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City Council Milpitas to explore litigation against State, County over hotel conversion project for...

Milpitas to explore litigation against State, County over hotel conversion project for homeless housing

This article has been updated.

During the Tuesday, October 6 Council meeting, at Mayor Rich Tran’s request, Council unanimously agreed to explore potential litigation against the State of California, Santa Clara County, and any other parties involved with moving forward on Project HomeKey in Milpitas.  

The back story: Last month, it was discovered that Santa Clara County had been awarded $29.2 million from the state’s Project HomeKey to turn an Extended Stay America hotel near Interstate 680 along Jacklin Road and Hillview Court into permanent housing for homeless individuals.

The project, which will be managed by affordable housing developer Jamboree, will turn rooms inside the hotel into 132 fully-furnished apartments for formerly homeless residents. Each unit will be approximately 300 square feet, according to a Jamboree press release. Hillview Court will also have two managers’ units and onsite services for residents, according to a memo from Milpitas Building Safety and Housing Director Sharon Goei.

Project HomeKey, created by way of Assembly Bill 83, is part of an initiative from the California Department of Housing and Community Development. The department plans to shell out $550 million by the end of the year to help local governments turn former hotels, motels, vacant apartments, and residential care facilities into permanent housing units for homeless individuals and families. The latest round of funding, approximately $236 million, will help 12 local municipalities and one tribe secure an estimated 1,800 new units across the state.

However, community members — including Mayor Tran — have aired concerns over the fact that the project hasn’t been fully vetted by the City, and that no city officials were contacted before the State and the County entered into an agreement over the hotel conversion.

At the October 6 Council meeting, dozens of Milpitas residents called in through the City’s new live audio comment portal to express their concerns over the hotel conversion project. 

“There hasn’t been really a public process in Milpitas for the residents to find out,” said a 15-year Milpitas resident. “There hasn’t been any available information. I heard it through the news. I think it’s a really unfair and undemocratic process.” 

Others echoed the same sentiment, saying that the process lacked transparency. Some were concerned that a homeless housing project would bring more crime and vagrancy to the residential neighborhood just a block away from the hotel. Others simply wanted the city to have a bigger say in the process. A few residents showed their support, arguing that the project would help get homeless people back on their feet.

After listening to the overwhelming talk of resistance to the project, Mayor Tran asked to place an item for potential litigation against the State — and any other entities involved with the project — on the agenda for a closed session meeting in two weeks. Specifically, he would like to look at the City’s legal rights in the areas of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and permitting. CEQA requires that government entities reach out to the public and inform them of any environmental impacts of projects, and that they try their best to limit such impacts. 

“I always make sure I’m able to hear the voice of our Milpitas longtime residents and community,” said Tran. “And there was no consensus against getting people off the streets, but there was a consensus for due process to include our city. Simply put, our city and community and our residents are not being included in this process that is driven by California Assembly Bill 83.”

Jamboree officials mentioned during a community meeting about the project held on October 5 they will run background checks, credit checks, state background checks, and sexual predator background checks before admitting any such residents, according to Jamboree representative Daniele Latteri.

The purchase of the property should be completed by November, Jamboree has said. Because of the hotel’s condition, repairs will be minor, and residents should be moving into the building come December. 

Tran shared with The Beat that he did initially think the City would be awarded the funds through Project HomeKey: 

“I was kind of happy because I know our City would do a fine job using these taxpayer funds to house our local homeless in Milpitas. And the more information I got, I realized that our city isn’t being awarded this money as advertised in media outlets,” said Tran. 

Over these last couple weeks, Mayor Tran has been speaking with the City Manager and City Attorney to get more information and to determine their next steps.  

“I’ve been brainstorming for the past couple weeks on how Milpitas can stand up for itself. And I believe, in this great nation, we would be able to do that in the court of law,” said Mayor Tran. 

Concerns over the city’s perceived lack of input came to a head on October 6, when a Change.org petition was started to oppose the project. Petitioners are hoping to push the city into providing “public hearings and the full involvement of local residents who will be impacted by this project.”

“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, authored by local business executive and city council candidate Suraj Viswanathan. “We are concerned about relocating individuals from outside our city here. We are concerned about those with criminal records or drug use. We are concerned that homeless Milpitas families who work and study here are not getting any priority. We are concerned about the potential drain on public services and loss of hotel tax revenue at a time of falling city revenues.”

The project’s advocates, however, argue that the project will place more unhoused individuals in permanent homes within a matter of months, granting them more stable living environments. Jamboree says the homes, along with the project’s onsite services, could actually help to reduce crime and drug use.

Jamboree will hold another community meeting to answer questions from the public at 6 p.m. on Thursday, October 22, over Zoom.

“This movement is not about the issue of homeless that’s plaguing California. The issue at hand is giving our City, Milpitas residents, and cities across California, the right to freedom and liberty,” said Tran. “There’s nothing more I would like to see than to get people off the streets, but not at the cost of our city’s freedom and liberty.” 

The Milpitas City Council will be meeting in closed session on Tuesday, October 20, to discuss the possibility of litigation on the part of Milpitas against the County and State.

Update: Councilmember Anthony Phan has released a statement on the project: “I for one, deeply value the community partners and agencies working to actually address the housing crisis. During these times, we should be proactively building bridges, not recklessly burning them down. I’m committed towards continued collaboration with the many stakeholders involved to address homelessness in Milpitas.”

 

7 COMMENTS

  1. Milpitas is the only local city I know that has a funded food bank that refuses to give any of their food to the homeless people that actually live on the streets in Milpitas. I know of homeless people that have literally been turned away because they don’t live in a physical home in Milpitas. The city gets funding to help the homeless population yet there are no shelters, soup kitchens, or food banks for them to go to. So where is all the money going?? The police are constantly harrasing the homeless and continue to run them out of town. When word of hotel vouchers came out; the homeless in Milpitas looked for and asked police about said vouchers… Cops said they’d never heard of them… They’ve even attempted to make homelessness illegal in Milpitas. Homeless people are not the enemy. Ignorant, selfish people w/money are.

    • Your calling people with money against this ignorant, selfish people?!! It’s these people with money that’s paying the taxes and working hard to provide for their family. We all know we have homeless problem in almost every city but to spend millions dollars for only 132 rooms is not efficient by paying premium real estate cost. The homeless people not only need a home but they also need help with other areas (i.e Counseling, medication, education etc). Just having 132 rooms is only short term help. People, think long term and solution!

  2. Shame on Mayor Tran for fighting against this great plan to help the homeless. Tran is not a leader. Our city leaders should be gladly joining in on this effort. GOOD JOB ANTHONY PHAN.

    This project is what we need. Milpitas should be proud to have this housing project in our city, instead of falsely complaining about the people it will attract and worrying that other cities aren’t doing their part. The homeless are already here in Milpitas. Finally the State and County are going to actually do something about this, unlike our Mayor.

    This project is a good for Milpitas. It provides a”teaching moment” for all of our children. This is a perfect example on how a community can come together and help the less fortunate, instead of wringing our hands and hope someone else takes care of them. Let’s show our kids by actually doing something good for others in our community and not cry that the “sky is falling” because we don’t want to get our hands dirty.

    My wife and I have lived here for over 35 years and raised our four children here. Milpitas used to be a community that cared. We cated not only about ourselves but about others, especially those less fortunate.

    Mike Mendizabal

    • That is not a good location to put a homeless shelter. Have you lived near one? How many are successful that you know of? And when was the last time you been to SF or Oakland? Are you even a Milpitas resident or friend of Anthony Phan from San Jose? We already have a garage dump and a county jail. We are not even close to the size of the other cities in Santa Clara County. For as long as I lived in Milpitas there has not been a homeless problem. Since BART arrived the homeless population seems to have increased.
      Housing does not solve mental illness or drug dependencies. None of the County supervisors live in Milpitas. They just want to spend the free money and who knows what relationship they have with the developers doing the conversion.

  3. Seriously people, we need to provide more than just a roof over their heads. The homeless people need much more… instead of spending money on premium real estate in the middle of the city, money needs to be spent on providing help to them such as, physiological, counseling, doctors, care givers, education etc. build homes in government lands or purchase buildings or lands at lower cost. 132 rooms is not the right solution. Spend the tax payers money wisely!

    • This! Politicians just like to band-aid problems and spend money. They don’t want to actually solve anything because real progress takes longer than 4 years. They just want short-term highlights for their next election.

      There’s no oversight into who will get these units. There’s no definition into who they determine as homeless. There are people who can benefit for a temporary housing solution to get on their feet again. However, this only appears like politicians got free money and want to spend it to say they did something with no real thought or planning. The low-income housing scheme in Milpitas is already abused by people who qualify but are not really low-income.

      Who voted for Anthony Phan and why? He literally just graduated college then ‘applied’ for a city council job. I’d like to know how big the homeless problem is in Milpitas currently, and how many are recent transplants.

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