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Public Outcry for Homeless Housing Project Leads To Council Rejection

The Santa Clara City Council will not support a homeless housing project located on White Oak Lane. The project was one of two Project HomeKey sites set to be put in Santa Clara, but during a study session Tuesday night, the Council opted to pass on the proposed location.

The other site, located at the Bella Vista Inn, 3550 El Camino Real, will, however, go forward. The converted hotel will have 64 transitional units for the homeless through 2024 before transforming into a seven-story, 120-apartment permanent complex for the homeless in its second phase.

The City had no say in whether to allow the Bella Vista project. The county purchased the land and opted to be a co-applicant with developer Resources for Community Development for the state-subsidized project, circumventing the City’s land-use authority.

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Nearly two-and-a-half hours of public testimony — with more than 150 speakers — gave the Council an earful of the concerns from neighbors: mostly that the proposed site, located at 2035 White Oak Lane, is ill-suited for such a development. Many said concerns about safety, both for neighbors of the development and the homeless alike, were paramount.

While police data shows little to no traffic complaints or collisions at the site in the past six months, Mayor Lisa Gillmor said she is not confident that data captures the whole story. Others pointed to the lot having been vacant for nearly six years, saying if a mass of homeless people move into a development there, those numbers will spike.

Jonathan van Clute said the City needs to consider the worst-case scenario.

“What is the black swan scenario here? It is the destruction of lives, of homes, of people, of entire communities,” he said. “If you’re wrong, and the worst case happens, it will be directly your fault. The risk is just way too high.”

Another big concern from the Council was the cost. Jonathan Veach, the City’s Housing Director, told the Council that the project is likely to cost the City $14 million over the seven-year life of the project.

Given the cost, Councilmember Karen Hardy said she understands why the county opted to pass on the project. Hardy’s motion to have City employees secure another location for a homeless development passed unanimously, with Vice Mayor Raj Chahal absent.

Data Center Gets Green Light From Council

The Council approved allowing a data center on Memorex Drive. In addition to the four-story data center, located at 1200-1310 Memorex Drive, the site will also play host to a six-story office space building.

Three buildings on the 9.18-acre site will need to be demolished before construction can begin. While the project conforms to the General Plan, Reena Brillot, Assistant Director of Community Development, told the Council the developer has asked for minor modifications that are within the parameters allowed by the City.

Those modifications ask for special consideration for parking ratios and building height. Considering data centers contribute $22.7 million to the City annually and, Brillot said, the project is designed to “feel like an office building,” the modifications are low-impact.

The Council unanimously approved the project.

Consent Calendar

“No” votes from Councilmember Kathy Watanabe and Mayor Gillmor caused budget amendments for the El Camino Real Specific Plan to fail in Vice Mayor Raj Chahal’s absence. It also approved the following spending on one motion via the consent calendar:

  • A five-year, $703,427 contract with Maze & Associates Accounting Corporation to audit the City’s financial reports;
  • A five-year, $5 million contract with Hellmuth, Obata & Kassabaum, Inc. for architectural engineering services at Levi’s Stadium;
  • A five-year, $5 million contract with HKS Architects, Inc. for architectural engineering services at Levi’s Stadium;
  • A five-year, $5 million contract with M. Arthur Gensler Jr. & Associates, Inc. for architectural engineering services at Levi’s Stadium;
  • A five-year, $5 million contract with Populous, Inc. for architectural engineering services at Levi’s Stadium.

The next regularly scheduled meeting is Tuesday, Nov. 16 in the Council Chambers at City Hall, 1500 Warburton Ave. in Santa Clara.

Members of the public can participate in the City Council meetings on Zoom at https://santaclaraca.zoom.us/j/99706759306; Meeting ID: 997-0675-9306 or call (669) 900-6833, via the City’s eComment (available during the meeting) or by email to PublicComment@santaclaraca.gov

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1 Comment
  1. MJ 3 weeks ago
    Reply

    Another article in this same edition quotes a homeless veteran who was helped by Mission College as saying “It is so sad how people treat homeless people”. And then150 of my fellow Santa Clarans as well as a gutless Council majority prove him right.

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