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Tuesday, November 24, 2020
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City Council Milpitas City Council faces sharp criticism from Governor and Law Foundation over...

Milpitas City Council faces sharp criticism from Governor and Law Foundation over planned Homekey lawsuit

The Milpitas City Council is catching heat for its recent unanimous vote in favor of a lawsuit against Santa Clara County to prevent the Governor Gavin Newsom-spearheaded Project Homekey from launching a site for homeless people in Milpitas.

Last week, the Milpitas City Council voted to sue any parties involved in the Homekey housing project slated to go up at the Extended Stay in Milpitas, located at 1000 Hillview Court. The project calls for the conversion of the 144-room hotel into a 132-unit apartment building for homeless residents who have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The project will cost around $80 million, part of which will come from a $29.2 million state grant. The rest of the funds will come from the developer Jamboree (around $30 million) and the 2016 Measure A bond in support of affordable housing ($21.9 million). 

Newsom was in San Jose last week, announcing the approval of $200 million in additional funding for Project Homekey. To date, over $709 million has been awarded to communities throughout California, to be put toward helping homeless residents find long-term housing.  

In a blistering direct statement to the Milpitas City Council and Mayor Rich Tran on their recent actions, Newsom said from San Jose: “You’re going to look back in your life, and you’re going to regret this. You have an incredible moment in time. It’s a moral damn moment. Do the right thing.”

As the Milpitas City Council moves forward with its lawsuit, it intends to use a “specialized law firm” due to a conflict of interest within the city attorney’s office, according to City Attorney Chris Diaz. 

Residents have started a petition in favor of letting the Homekey site move forward. This petition counters a previous one begun a couple weeks ago by current Milpitas City Council candidate Suraj Viswanathan with the opposite intention. 

Meanwhile, yesterday a scathing letter came in from the Law Foundation of Silicon Valley, addressed to the Milpitas City Council:

We write to demand that Milpitas stop insisting that the County of Santa Clara relocate the proposed Project Homekey site at the Extended Stay America in Milpitas and to cease and desist from threatening to sue the County of Santa Clara and State of California if they refuse to acquiesce to the City’s demand. It is clear that this decision is based on exaggerated, prejudiced, and unfounded claims that the individuals moving into this housing will disproportionately be those with mental health disabilities and/or substance abuse disorders, and that the presence of such individuals will bring violence, crime, and pollution to Milpitas. This decision violates both state and federal anti-discrimination law and, as such, cannot be sustained.”

The letter goes on to state that the Milpitas City Council’s moves to stop the project are not only illegal in terms of state and federal Fair Housing laws, but contrary to Milpitas’ own legal obligations. The letter further classifies the assorted public comments at council meetings in opposition of the site as misguided, false, or steeped in fallacious stereotypes. More, the letter notes how the council was in support of Project Homekey before it buckled to oppositional public pressure from a sampling of citizens. 

Says the letter, “The actions to stop the establishment of a Project Homekey site in Milpitas violate the FHAA, as they are based solely on stereotypes of homeless individuals, especially those who live with or are perceived to have mental health disabilities.”

And: “The city government is basing its decision to stop implementation of the Project Homekey site in the City on unfounded stereotypes that the individuals that will be housed at the site have mental health disabilities and substance abuse disorders, and that their presence will lead to increased crime in the community. The Mayor questioned whether ‘psychotic’ individuals will live at Project Homekey, using a derogatory term for individuals with severe mental health disabilities.”

Moreover, The Law Foundation posits that the Milpitas City Council’s actions violate California’s Housing Accountability Act, which exists to “limit the government’s ability to deny emergency shelters, transitional housing, or supportive housing when a City has not met the requisite need for emergency shelter.”

The letter ends with the Law Foundation stating they will take legal action should the council move forward on its plans to litigate: 

“Should Milpitas take legal action against the County of Santa Clara to block the development of the Project Homekey site at the Extended Stay America in Milpitas, the Law Foundation will consider intervening on behalf of the unhoused community.”

The letter can be read here in its entirety. 

Another special city council meeting on the Homekey project is happening tonight, Wednesday 10/28, at 6 p.m.

 

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Rhoda Shapiro & Eric Shapiro
Rhoda and Eric Shapiro are the editors of The Milpitas Beat.

7 COMMENTS

  1. They need to put the shelter in a less populated area, away from homes. Our city is already being overrun by homeless people. Now more will be hanging out near the shelter and on Calaveras. There is so much trash being left everywhere from the homeless camps right now. Put the shelter in San Jose, we already have the jail, the dump, and the sewer plant! Or put it near the Governors house!

  2. The Milpitas Mayor and Council need to stand up for what’s right and not cower in the face of some citizens that continue to spread false information about the Extended Stay housing project. This project is a shining example of what we should do to help those in need. What better example can we model for our kids?

  3. Milpitas already does more than its share. We have the jail, the dump and the sewage treatment plant. Now the state wants to put a homeless shelter in a residential neighborhood? It’s not fair.

  4. To equate this plan for a safe, secure environment for our homeless neighbors to “the jail, the dump and the sewage treatment plant” is utterly unfair and highly prejudicial. Instead Milpitas should look at this as an opportunity to do the right thing, to treat those who are unhoused with dignity and to, in very practical terms, lessen some of the blight described by encampments.
    This is an opportunity for Milpitas adults to demonstrate to the children and teens in local neighborhoods what it means to step up, to help to build a healthy, diverse community rather than to perpetuate stereotypes and inhumane tropes. Children listen and repeat our fears and prejudices.

  5. Yeah, Milpitas residents should show compassion for the homeless by having them house right in the middle of a residential area. So Menlo Park, Atherton, Woodside, Palo Alto, Cupertino (I could go on and on) are also going to be doing the same, right? Oh wait, no cause they would never even come up for discussion. The committee deciding which hotels are picked would not even bother to look in those areas. How about Gov Newson and the folks at the Law foundation house some next to their residence. No? How about all the affluent folks start buying homes in low income neighborhoods to help improve the community and schools there. No? Well so much for asking to show compassion for fellow humans beings. Its easy to talk about righteousness when it doesn’t affect one’s self.

  6. Milpitas has long been the most socially conservative city in the county. In the past, however, when state or county laws were enacted — whether for plastic bags, marijuana dispensaries, minimum wages, a food distribution site, etc. city leaders have joined in, though reluctantly at times. So this standing up to locating homeless families in Milpitas through a lawsuit is a surprise. Perhaps after November 3, cooler heads will prevail.

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