4-story, 162-unit Supportive Housing Complex Does Not Belong in a Residential Neighborhood
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Santa Clara County, City of San Jose, & Charities Housing seek to build two four-story apartment buildings, with a total of 162 units, for chronically homeless individuals at 2500 Senter Rd, just south of Tully Rd, in San Jose. Most residents would be individuals who suffer from behavioral health problems, including severe mental illness and substance abuse disorders. Residents would also include individuals with extensive criminal records, individuals with convictions for serious violent crimes, and individuals with a history of violence against women and children. Building this type facility in a residential neighborhood near three elementary schools, a public library, a city park, and Little League Baseball & Softball fields is egregiously bad public policy and a threat to the safety and well-being of our children and entire community.
The facility would offer support service for mental health and addiction, but participation is optional and not a requirement to live in the apartments. Harm Reduction policies would be followed. Harm reduction is an “approach that aims to reduce the adverse consequences of drug abuse and psychiatric symptoms.”[i] It does not aim to treat addiction. “Consumers are allowed to make choices—to use alcohol or not, [to use illegal drugs or not], to take medication or not—and regardless of their choices they are not treated adversely, their housing status is not threatened.” Our elected officials would be condoning drug abuse in our neighborhoods. This will undoubtedly attract more drug dealers and crime to an area of San Jose already struggling with these issues and with a critically short-staffed San Jose Police Department.
This housing facility would do little to alleviate the homelessness problem facing of San Jose. This facility will house individuals from throughout the county, from as far away as Gilroy and Palo Alto. San Jose's chronically homeless will not be given preference. It is important to point out that the County's 2015 Homeless Census, revealed Campbell, Los Altos, Milpitas, Morgan Hill, Mountain View, Palo Alto, Sunnyvale, and Saratoga combined had 1,013 unsheltered homeless individuals and only 54 sheltered homeless individuals. In other words, these Santa Clara County cities combined have 19 times as many homeless individuals living on the street than in shelters. In contrast, San Jose had 2,810 unsheltered homeless individuals, but was providing shelter to 1,253 homeless individuals. San Jose's commitment to house the homeless is commendable, but San Jose's residents and taxpayers should not have to pay a disproportional cost in terms of public safety and services because wealthier cities in the county refuse to provide housing for homeless individuals living in their communities.
Representatives from the city and county have told concerned residents that research shows that these types of facilities do not affect public safety. This is simply not true. Research shows small and medium supportive housing facilities have little to no effect on public safety. However, researchers and experts in urban planning and public safety have concluded that large-scale supportive housing projects greater than 40 units increase violent crime by 40% and all crime by 30% in surrounding neighborhoods[ii]. Yet, The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors approved this 162-unit project and chose Charities Housing to construct and manage the buildings. The San Jose City Council, including our very own representative Councilman Tam Nguyen, voted and approved changing the zoning of the property to allow this project to move forward. The San Jose Planning Commission approved the Conditional Use Permit to allow this. We are now appealing to the San Jose City Council, which would have the final word on this project.
We Urge Mayor Liccardo and San Jose City Council to Deny Charities Housing’s Application for a Conditional Use Permit
The City of San Jose has not sufficiently studied the impact of a large-scale supportive housing facility. In 2010, the city approved Charity Housing’s proposal for a three-story affordable apartment complex for families, which it never built. It now wants to build a four-story Supportive Housing facility for the chronically homeless on the property instead, but will not start the planning process from scratch or complete a new Environmental Impact Report. The city’s Department Planning, Building and Code Enforcement will use the 2010 project approval because “minor changes do not raise new issues.”
We disagree. We believe this project needs to be paused for further research and analysis because there are major changes to the project that will impact to public safety. The most comprehensive study on this topic “The Impact of Supportive Housing on Neighborhood Crime Rates,” published in the Journal of Urban Affairs concluded that “total crime reports near these large supportive housing facilities increased by about 30% of the sample mean each year after opening; the comparable figure for violent crime reports was 40%.”[ii] After the construction of an 80-unit supportive housing facility, one suburban Seattle neighborhood had police calls increase by 91%, EMS/Fire responses increased by 410%, and violent assaults increased from 2 to 19. Could our police department, which is facing a critical shortage of officers, adequately respond to the increase of calls? We have over 400 fewer officers than we did in 2010 when the affordable apartment project was approved. Would a dramatic increase in calls strain our fire department even further? What does the leadership of our police and fire departments believe? How will the construction of a 100-unit apartment complex for very low-income individuals and families with a portion of those units reserved for the mentally ill and homeless one mile away on Monterey Rd affect police and fire demands? About two miles away, on Curtner and Evans Ln, the county is proposing housing 170 homeless individuals. Right next to the 2500 Senter Rd property, the County would like to build a 50,000 multi-story medical office building with a four-story parking garage and expand addiction treatment at the facility. How would all of this high-density development for vulnerable individuals in central San Jose affect police and fire services? Is there any way that the construction of four-story buildings can conform to the one-story, single-family homes in the Albanese Circle residential neighborhood?
We urge the San Jose City Council, Mayor Sam Liccardo, Councilmember Tam Nguyen, Councilmember Chappie Jones, Councilmember Sergio Jimenez, Councilmember Raul Peralez, Councilmember Lan Diep, Vice Mayor Magdalena Carrasco, Councilmember Devora Davis, Councilmember Silvia Arenas, Councilmember Don Rocha and Councilmember Johnny Khamis we urge you to deny the proposed project for all of the many aforementioned reasons.
[ii] JOURNAL OF URBAN AFFAIRS, Volume 24, Number 3, pages 289–315.Copyright © 2002 Urban Affairs Association
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