This past June, the Milpitas City Council received a report regarding the Hillview Court Apartments, located at 1000 Hillview Court.
The apartments are part of Project Homekey, a 132-unit supportive housing project that is currently funded by Santa Clara County and owned by Jamboree Housing Corporation, a nonprofit housing developer focusing on supportive housing. Currently, 116 of the 132 units are occupied. The County also currently contracts with Abode Services to provide on-site services at the property. The property is currently managed by Domus and uses Select Security for its security services.
Residents had brought up various safety concerns to the public related to violence, drug-related activity, and mental health. As recently as last week, the Milpitas Police Department informed the public of a domestic disturbance at the property.
On May 22, a tenant of Hillview named Lisa Reeve emailed the City Council as well as many other groups regarding a variety of issues related to the property. Many of the issues at Hillview have led to increased calls to emergency services.
The City Council wrote a letter to Supervisor Otto Lee asking for his assistance on the issue. Then, on May 31, Council staff attended a seminar at the property and heard from tenants about their concerns.
Starting last June, City Staff and the project team have begun to work together to provide quarterly reports to the Council regarding the property. The last two reports were made in August 2022 and November 2022. While there was a report scheduled for March 2023, it didn’t go through due to scheduling issues. As a result, this most recent report covers updates from two quarters.
Goals and Construction
During the November 2022 Council discussion, many goals were set by the previous City Council. These goals included installing a fence between the property and nearby businesses, improving facility cleanliness, further addressing resident complaints, and improving site security to control access to the facility.
Since then, a fence has been put up around the property to separate it by nearby businesses. In addition, there have been facility improvements as well as new on-site services and staff.
So far, construction on the project has happened in two phases, with a third phase being proposed. The first phase was conducted from 2020 to 2021 with a budget of $1.6 Million. The work in this phase included thirteen new mobility units and seven audio/visual units, an ADA-compliant path of travel, curbs and ramps, sidewalks, exit and entry points, parking and signage, and mailboxes.
The second phase of construction went from 2021 up to 2022, with a budget of $3.7 million. Work in this phase included an outdoor area with BBQ and seating areas, a dog run, trash enclosure, mailbox canopies, and other site upgrades. Inside, there is now a community lounge and TV room, management offices, and a computer room.
Jamboree also proposed a third phase of construction for the property. The work inside the building would include elevator modernization, a leasing area and office redesign, corridor and stairwell upgrades, and window upgrades. The exterior work would include perimeter fencing around the building in order to separate the building from adjacent neighborhoods, a shaded structure at the BBQ area, exterior paint, and a roof replacement.
The total annual estimated budget for this phase would amount to about $3.5 million.
The staff at the property also agreed with the tenant association to implement other changes. These include free internet available to tenants, deactivating the false exit alarm sounds, fixing the fire panel that created false alarms, developing a new grievance procedure with residents, and new parking policies in order to lessen wrongful towing on property.
There is also a lease agreement that residents are required to follow. If there is a scenario in which a resident at the property acts in a way that is not in agreement with the lease agreement, property management will collaborate with Jamboree and Abode Case Management to determine how best to address the issue. Depending on the issue, Abode will reach out to the resident to either correct it or aid the tenant in relocation, and property management will issue either a warning or a lease violation to the resident.
Typically, eviction occurs after repeated behavioral issues on the part of the tenant; however, if it’s a severe enough issue, such as behavior posing a threat to others in the building, management may go straight to eviction.
Management may also propose a mutual termination agreement to residents rather than eviction so that they may not lose their housing vouchers.
However, some residents have argued that management does not evict those who cause issues, stating worries regarding security at the property. “The security here is non-existent,” a tenant named Michelle Delury stated during the City Council meeting. “They won’t intervene, they won’t even walk around and tell people, ‘Hey, what are you doing?’”
In the past two years, eight residents have been evicted, three residents have agreed to mutual termination, and two residents currently have pending eviction court dates.
Calls to Police and Fire
The Milpitas Police Department also gave an update on the amount of calls at the property. In total, starting on January 1st, 2023 up until May 31st, 2023, there have been 193 calls for service at Hillview, accounting for 41% of the total calls for the year. This compares to 466 calls in 2022, 206 calls in 2021, and 121 calls in 2020. These totals include events that were initiated by police officers at the property.
The reasons for the calls vary from burglary, disorder, or drug-related crimes. However, according to the MPD report, the majority of calls do not fall under these categories, but instead fall into an “other” category of crimes that cannot be categorized. Such crimes include fraud, family neglect or abuse, warrants, vandalism, and others. The total number of calls for this category is 179, with the next biggest reason for calls being welfare checks, at 85.
Compared to other apartment complexes in Milpitas, Hillview has the most amount of calls related to disorder, drug-related activity, suspicious activity, violence, and welfare checks. Hillview also has the highest amount of calls compared to other apartment complexes, at 226 calls, with Cerano apartments coming in second at 114 calls.
Like the MPD, the Milpitas Fire Department has also seen a significant increase in calls since 2022, with 30 calls in 2020, 77 calls in 2021, and 196 calls in 2022. Calls for service in 2023 also seem to be going in the same direction, with 97 incidents so far this year. The reasons for service include Emergency Medical Services, alarm activation, and fires, with the majority being due to EMS and alarm activation; however, fire-related incidents have increased by the month and year.
Notably, one resident argued that many of the alarm activations end up being false alarms. “When you burn toast does the fire department respond to your house? Because that’s what happens when someone sets off the fire, the smoke detector — the fire department comes.”
Other concerns made by tenants include accessibility through the building. “There’s only one door in the whole building that works with a handicap placard,” said Reeve during the City Council meeting, who further explained that the placard is not at the front door, but at the back door of the building. She further explained that tenants with disabilities have struggled with getting in and out of the building into various areas of the complex. “People with disabilities should be allowed to enjoy their entire building unit,” she stated.
There are also concerns related to the property management company overseeing the building. The building has gone through a total of three property management companies, with the most recent being Domas, which started in May. Even though an on-site manager and on-site maintenance manager are meant to reside on-site 24/7, tenants argued that this is not the case. Reeve argued, “If we do have a new on-site live-in manager, he started within the last week living here because we do not see him at night, on the weekend. We do not have a live-in maintenance person.”
In order to help correct and mitigate issues, Council staff proposed to create a stakeholder group for the property. The group would ideally include the project team, tenants, the supervisor office, the city council and staff, and other possible stakeholders. The Council voted to implement the group with Mayor Montano as the Council’s representative.
The tenants plan to continue to ask for support from the City. “There’s a lot of very good tenants here,” Reeve added during the meeting. “I just want the people to know that we are trying, and with everybody’s help, sooner or later, we’ll get it.”