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Wednesday, September 28, 2022
City CouncilUpdate on Project Homekey’s Hillview Ct. Apartments: calls to 911, Phan hopeful,...

Update on Project Homekey’s Hillview Ct. Apartments: calls to 911, Phan hopeful, Tran enraged

Milpitas City Councilmembers all expressed concern at last Tuesday’s August 16 Council meeting when they heard reports that calls to the Milpitas Police and Fire Departments have been on the increase at the Hillview Ct. Apartments… 

Formerly an Extended Stay America, the Hillview Ct. Apartments are part of Project Homekey, by which $846 million in funding was put toward purchasing and converting buildings across California into long-term housing for people experiencing homelessness. 

In January of 2021, 50 unhoused residents moved into the building. The Beat reported that as of March of 2021, there had been no significant changes in crime rates in the area. 

However, about a year and a half later, the Milpitas Police Department is reporting an increase in calls for service to the apartment building. At present, the building is almost fully occupied, with 120 of its 132 units filled.

In 2020, when the building was still the Extended Stay America, 121 calls for service to the Milpitas Police Department had been made from there. In 2021, after the property was converted to apartments and occupants began moving in, the number of calls rose to 206. So far, in 2022, that number has gone up to 269. 

In 2021, Milpitas Police Officers spent a total of 169 hours and 51 minutes addressing issues at the Hillview Ct. Apartments site. But from January through August 8 of this year, that number is already at 253 hours and 30 minutes. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Events that officers find themselves responding to include family neglect/abuse, DUI, trespass, animal noise, and vandalism. They’ve also responded to calls about suspicious activity, and have conducted welfare checks. The vast majority of the calls have been initiated by residents of the apartment building. Last year, a transgender woman was murdered by her partner at the Hillview site.   

The Milpitas Fire Department has seen a parallel increase in calls for service. In 2020, when the building was still a hotel, they got 30 calls. In 2022, through July 31, there have been 87, initiated due to things like smoke detector or alarm system activation, building/cooking fires, and emergency medical service requests.  

Upon hearing the reports last Tuesday, Mayor Rich Tran was not shy about expressing his disapproval, oftentimes raising his voice, making questionable requests, and accusing Councilmember Anthony Phan of saying that the apartment building was a “safe place”… 

“The statistics that we’re looking at are clear indicators of a failure on our part,” said Mayor Tran during the meeting. 

He went on to suggest measures such as having K-9s periodically do routine checks throughout the property.

“I’m just not sure how we would permit that at Hillview,” said Consuelo Hernandez, the Director of the Office of Supportive Housing for the County of Santa Clara. Hernandez mentioned that Fair Housing Rules had to be followed and that they’d need to discuss it more “offline.”  

The mayor went on to ask if it was possible to put up fencing between the apartment building and the Hillview Business Park located nearby. He also issued reminders about how he’d “opposed” the project initially, before its transition from an Extended Stay to the Hillview Ct. Apartments. 

 

Last Tuesday’s Council meeting.

 

However, the City of Milpitas was never given a choice when it came to having the Homekey Project in the community. In 2020, when Milpitas got word that the County of Santa Clara was planning to open the Project Homekey site in Milpitas, some residents who lived near the site expressed opposition to the project. All five Councilmembers – at the time Mayor Tran, former Vice Mayor Bob Nuñez, and Councilmembers Phan, Karina Dominguez, and Carmen Montano – initially voted to write a letter to the County saying that they opposed the Homekey project. Mayor Tran also threatened to sue California and the County, but on November 4, 2020 the majority of the Council (Nuñez, Dominguez, and Phan) ultimately voted not to move forward with the lawsuit. 

Amid his remarks at last Tuesday’s meeting, Mayor Tran had an angry outburst, accusing Councilmember Phan of saying that the Hillview Ct. Apartments were a safe place for residents. When Phan tried to respond, Tran loudly stated, “You’re out of order! I didn’t call upon you, okay?” 

Tran then went back to a slide of the types of crimes that Milpitas Police Officers often respond to, and spent almost four minutes reading the entire list, even though the slide hadn’t been created to list things that had actually happened at the Hillview Ct. apartments. 

“To say people are living in peace is not true. They are calling 911,” said Tran during the meeting. 

The Beat watched the meeting but could find no instance of Councilmember Phan referring to the apartment complex as a “safe place” or saying that residents there “are living in peace.” 

“In November of 2020, [Councilmember Phan] made a decision, believing it would be a safe place for people. That’s not true,” said Mayor Tran in an interview with The Beat. “I’m still sick to my stomach at Councilmember Phan, Councilmember Karina Dominguez, and former Councilmember Bob Nuñez for opposing the Homekey Project prior to the election, and then immediately after the election voting to support the project going forward.”

Speaking with The Beat, Councilmember Phan said of Tran’s conduct at the meeting: “He was putting words in my mouth. Words I never said. He’s done this before.” 

 

Councilmember Phan at the Council meeting.

 

Councilmember Phan also mentioned a well-documented pattern of aggressive outbursts from Mayor Tran toward his colleagues in public meetings. In the past, for example, Tran has raised his voice and had similar outbursts when addressing Councilmember Dominguez.  

“I’m very concerned about his behavior. I don’t think he’s well,” shared Phan. “His behavior is unusual, it’s strange, he speaks incoherently. We the council, staff, and community members have had to endure his delusions of grandeur for the longest time.” 

The day after last Tuesday’s Council meeting, Mayor Tran withdrew from this year’s City Council race. 

Councilmember Phan said he’s supported the Homekey Project from the beginning, and although he has concerns about the increase in calls for public safety services, he remains hopeful. He feels there needs to be better collaboration between the stakeholders amongst all Milpitas’ public safety departments. He also feels that the resident screening process should be made more selective.

“The project is not perfect. It’s far from perfect,” said Phan. “We’re doing this here [in Milpitas] at least for the first time. And while there are a lot of issues that I think can be worked out and have to be worked out, I wouldn’t let ‘perfect’ get in the way of all the good happening.”  

George Searcy, Chief Impact Officer from Jamboree Housing, the company that partnered with the County to convert the building, was also present at the Council meeting. He mentioned that a round of improvements will start on the property in 2023, which will include extra security features. He also stated that Jamboree has added over 50 video cameras to the site since they purchased the property and began to operate there. 

“I’m not sure if we have enough [security cameras] or if they’re in the right place,” said Searcy, who mentioned that discussions would be held with the Milpitas Police Department to determine next steps toward improving safety. 

Meanwhile, Vice Mayor Carmen Montano suggested writing a letter to County Supervisor Otto Lee, requesting funding for a full-time police officer at the Homekey site. Councilmember Evelyn Chua likewise suggested asking for funds for a supportive housing specialist, who would be able to help with issues pertaining to mental health, drug use, and alcoholism, which some of the Hillview Ct. residents struggle with.

Councilmember Karina Dominguez was absent from the meeting.  

The Beat will continue following this story. 

 

 

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Rhoda Shapiro
Rhoda Shapiro is the winner of a 2022 Golden Quill Award for her Education journalism. She works as a journalist and media consultant in the Bay Area. She has written for both the Tri-City Voice and the Mercury News, and is the founder of Chi Media Company, which works mostly with nonprofit organizations and educational entities to elevate their marketing and communication platforms. Rhoda is also the author of “Fierce Woman: Wake up your Badass Self.” Her YouTube channel features practices in yoga, meditation, and women’s empowerment. Rhoda is The Milpitas Beat’s Founder and Editor-in-Chief.

6 COMMENTS

  1. Wait, so Hillview Homekey which was rammed through by county without any local governance/zoning approval or input- is now having issues with a high volume of crimes, draining Milpitas PD resources, AND causing tenants in the adjacent business park to move out?…no way, I don’t believe you. Fake news! At least Phan is half sticking to his guns on this issue, although I bet once he finds out he’s behind Montano in the polls we’ll see some flip-flopping from him. Where oh where was the other supporter, councilwoman Dominguez? She usually has the best attendance record and brings up such valid points when taking up issues for our most vulnerable population. And I’d also like to give a shout out Bob Nunes for having the foresight to see that this project would be an instant success. No murder, rape or drug peddling at this “permanent supportive housing” location, no sir.

    If anyone is interested, I’d encourage them to look up Consuelo Hernandez’s County salary for her job (it’s public record). Look up her Twitter account and take a look at just how many homekey locations she’s working with in Santa Clara County and just how terrible they’re doing in terms of crime and drugs. I actually respect her and what she’s trying to accomplish. However, it’s clear that she’s in over her head. Some sort of reorganization or restructuring of her team needs to be done. Shooting down the idea of K-9 unit patrol immediately is not something she should be dismissing so easily especially if it could help lessen the need of our local police & fire departments. I still don’t understand how Jamboree, abode and the county all are working on this…seems like too many cooks in the kitchen to me. There needs to be some centralized way of managing this property. If Consuelo can’t do it then at least hold her accountable for her poor performance in overseeing these homekey sites. This is starting to be even more of a massive waste of taxpayer money than initially thought.

    Mayor Tran is correct, “Wait and see” is not a viable solution. The trend of the spike in 911 Calls is unacceptable: Thank you for caring about Milpitians including those living in hillview court.

  2. Police and fire calls can only be fairly compared by also comparing occupancy. Double the occupancy and expect double the calls. Also, was Jamboree not committed to providing someone “who would be able to help with issues pertaining to mental health, drug use, and alcoholism”? Where is THAT someone?

  3. I think we stay the course on the Home Key project. I wonder if polic/fire calls have increased throughout the city? If so why? Is this project the only place where is a rise in police/fire calls are in Milpitas? Is the increase in police/fire calls at this site offset by less calls to other homeless encpments city or county wide?

    Also has there been an similar increase in police/fire calls to the residences and businesses (Liquer Barn, etc) in the area?

    We need to look at all aspects of the project. Is it helping with the homeless situation we are facing? Are we doing all we can for those who really need our help or just wringing our hands and hoping this situation just goes away?

    • If you want to pay $1.5M to live near this, do get in touch. You’d almost be a hypocrite not to consider buying my place. 3 bd, 2 ba. I’m 1/2 mile down the street, and we’ve only seen one naked guy walking around screaming once and it’s so wrong for me to assume he’s associated with the homeless shelter down the street!

  4. This pig in a poke was sold to Milpitians as a place where the homeless would be assisted in being self sufficient, then moving out into the community. An approximation of 3 months (even though they have to sign a 6 month lease) was mentioned for this to happen. This homeless hotel has been there almost 2 years.

    Exactly how many residents have move out and been integrated into society? Certainly they must have that figure off the top of their head because those are the whole purpose of the facility. Those numbers will tell us how effective these facilities are.

    Certainly Phan and Dominguez would know. You’d think they’d be waving those numbers around as an “I told you so!” victory, if that was the case.

    So, how many success stories does this place have, or is it truly a taxpayer funded resort for homeless?

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