San Jose pushes ahead to convert hotels to housing
About a dozen unhoused people reside in the encampment established on the corner of Branham Lane and Monterey Road in San Jose. Photo by Vicente Vera.

San Jose wants to pay $113 million to convert four hotels into housing to help solve its homelessness crisis.

Funding is expected to come from the state’s Project Homekey program, which subsidizes emergency housing run by local governments and nonprofits. Applications opened Sept. 30, and individual funding may be awarded as soon as 45 days after an application is submitted. The Bay Area was allocated about $200 million in potential funding during the second round of Project Homekey.

The San Jose City Council is expected approve submitting its application on Tuesday.

Through a collaborative initiative with the county and other partners, San Jose aims to house 20,000 people by 2025. The repurposing of four hotels—the Arena Hotel, Pacific Motor Inn, Pavilion Inn and Residence Inn—plus a city-owned emergency housing site at the intersection of Branham Lane and Monterey Road would add 548 units. Nonprofit housing groups will help provide supportive services at permanent and interim housing locations.

The homeless crisis in the region has become increasingly dire in the last few years, with the number of unhoused people estimated at more than 6,000 in 2019—the most recent count due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The five existing interim housing sites in the city are able to house 300 people.

If funding is secured, the 89-unit Arena Hotel at 817 The Alameda will be a permanent housing project in partnership with Urban Housing Communities and HomeFirst.

Previous proposals to shelter unhoused residents have been met with pushback from neighboring residents and businesses.

District 6 Councilmember Dev Davis is ready to address any concerns regarding the Arena Hotel project with a neighborhood advisory group.

“(The advisory group) is a commitment to the neighbors that we are not just going to put something here and walk away,” she said.

Davis stressed the importance of each of the five sites providing access to supportive services.

“Every person on the street is dealing with some kind of issue,” she said. “I feel very strongly that every person needs to be connected to the services that are appropriate for them, whether those are onsite at the hotels or somewhere else.”

Downtown, the city is working with PATH Ventures to convert the Pacific Motor Inn at 455 South Second Street into 72 permanent housing units, and will collaborate with the Santa Clara County Housing Authority and the Bill Wilson Center to create 61 interim homes for unhoused youth at the Pavilion Inn at 1280 North Fourth Street.

Bill Wilson Center CEO Sparky Harlan expressed her excitement about the partnership.

“The site location is perfect for access to public transportation and close to county services,” Harlan said.

District 3 Councilmember Raul Peralez is optimistic about introducing the new housing sites to his constituents. “I’m no stranger to the challenges of getting community support for housing, but we have been pretty successful in organizing our community,” he said. “The first step is always outreach, making sure the community is aware of the projects, hosting community meetings to be able to discuss how they operate and who is operating them.”

The Santa Clara County Housing Authority will also work with the city to create permanent family housing at the 150-unit Residence Inn at 6111 San Ignacio Avenue. District 2 Councilmember Sergio Jimenez was not immediately available for comment.

The final site will be a 176-unit city-owned emergency interim housing property developed in collaboration with LifeMoves at the intersection of Branham Lane and Monterey Road. The location is currently a homeless encampment that generates many complaints to District 10 Councilmember Matt Mahan’s office.

Mahan believes the new housing sites must be cost-effective in order to leave funding for critical services.

“Funding and resources from the county really need to be going to mental health support, addiction treatment, job training and placement. The kind of supportive services that give people a shot at getting back on their own two feet,” Mahan told San José Spotlight.

Last year, Santa Clara County received $63 million in Homekey funds to develop a total of 364 units countywide. This included $12 million to convert a 76-unit hotel, SureStay, in North San Jose into permanent affordable housing. That site, however, generated controversy when the city attempted to collect rents on the units and the state shot it down.

“It’s incredible how we can come together to generate higher leveraged outcomes,” said Preston Prince, executive director at the Santa Clara County Housing Authority.

Contact Kristen Pizzo at [email protected]

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