Nearly 400 people turned out for the Feb. 13 virtual community meeting about plans to construct temporary homeless housing in Santa Clara. Santa Clara County wants to build the housing on a vacant lot at the corner of Benton Street and Lawrence Expressway. But many residents say, the lot is used frequently for church parking and during the holidays, it becomes a pumpkin patch and Christmas tree lot.
“This is not a vacant land…Church uses it every weekend for the overflow parking and three months out of the year, this is our beloved pumpkin patch and the Christmas tree lot. So, it’s not an unwanted vacant land,” said Vishal.
He was one of many residents who could not understand why the County and the City of Santa Clara would choose a location so close to local schools like Laurelwood Elementary and Santa Clara High School, as well as another homeless housing location at the Bella Vista Inn on El Camino Real.
“We have not seen an impact on the community of that Bella Vista Inn shelter,” continued Vishal. “So why [is] one area being chosen to build two shelters, on the two opposite ends? If I go left, I feel unsafe. I go right, I feel unsafe.”
Other community members questioned the forethought agencies put into choosing the location.
“Have you counted how many children walking through the street to their schools every morning?” asked one community member. “They go past this site every day? How would you protect the young children going into the elementary school or going to the high school?”
Others say it’s the type of housing that’s frustrating.
“Your intentions are very honorable and you’re trying to do the right thing. No question about that. But I think that there are some nuances to this,” said Sanjeep. “We’re fully supportive of low-income housing on a more permanent basis because once residents live in a place for a longer period of time, they’re also incentivized to be more cooperative and engage more with the community and work for the collective good. But when you have a transient population, and especially the one that’s described as more than half being drug addicts, for example, that is concerning.”
While seemingly in the minority, some community members spoke in support of the plan.
“My experience is that poor people, really are, on average, nicer than rich people,” said Diane Harrison. “So, I am happy to have them in my neighborhood. I want them in our neighborhood and I want to help them get housing.”
Temporary Homeless Housing Proposal
County staff selected the site on direction from the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors. The Board directed staff to identify county-owned parcels for interim housing specifically in Sunnyvale, Santa Clara, Campbell, Gilroy and San Jose.
“This is the property that county staff have identified in the City of Santa Clara. It is an underutilized parcel that could be made available for interim housing,” said Consuelo Hernandez, Director of the Office of Supportive Housing. “From our perspective, there is an alignment with what the City is wanting to do, and the direction that the board has given staff to partner with cities and identify properties for interim housing.”
County staff says from 2019 – 2022, Santa Clara County saw a 3% growth in the unhoused population. Over that same period, the City of Santa Clara saw a 35% growth. According to recent numbers, there are 769 unhoused individuals affiliated with the City.
The goal of the temporary housing is to try to get people to “permanently exit” homelessness. However, it comes with challenges. Staff admits that 57% of the unhoused population in Santa Clara has a serious physical or mental health condition and 50% are chronically homeless.
Despite this, City staff says temporary housing like this is essential.
“If you think of housing as a sort of a ladder with rungs on it, similar to the supportive housing system, you do need that rung between being on the street and waiting for a permanent placement,” said Adam Marcus, Housing Manager at the City of Santa Clara.
Marcus says one of the big challenges for the unhoused population is traveling across the county. Placing a shelter where people are makes a big difference.
The County says priority will be given to Santa Clarans first.
“In the case of interim housing, we have the opportunity to partner with the host city to target and outreach specific areas in the city where we see more unsheltered individuals and kind of focus on that first,” said Hernandez. “As the site continues to operate, then we do want to take people that are calling from the county’s centralized hotline. But always keeping in mind, if there’s an opportunity to take people from the specific host city that that’s our goal.”
None of this is a done deal. The issue will reach the Santa Clara City Council in April. It must also be approved by the Board of Supervisors before it can move forward.
Only if it is approved will the City and County begin outlining the rules for the site such as whether it will be open to people with criminal backgrounds, whether there will be a curfew, parking, etc.
This was the first of three community meetings designed to outline the plans for the site. The County will hold in person meetings on March 1 at 6 p.m. and March 9 at 6 p.m. Both meetings will be at Mission City Church at 1290 Pomeroy Ave.
Thank you for your reporting on this. I attended the virtual meeting and I think your article would be a good read for anyone who did not.
You may want to add that the proposed operator of the site is LifeMoves and that they administer a number of sites around the area and what is to be expected from this facility may be discernible from how the other facilities are.
I also cannot quite tell from your article what it means that “the issue will reach the Santa Clara City Council in April.” Will there be a city council vote on the project? Can the city council block the project by voting against it? My impression is that it is a county project and the county board of supervisors votes on it. But now that you raised the city council I would imagine that the city council may have a vote on it with regard to its oversight of zoning and planning.
@Buscher Alum… might want to check out the city’s website: https://www.santaclaraca.gov/our-city/departments-a-f/community-development/housing-community-services-division/project-homekey
It is interesting that Lifemoves was originally proposing at a site on White Oak. And while that seems to have been abandoned due to cost, I found this note interesting: “Initial estimates would require a $14 million operating contribution from the City of Santa Clara, which is greater on a per unit basis than what was expected for this type of project.”
If Lifemoves is still expecting Santa Clara (and it’s residents) to contribute to building the homeless shelter, then the city Council has to approve it and has some say over what happens.
I could not find the passage you refer to. But if the city must contribute a significant sum of money to the project I agree that the city council should have say on whether or not the city contributes that money. I am sure that this is the case. The county might be able to proceed with the project without city approval I do not know but I am sure they cannot unilaterally command budget from the city.
I am still interesting in knowing what is the basis for Santa Clara city council power when it comes to this project. Is it only in approving or denying budget contribution from the city or whether or not the project can be built even if without any city money?
I wish that Erika or someone else at Silicon Valley Voice would do reporting on this question.
I wonder, what alternative uses have been considered for this site? I’m told we have a housing crisis – if so, wouldn’t it make more sense to build affordable housing for public servants (teachers, police, fire), so they can live in the communities they serve, since there’s already a homeless shelter nearby at Bella Vista?
The Bella Vista site is going to end up being permanent housing though it has begun its use as temporary housing and will be that for a couple of years.
Even if all public employees can afford housing there would still be a huge housing crisis with a great need to have housing and services to help people living on the street.
I am conflicted over this proposal. In all due respect, some of the responses ring of a NIMBY perspective, yet what does it say of us and our humanity? The program sounds manageable and we’re talking about less than 100 (I think that’s the # I read) 1bed/1bath appartments for temporary housing). Most of these folks may have mental issues — I recall years back when all the care facilities housing the mentally ill closed down — these people likely were not welcomed into their families and had no where to go. Periodically, I see a homeless ‘street person’ in the Cupertino area. I’ve seen him now and again for more than ten years. “Doug” seems harmless and hopefully he has some place to spend these cold nights. I’m older and live alone in a 1-bed appartment so haven’t invited him “in”. More later; my daughter is calling…..
Thank you, Donna, I thought I was the only one who stands on both sides of this issue. Those opposed seem to be in the majority, supporters seem to be in the minority, and very few grapple with the complexity of the matter. I hope our County Supervisors, the Santa Clara City Council, and other decision-matters really and truly listen to constituent concerns and work hard toward the best possible outcome.
Now why would Santa Clara increase by 35% when the rest of the county only increased by 3%. This is misleading marketing and we’re smarter than that. If you’re starting with a small number, any change is large. If you’re pushing the homeless from surrounding cities (San Jose, Palo Alto, SF) and states to unassuming small towns, numbers jump. These people are not from here. The majority come to California’s haven of free services that we pay for. So now the county, developers, and certain politicians are going after millions of dollars from Newsom’s pride and joy Project Homekey to build ‘projects’ for unscreened alcohol and drug users and unstable individuals with all types of criminal backgrounds, to be housed in unassuming Santa Clara and Sunnyvale’s ‘middle class’ neighborhoods which are filled with families, elderly, schools, parks, daycares, swim centers, where Silicon Valley’s tech workers invest their life savings and have millions in mortgage loans. The banks are probably cringing too as they’ll see LTV increase. One of the ‘benefits’ Mr. Greenberg of LifeMoves mentioned is the Benton property is conveniently located across from a mini market. He didn’t mention the liquor store or the 70 mph expressway. It will undoubtedly increase crime and reduce walkability. More local businesses will fail. Neighbors are already talking about self-protection or moving and wish they’d sold last year. Please don’t let our well-intended county, cities, and non-profits make bad decisions. If it’s happening here, it can happen in your neighborhood. We want to help the homeless, but putting them in stacked containers next to neighborhoods with zero mental health and substance abuse/rehab services is simply a dumb idea. We will fight this to the bitter end and beyond. Idaho and Montana look better each day.
Whether there was increase in homeless population of Santa Clara by 35% or 3% is not an important issue. We all know the population is too high. For everyone. Part of the solution has to be the building of temporary housing with services. You are wrong in describing this project as having no services. I believe a lot of the project space is actually devoted to gathering areas where services can be offered and conducted.
Dear Buchner alum, actually, you are wrong. If you had attended any of the presentations or read the actual proposal, you would know that only 1-2 staff will be on site handling property management. Give us your home address and we’ll propose it be built there. Oh, do you actually have a vested interest in this community, such as own a home where you’re sure to lose $100k+? Or walk your kids to school in the area? Didn’t think so.
The site will feature services on site.
“The services offered to participants are intended to address the trauma of homelessness. Participants have access to healthcare, mental health counseling, addiction treatment, job placement assistance, housing search assistance, and life skills classes such as financial literacy. Each participant is assigned a case manager who acts as an advisor and helps connect participants to these services.”
And in fact I do live near this proposed site and I do own my home. I am concerned about the value of my home am I am also concerned about the lack of transitional housing in Santa Clara and all throughout the bay area.
Does the church own the land? Or lease it? It’s confusing why they get to use it as an overflow lot. As the owner, they would be the ones contracting for the development. As the leaseholder, they have terms to their lease. If they’re just using it… that’s not a real claim. I mean, it’s nice of the city to let them use it before the city has a plan for it, but it’s up to the owner how they want to use their property.
Ultimately, I think our unhoused are deeply underserved here. Getting to the street can happen frightfully fast when the crappiest apartment in the area costs more than $1500 a month. Getting back out of that takes a minimum of $3500. That’s
Back in my day, churches led the charge to house and feed the poor. Now Mission City Church is at the center of a NIMBY movement. Interesting. Disappointing.
If only church goers will mimic what Jesus did. Didn’t Jesus wash the feet of his disciples, include Judas who he knew was going to betray him? And didn’t Jesus say it’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of god? And now church goers are dismissing a homeless shelter because they need parking? Parking? Yes, PARKING. Maybe they should try to save the planet by carpooling or cycling to church?
Resident of Santa Clara,
The church does not own the land. As county staff has said many times the lot is owned by the county.
If the church has a lease to use the lot for overflow parking then it stands to reason that this lease does not prevent the county from developing the land for the project. There is no reason to believe that the county has not considered this.
I support adding interim housing at this location. Every city needs to do its part to help house our homeless population and Santa Clara doesn’t have enough. I am really disappointed that some residents keep making the argument that people living in interim housing are dangerous to kids and others. The people in these facilities are less violent than all the other residents of Santa Clara on average. If people are afraid for their children or themselves then they should introduce themselves to their new neighbors who are living in interim housing instead of prejudging them without getting to know them.
Can’t house the homeless because where would the Christians park???
God, Christians are the WORST and most DESPICABLE people. They are the LEAST Christ-like group of people.
There are many reasons why this location is not beneficial for the population its meant to serve, and far too easy to sum up all the opposition to NIMBY.
You are putting a 124 small apt complex (~80 sq feet per unit I believe) into a property zoned light residential, next to an eight lane expressway, with no public transportation within 1/2 mile of the property. How many other drug rehab places are across the street from a liquor store?
How many of these houseless people are going to be injured due to this location as they walk down Lawerence express way to go to the grocery store, or Kaiser? Are they supposed to stay in their converted cargo container 8×10′ room? Those that live next to an express way understand the noise level, and at the height of this proposed development (four stories!), half the residents won’t benefit from even a sound wall.
Its a noble idea, but lets get a location that actually benefits the population.
Your arguments seem to be grasps at reasons to oppose the project under the guise of feigning concern for people you do not want to be helped if they are helped in your neighborhood.
Having a bus stop for a major bus line a half mile away is better than most sites in Santa Clara. It is less than a fifteen minute walk from this property to a bus stop on El Camino. This means it is relatively close. It is not necessary to cross Lawrence and there is a signal controlled crosswalk across Benton.
Anywhere that is close to a bus stop is going to be close to a store that sells alcohol. Almost every store that sells food and convenience products also sells alcohol.
That’s a lot of assumptions your’e making, thats okay, you don’t know me, assume away.
Wouldn’t it be better to find a site that is not in a flood zone requiring mandatory insurance, less dangerous for pedestrians, and not across the street from a liquor store! Is that an impossible task in Santa Clara county? If so, lets go ahead and have our city spend the millions on required infrastructure upgrades to the site, and change the zoning, and pass the necessary emergency waivers that will be needed to make this parcel able to even begin to accommodate the structure.
As for the noise, anyone who has bought pumpkins or Xmas trees from there understands how peaceful and relaxing that property is.
It is NOT TEMPORARY HOMELESS HOUSING for 240 adults coming off the streets for up to 6 months. It will be PERMANENT INTERIM HOUSING with LOW BARRIER. In other words, any homeless individual with drug/alcohol addictions, criminal history, mental illness. This was stated by Dr. Greenberg of LifeMoves. Please get the facts. Look at Milpitas PD and Fire responding to 3x the average calls after the Hillview Project Homekey hotel conversion was completed. If you want this facility a block away from your home, by all means, be our guest! I doubt the proponents are homeowners that are about to owe more on their mortgage than their home is worth, will pay higher insurance because crime WILL increase, and won’t dare go for a walk in the evening, walk their kids to school, or use a nearby daycare.
To our friends at SCHOUSINGADVOCATES, THERE WILL NOT BE ONSITE MEDICAL, SOCIAL, MENTAL HEALTH, OR SECURITY SERVICES. STOP misleading the public or point us to the new proposal. The creators of the proposal stated that ‘tenants’ will have convenient access to the gas station mini mart across the street (right next to the liquor store), medical (Kaiser, almost a mile down an expressway, an HMO that will only take homeless for emergencies and will be overwhelmed), and Grocery Outlet (almost a mile down an expressway, with a large liquor section). This is a rushed proposal grasping at ideas that will ruin communities in order to win Project Homekey funds for developers rather than truly help the homeless. But I’m sure many other neighborhoods would love to have it, right? Build low-income housing, not a homeless encampment made of shipping containers.
Even under ideal supervision where residents are actively undergoing drug and alcohol rehabilitation, I recall a in-house counselor who was killed by a resident, nearby in San Jose. This person who died had training to deal with substance abusers. This happened again I read at another of their rehab centers in Rochester, Minn. One future lawsuit may negate any financial savings (utilizing county land) from placing homeless living quarters in a location that overly subjects the immediate public’s safety to increased risk.