This is part of a series of Q&As for Mayoral and City Council candidates for the November 2020 election. Questions were submitted by Milpitas residents.
The problem at Sunnyhills still hasn’t been resolved. What would you do to take steps toward resolving the issue and helping our residents, now and especially after the HUD contract expires?
(The City of Milpitas recently shared background and an update on this issue earlier this month here.)
Voltaire Montemayor: My recollection and what I remember is that the extended Moratorium is hardly to ask for retention; I did my walking house to house, and the place still looks good and calm. Being a mayor of the City Council I would facilitate or be a mediator on the owner’s original eviction intended purpose and project. I would study the Blueprint of the intended project, then stagger construction…a needed temporary placement of the sectional affected residents, shouldered by the developer…proper impact fee for the city, and more.
Rich Tran: The Sunnyhills Apartments issue will never be resolved unless the private property owner decides to relinquish control of the homes. It does not appear as the owner would like to do that. Our City needs to continue to explore options for the dignity of the current residents, whether that’s for continuing housing or a transition.
City Council Candidates
Evelyn Chua: This issue hasn’t been resolved. It will take another round of negotiations to get this resolved. It should be noted that only a percentage of tenants at Sunnyhills Apartments are paying below market rate and the rest are paying at market rate. First, I would recommend starting an early discussion about the status of this issue. Second, owners provide current statistics on how many residents are paying below market rate. I know at least one former senior resident who has now been housed at the Terrace Gardens. Although, the waiting list is long for senior housing. We still need to get a true count of residents currently needing assistance. Third, explore other places where we can house some of the tenants. Affordable housing places like Terrace Gardens, Devry, and Sango Court; determine completion date and availability to see if this could be an option for the Sunnyhills Tenants. Next, seek non-profit organizations like Project Sentinel for help in placing Sunnyhills tenants. Meanwhile, ask staff to present recommendations on what the city can do to address this issue. Then, the Council decides on how to proceed.
Julian Jose Nool Hilario Jr.: Let us address this issue by meeting with the Sunnyhills Neighborhood Association, Sunnyhills residents, and the landlord. I want to invite local agencies or experts that assist the problems that are brought to the meeting. The key is really to partner with the right stakeholders who are aware and have seen these issues. To prevent these kinds of problems, we should have a Tenant Protection Task Force or Commission to help.
Robert Marini: The City could find other places for the residents to live if possible or contact other rental housing in Milpitas.
Demetress Morris: Sunnyhills is a property that the City of Milpitas needs to acquire immediately. With the money from the various developers that has been received in lieu of the developers building affordable housing and along with the expected $29.2 million to be received for converting Extended Stay into permanent apartments. These two streams of revenue would provide the city with enough money to make a huge difference by purchasing the parcel as well as maintain the quality of life for those families currently a part of this community. The additional money for such projects could come from the state via a $550 million coronavirus aid relief fund. Although, Milpitas which is a part of Santa Clara County would need to match $20 million in October using funding from the 2016 voter-approved Measure A. The upside as I see it is that we can continue to use Extended Stay as transitional housing allowing us to become familiar with the needs of the various families, while they receive very specific wraparound services to advance their goal towards permanent housing; all of this helps us not to displace our families in Sunnyhills.
Bob Nuñez: The Sunnyhills issue was resolved three years ago. When residents of Sunnyhills, administration, and a majority of city councilmembers got together and made a concerted effort to find a solution to preserve the Sunnyhills community. In the last three years, the Sunnyhills community and the City Council have been kept out of the direct negotiations and communication regarding the Sunnyhills development. The City Manager position has changed four times, and the Director of Planning has changed at least twice. I would call together a task force comprised of Sunnyhills residents, a councilmember, staff and the developer so that all the issues with the current housing and the proposed new housing can be discussed and finalized. The Sunnyhills community needs to be preserved through a community effort and the use of the General Plan.
Anthony Phan: Sunnyhills is always on my mind. Although I can’t legally comment on matters pertaining to ongoing negotiations and applications yet to be decided on by the City, per the Brown Act, I will say that Sunnyhills residents should find comfort in knowing that things are looking very positive regarding the situation and are nowhere close to being at-risk of displacement. I’ve worked hard to strengthen community trust between the many different stakeholders involved to ensure our families a continued high-quality of life and access to affordable housing.
Suraj Viswanathan: It is costing the City a great deal of money to extend the lease for Sunnyhills every five years. My solution would be to have the city buy the land and allow the residents to remain there long-term.
Tiffany Vuong: The HUD contract expires February 2023, and our low-income/ fixed-income residents are living with anxiety because of their uncertain future. One issue the Sunnyhills Apartment residents are facing is lack of communication; they are the ones most impacted by the situation, yet they have not been invited to all the conversations. I am committed to listening to the residents and including them in the process of figuring out how to preserve Sunnyhills. If housing is a human right, then why are so many of us at risk for displacement? Housing should not be owned and operated for the purpose of making a profit. We need to find a way to keep Sunnyhills affordable in perpetuity. This may entail the county or city purchasing the property and administering it as public housing. Another option is if a non-profit buys it to keep it affordable. In a situation very similar to what Sunnyhills is facing now, an apartment complex in San Francisco’s Chinatown was going to be demolished and turned into a parking structure. With the purpose of keeping the apartments affordable in perpetuity, the property was bought by the San Francisco Community Land Trust (SFCLT) using a combination of private financing, Federal Low-Income Tax Credits, and a local “stabilization fund.” Later on, the tenants were able to buy their apartments with support from SFCLT. That is the story of the Columbus United Cooperative. I am committed to finding a long-term solution for Sunnyhills residents, whether that means turning the apartments into public housing or pushing for a community-based model of housing.