SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) — One week after deciding to not turn the old City Hall building into a homeless shelter, San Jose city leaders are considering dueling measures to solve the homeless housing crisis by pushing to open existing county facilities to the homeless.
County supervisor Cindy Chavez unveiled a plan for the city to partner with the Santa Clara County’s school districts to build low-income and homeless housing on their unused acres of land.
Two weeks ago, Chavez met with several school districts to begin talks. On Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors pushed an exploratory measure ahead. Funding for the plan would come through voter-approved Measure A.
“Housing is such a crisis in our community. It’s all of our responsibility,” said Chavez.
Santa Clara County’s homeless problem is among the worst in the nation, but the new partnership may help to solve it.
School districts are some of the biggest landowners in the county, and some of the land is still vacant.
“They have a number of families in their schools that have homeless children that are attending their schools today. This is not an outside population. This is part of their communities,” said Chavez.
But even with county assistance in funding and streamlining the process, building any new projects would take years. Homeless advocates said the crisis is happening right now, and that’s why they are trying to leverage existing county properties.
“They have a need for teacher and staff housing. We have funding for foster youth housing, homeless housing and for vets. We’re looking to see if it’s possible to start a partnership for workforce housing and housing for people in need,” said Shaunn Cartwright, an advocate for homeless rights.
About a dozen people urged the county to allow private philanthropists to turn the vacant city hall annex buildings into homeless housing. Santa Clara County wants it torn down and transformed into a temporary parking, with eventual redevelopment in mind.
“The difference is the City Hall Annex doesn’t cost the county anything. It’s being funded privately, whereas the other projects will cost the county and city money,” explained Cartwright.
The county said that the building, which has been vacant since 2005, is in such poor condition that it would take $50 million to rehab.
“They can only make the building seem unviable to the public and I know that’s not true,” said developer Jim Salata, who is the president of Garden City Construction.
The county board delayed a final decision regarding the annex building for another two weeks.