After a backlash, San Jose is reducing “tiny houses” for the homeless – The Mercury News
SAN JOSE – Amid the backlash in the neighborhood, city guides have taken back one of San Jose’s most creative ideas to house thousands of the homeless by building shed-like “tiny houses” for them 99 potential locations to only four.
The tiny houses, usually around 70 square meters, are temporary sleeping cabins with doors and windows. Other states like Oregon have used them to house the homeless, and a bill by former MP Nora Campos allowed San Jose to build unconventional structures to get people off the streets in a housing crisis.
The search for locations for the tiny home villages that can accommodate up to 25 people, however, turned out to be a great challenge. The city was looking for public lots that were half an acre in size, near transit, and with access to utilities. But after a host of complaints, San Jose officials added other restrictions – 100 feet from homes and creeks and 150 feet from schools and parks, leaving only a handful of potential locations.
“It’s a shame we didn’t have more viable options on this list,” said Ray Bramson, the city’s assistant assistant housing director. “But we were restricted because land is so hard to find in this church. Some of the main concerns we heard were about the potential impact, from traffic to noise to new people coming into the neighborhood. We try to be respectful of neighbors and the community. “
Campos said Friday that she was “disappointed” with San Jose’s new criteria and that the city is missing the opportunity to use its bill to “bring charges” against homelessness reductions.
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“They separate almost homeless families from existing neighborhoods, and that’s not what San Jose is about,” Campos said. “If we get this right and cannot indulge in NIMBY ism, we will pave the way for other cities in California to address the homelessness crisis in their own communities. This sends the wrong message. “
The city council will meet on August 29 to discuss the four remaining locations for tiny homes – Senter Road and Wool Creek Drive, Branham Lane and Monterey Road, Bernal and Monterey Road, and near the Guadalupe and Taylor Street freeway.
But there are also push-backs on the remaining websites. Alderman Johnny Khamis said at least 30 people came to his “open house” office hours last Saturday to raise concerns about the tiny residential area on Branham Lane near Monterey Road in his district. Residents were concerned about safety and the “homeless screening process,” he said, fearing that crime, especially drug-related and assault, would increase.
And Councilor Sergio Jimenez, often an outspoken advocate for the homeless, said it was unfair that two of the remaining locations – Bernal and Monterey and Branham and Monterey – are either in or near his district. Council members had agreed last year to house tiny shared apartments in each of the ten council districts in order to distribute the apartments fairly.
Jimenez said the city’s recommendations are “the brunt of helping our unhodged residents in our District 2 community,” and that he cannot allow his district to “assume the responsibility disproportionately”.
Bramson said the four remaining locations are just a start. The city will be working with agencies like the county and the Santa Clara Valley Water District to find other possible locations. Bramson added that the city is trying to accommodate homeless shelters in every district, although not all of them may be tiny houses.
Of the original list of 99 potential sites, one was set on fire by neighbors: an empty lot near Thousand Oaks Park in Cambrian District. Residents of the suburbs packed public gatherings to speak out against housing homeless shelters near their homes and the quiet park.
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Denise Florio, who moved to the neighborhood 13 years ago, said she felt sorry for the homeless – she volunteers at a homeless shelter – but felt that dropping the tiny houses near her home would decrease property value .
According to the city’s new criteria, the Thousand Oaks location is no longer an option.
“I feel like you did the right thing. It was such a stupid idea, “said 44-year-old Florio on Thursday. “Your criteria were initially inappropriate and I am frustrated that my neighbors had to get so upset.”
Despite the difficulties, homeless attorneys applauded San Jose for pushing the tiny home villages forward.
“The reality is that the homeless are already in our neighborhood,” said Bruce Ives, CEO of LifeMoves, the largest provider of homeless shelter and services in Silicon Valley. “The answer is, we have to get them out of camps and off the street and put them like tiny houses in bridge houses.”