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.