Mercury News January 9, 2017
SAN JOSE — Tackling homelessness topped City Council agendas in 2016, and it appears to be a priority in the new year as elected leaders consider several proposals Tuesday, including new studio apartments for downtown homeless residents.
In its first meeting of the year, the City Council is expected to approve a new six-story, 84-unit housing facility for the homeless in downtown San José. The council, joined by several new members, also will give a green light to using an old motel to house 27 homeless residents.
Unlike other homeless housing projects, the new apartments would be targeted for homeless living in downtown — especially those who sleep in St. James Park or along Santa Clara Street. The idea, which is modeled after similar programs in San Diego, is the first-of-its-kind in San José.
“The concept is to use supportive housing as a tool to address homelessness geographically,” said Ray Bramson, San José’s homeless response manager. “The project has the potential to make a real noticeable impact on the conditions our downtown residents are facing.”
Affirmed Housing Group, a Southern California affordable housing developer, last year applied for a permit to raze a 3,964-square foot building at 278 N. 2nd St. and replace it with homeless housing. The plan calls for 78 studio apartments, a two-bedroom manager’s apartment and 10 beds for interim emergency housing.
A local nonprofit, PATH San José, will provide on-site services and counseling to residents, including mental health care and substance abuse treatment. The complex, called Villas on the Park, will include new landscaping, street parking and an outdoor deck and edible garden area on the top floor.
Homeless advocates say the building, which borders the Hensley Historic Landmark District and used to be a legal office and veterans’ center, is ideal for homeless housing because of its proximity to public transit and services.
PATH, which uses a peer-support model by hiring formerly homeless residents as counselors, has been working with downtown San Jose’s homeless communities for nearly two years.
“Trust is crucial here. We’ve been able to learn each individual by name and understand their situation and suffering,” said Megan Colvard, a regional director at PATH San José. “We can’t expect to roll up in a van and expect people to jump on board. These are relationships that take time.”
Downtown Councilman Raul Peralez said his district has the most homeless residents in San José, including 40 to 80 homeless encampments. He’s hopeful the new project will make a “small dent” in getting people off the streets.
“If you think about the city, our highest concentration of homeless is in our downtown,” Peralez said. “And if you want to make a difference there, you have to provide the housing solutions in the location the homeless are at.”
Villas on the Park is expected to open in late 2018 or early 2019.
The City Council on Tuesday also will consider a permit to use 27 units inside the 56-unit Santa Clara Inn for homeless supportive housing. The remaining units are rented to homeless people on an emergency-basis — meaning they can stay only for 28 days.
The permit allows homeless residents in the 27 rooms to stay as long as needed.
Also on Tuesday, the council is expected to support legislation to place a $3 billion housing bond on the state ballot in November 2018. The Affordable Housing Bond Act of 2018 or Senate Bill 3, authored by state Sen. Jim Beall, would fund various types of affordable housing development.
The 1:30 City Council meeting begins with the swearing-in of Sergio Jimenez, Sylvia Arenas and Dev Davis. The meeting will be held in the council chamber at City Hall, 200 E. Santa Clara St.