinance and believed that existing properties would be affected. However, the ordinance doesn’t require, or even attempt this.

“As it related to existing boarding house stock, you are not affected by this. We said that last time,” said City Manager Julio Fuentes.” As for the issue of conversions, what we want is to continue to work with owners who have converted their homes. We want to work with you to continue to improve your properties … The first step is to work together to improve the city. Single-family property owners have a right to expect everyone around them will be single family ownership … As far as students are concerned, the university is a tremendous asset.

“We met with Father Engh,” he continued. “They’re concerned about this situation. We’re concerned about the university growing and providing enough housing. Not only for the people that live there, but for people that live near there. It’s their life savings – they live there every day of the year. We want to make sure they can enjoy their house and we don’t want to take away your enjoyment of student life. Our attempt from city side is to bring this forward. We’re not backing down from this issue. We have to create that balance. Whether or not you agree, we are. Let’s climb on board and let’s get this solved.”

Residents living near existing mini-dorms also voiced their concerns. However, this wasn’t necessarily because of the current problems, but because their concerns have been ignored over the years.

“NURC (Neighborhood – University Relations Committee) meetings take place over and over again and nothing ever changes,” said one resident. “I’m in favor of this because I’m getting tired of going to NURC meetings and hearing the same thing. The university doesn’t care, in my opinion, and we need some help.”

The next NPOC meeting has been scheduled for Monday, Aug. 18, at 6 p.m. in the City Council chambers.

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