Santa Clara’s Planning Commission welcomed its newest Commissioner, Mario Bouza, on Aug. 24. Bouza joins the Planning Commission after the contentious appointment and then removal of Santa Clara businessman Ron Patrick from the Commission.
Bouza is a Santa Clara native who previously served on Santa Clara’s Civil Service Commission. He is a retired local businessman. Bouza was appointed to the Commission during the Aug. 16 City Council meeting.
Homelessness Task Force Update
It was a light agenda for the newest commissioner. The commission received an update from the Homelessness Task Force, which says the City’s homeless population has increased in the past few years. There is interim housing at Bella Vista Inn and permanent supportive housing at the Calabazas Apartments.
Things the City is already doing to help the homeless population include work with Santa Clara Police Department’s Critical Response Team (CRT) and a contract with Dignity on Wheels to provide showers for the unhoused.
City staff asked commissioners for input on the task force’s mission, including:
- When looking at sites for interim/supportive housing, what are some factors to consider?
- How can we ensure that interim/supportive housing developments are good neighbors in the long term?
- What actions should the homeless plan include?
Commissioner Nancy Biagini was concerned about residents on a fixed income such as social security. Rents for low-income housing are often based on a percentage of the market average. While the market average continues to rise, seniors don’t see that same rise in income, often pricing them out of the market.
Commissioner Qian Huang wanted to know how to help someone get services. City staff says anyone can call Housing and Community Services and they will be connected to help.
Planning Commission Chair Priya Cherukuru asked if the City had identified any potential sites for something like tiny homes.
“I want to make sure the City puts its money where its words are in identifying land, in identifying staffing resources, in partnering with the county extensively in its support of housing programs and we take our affordable housing a notch up,” said Cherukuru.
She also asked whether the City had identified encampments.
“We are aware of the encampments and from time to time, the City is cleaning up things that are left behind, pollution,” said City staff. “Really, the police department is the frontline responders to things that are happening at encampments. It’s a difficult discussion to have when you don’t have a shelter to remove encampments offers no options. There’s definitely impacts that encampments have on the larger community…I think that’s very much top of mind in our discussions with other City staff in how to address that.”
One community member spoke at the meeting, frustrated by the fact that the bigger issue, the mental health and overall health of the homeless, is not being addressed.
The task force is expected to wrap up its work in October and start creating a plan for the City to help the homeless population.
Consent Calendar and Other Business
Commissioner Ricci Herro was absent. Commissioner Yashraj Bhatnagar joined late.
The following Consent Calendar items passed unanimously:
- Approval of the Planning Commission Meeting Minutes from Aug. 3, 2022 (Bouza and Cherukuru abstained);
- Approval of the Planning Commission 2023 Calendar of Meetings;
- Approval of the plans for expansion of an existing photovoltaic power generating system at 500 El Camino Real (Santa Clara University campus);
- Approval of the variance to increase site sign area and the maximum height and width of monument signs and architectural review for Office Campus Master Sign Program at 2811 Mission College Boulevard;
- Approval of a use permit to allow on-site sale of beer, wine and distilled spirits at an existing banquet facility at 2670 El Camino Real.
The next Planning Commission meeting is Wednesday, Sept. 21 at 6 p.m.