San Jose Approves 102 Temporary Housing Units

Diego Aguilar Canabal
Wednesday, August 17, 2016

San Jose’s City Council voted yesterday to approve a temporary modular housing project on Evans Lane, amid vocal criticism in support of a permanent alternative. The proposal passed by an 8-3 vote, with Pierluigi Oliverio, Manh Nguyen and Johnny Khamis opposed in the dissent.

The site on Evans lane lies in the Willow Glen neighborhood of South San Jose, just off the Almaden Expressway. Oliverio (pictured above), whose district covers the site, insisted that he would prefer to see high-density apartments built on the 6 acres of city-owned land. He stated that “housing 1,000 people in the long term versus 102 people in the short term is the better option,” adding that the temporary project would worsen problems in the area.

Almaden Expressway, San Jose

There will be 102 temporary modular homes in the approved project, which could house at least two people each, as opposed to the 446 permanent units in the alternative proposal. Staff emphasized that only half of the 446 would be “affordable.”

City staff recommended the temporary modular units, provided by non-profit developers Abode Servoces, on the basis of greater financial feasibility and more immediate relief in the midst of the city’s shelter crisis. Abode’s project would cost $15 million in city funds and open in the summer of 2017 until 2032; the previous permanent proposal would be completed in 2022 and cost $109 million, with city funds leveraged with state and federal subsidies. Oliverio objected to this projection in moving to pass the permanent alternative, suggesting that many developers would be interested in building o”n the site, “by my discussions, faster than the timeline staff has provided.

In their presentation, city staff urged the council to not consider the alternatives to be at cross purposes. “If you approve this…we will continue to build permanent affordable housing,” said city housing director Jacky Morales-Ferrand. In staff’s assessment, the interim housing would merely “prep them” to move into move into “permanent, supportive” housing after more is built.

Permanent housing for the homeless population, according to staff, “will lag because of need for financing”—moreover, they urged council to view the 102 modular units as an investment in the quality of the neighborhood. Morales-Ferrand spoke of “bringing more amenities” to a neighborhood which she admitted “has been left behind.” The Adobe project will include a dog park, small library and community garden.

A Willow Glen resident speaking in favor of the permanent option described his neighborhood as a proud working-class Latino & Vietnamese community that focused on their families after working long weekday hours. Temporary residents, on the other hand, “would leave after nine months…and if people don’t care about the community, they don’t care about the neighborhood.”

Approval came late in the night, with the meeting lasting a total of seven and a half hours.

Residents will share the site with four case managers and two property managers, and will have 24-hour security. Adobe Services plans on the land from the city for $1 a year, as well as passing on any net profit the project may yield.