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Tuesday, November 24, 2020
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City Council Judge shoots down attempt by Milpitas residents to stop homeless housing project

Judge shoots down attempt by Milpitas residents to stop homeless housing project

This story has been updated

A request to halt turning a Milpitas hotel into permanent housing for unhoused individuals was denied Monday, clearing another roadblock for the project to move forward.

Voices of Milpitas, LLC, which requested a Temporary Restraining Order against the project’s developers, was formed in October by former Milpitas Mayor Jose Esteves, who has publicly opposed the project. Had it been granted, the order would have stopped the project from moving forward.

The denial of the restraining order comes after a complaint filed last week by Voice of Milpitas in the Santa Clara County Superior Court against county housing officials, the state’s Housing and Community Development department, and Jamboree, the nonprofit housing developer heading the project.

The group’s complaint claimed that the project, initiated under California Governor Gavin Newsom’s Project Homekey, stands to waste taxpayer money, failed to give Milpitas residents enough of a say in the planning process, and violates the California Environmental Quality Act. It also claimed that if the project were to move forward, there would be an influx of homeless people coming into the city, which the group believes would increase crime and the amount of mentally disturbed people on the streets, which would in turn place a greater burden on the city’s police. The complaint, however, did not specify exactly how crime would increase.

Project Homekey, established under California Assembly Bill 83, allows county and state housing authorities to bypass local zoning ordinances in order to quickly build units for unhoused residents.

Formally called 1000 Hillview Court, the project garnered opposition from residents of the Hillview neighborhood, the residential area immediately surrounding the hotel. Those residents complained of the potential for higher crime rates, reduced public safety, reduced property values, and mentally ill individuals in their neighborhoods.

Residents also cited concerns from Mayor Rich Tran, who argued the project’s location across the street from a BevMo liquor store would potentially place residents at risk, although neither residents nor the complaint specified why.

1000 Hillview Court proposes transforming the hotel, a 144-room Extended Stay America on Hillview Drive, into 132 fully-furnished apartments for formerly homeless residents, along with providing onsite services for residents. Milpitas homeless residents are not guaranteed units at the hotel, and instead would be placed in a countywide queue for those awaiting apartments. 

Homeless individuals seeking to apply for one of the units are required to pass a background check, a sexual predator check, and a credit check both with the county and the developer, according to Danielle Laterri, the director of services at Jamboree.

Suraj Viswanathan, a local businessman who lost his bid for election to the Milpitas City Council earlier this month, started a petition opposing the project in October. The petition has now gained thousands of signatures, although some of them came from out of state.

“While we all sympathize with the needs of our homeless brothers and sisters, we have grave concerns about the impact of this project on the local community and adjacent neighborhoods and think it requires more study,” read the petition.

A community group supporting the project called Hope for the Unhoused was pleased with the court’s decision. They believe 1000 Hillview Court will help unhoused residents on their path to self-sufficiency, and will provide Milpitas with more resources for the unhoused. Currently, Milpitas has no homeless shelters within its city limits.

“It was quite clear to our group that the [restraining order] would not stop the Homekey project as legislators passed AB 83 with a mission in mind: To help house our homeless community,” read a statement from Milpitas Family First Advocates, an offshoot group of Hope for the Unhoused. “People generally think homeless means living in the streets, but they don’t count the ones in a hotel, car or couch surfing with another family.”

1000 Hillview Court is expected to cost approximately $80 million. $29.2 million will be covered by a state grant from Project Homekey, $21.9 million will come from the 2016 Measure A bond supporting affordable housing, and roughly $30 million will come from other sources, according to a city memo.

To move forward with the project, the sale of the hotel must be completed by November 18, or else the funds will be sent to other, similar projects.

The Milpitas City Council voted to pursue its own litigation opposing the project in October, even though the project had been acknowledged and supported by the city as far back as August. But the council eventually voted to withdraw its suit on November 4, after the Law Foundation of Silicon Valley threatened a countersuit.

“This case is not going anywhere,” Viswanathan said of Monday’s decision.

He went on to say he would be OK with seniors and unhoused students taking residence in a similar project, but he opposed the Homekey project in its current form, citing a similar project in San Jose that attracted emergency services “every hour.”

“I’m OK with facilitating senior people. I’m OK with facilitating veterans,” said Viswanathan. “But I am not OK with facilitating drug addicts. I’m not OK with people hanging out in the park who are shooting themselves with needles. But, this project, if it goes through and If something like that, God forbid, happens — I pray it shouldn’t — it’s going to spoil the entire future of Milpitas.”

Neither Esteves nor the county immediately responded to requests for comment.

UPDATE: According to Viswanathan and documents shared by him to this news organization, the Santa Clara County Superior Court has given Voices of Milpitas a hearing date next month for another potential temporary restraining order. Voices of Milpitas will have to produce their own appraisal for the Extended Stay America after alleging inconsistencies with how the property was appraised by the county.

Lloyd Alaban
Lloyd Alaban
Lloyd Alaban is a reporter who has lived in Milpitas his entire life. He has a BA in Sociology from UC Santa Cruz and a MS in Journalism & Mass Communications from San Jose State University. He has written for publications such as AsianWeek, realtor.com, Work+Money, SpareFoot, Uni Watch and San Jose Inside. He’s also worked at tech companies like Yahoo! and Google, and has subbed at every public school in Milpitas — except Pomeroy. In his spare time, he likes playing anything that has to do with trivia (especially watching Jeopardy!), running, drinking beer, reading, and playing with his Siberian Husky.

10 COMMENTS

  1. I am glad that this project is able to move forward! Milpitas can be a shining example of how we can all help.

    I hope everyone has a SAFE and HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

  2. 1. Identify the problem
    2. Establish a team to determine the root cause
    3. Propose solution
    4. Implement it change

    Converting a hotel into housing for the homeless doesn’t address 1 and 2 above.

  3. over $80000000+ to house 130 ppl.. $615000 per person. For that amount of money, it could be used to help over thousand of people elsewhere. This is place will be used to house “chronically ill” homeless and will not help homeless families in Milpitas or surrounding areas. It makes 0 sense to put it here. The winners are the hotel owner, developer and the project owner. This how our tax payer money being wasted and we are in a recession now.

    • Those are total figures, not annual. When you break down the cost over several years, this will actually save the government money. Plus, you’re changing the lives of these folks.

      • Please share your details. There are many failed homeless projects as well. No matter how you put it, the money is not well spent. We could use the same amount to help more people in the thousands. I really believe (don’t quote me) someone is making $ behind this project, Has anyone look at those numbers? No reason that this project can’t be moved to a lowest cost place since most of the homeless who will be staying there are being relocated from somewhere. I would want the money to change more lives than just a few.

  4. I take offense to the stereotyping of homeless people as drug addicts and mentally ill. Please believe it can happen to anyone. Once you are homeless it is hard, almost impossible to get back stable and housed again.
    Without family and the grace of others most of us are one paycheck away from homelessness.

    • You’re right. Drug addition and mental health struggles are the primary cause of homelessness in only a very small percent of cases. Yes, it’s more often a contributing factor, but rent increases and job losses remain the primary cause in the vast majority of our cases of homelessness.

  5. I live near this hotel and I SUPPORT providing housing to the homeless. People may be opposed to giving them housing, but that doesn’t mean the homeless are not here. They still are, they just remain homeless, homeless near BevMo. Calling the police every hour Viswanathan, seriously? Pray that misfortune never befalls you or you may be the one needing the service you are so ruthlessly trying to deny others.

  6. Unfortunate news. I really hope that the voices of the majority of surrounding residents and businesses are heard and that the appropriate processes are followed. They have the right to provide input and should have been taken into consideration early on in the decision-making. Vulnerable populations such as those experiencing homelessness need a wide range of supportive services depending on an individual’s situation. Housing such as these should be located closer to these established resources and in cities where the need is greater to produce better outcomes. Location does not make sense. When there is such a strong backlash, we need to listen and find better solutions.

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