Santa Clara County OKs building low-income housing on vacant county land
Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez proposed a plan to use county-owned vacant lots as future sites for affordable housing. It was unanimously approved Tuesday. Photo by Katie Lauer.

There are nearly 80 acres of county-owned land sitting vacant – near hospitals and public transit – and now county lawmakers will look at turning it into apartments for homeless residents.

Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez presented a proposal at the Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday to look into building extremely low-income housing on that county-owned land.

Since the county already owns the land, she said her proposal for this round of Measure-A funded housing could happen at a much faster pace.

“I’m asking the staff to take a deep dive to look at 80 acres across the county that could be available for affordable housing,” Chavez said. “This is an opportunity for us to marry two resources that the public brought together and be able to move in a much more quick fashion.”

The proposal was approved unanimously at the meeting Tuesday.

The vote will have three main actions: examine five specific properties that Chavez has identified as viable options, reissue a 2015 board referral to compile an inventory of publicly-owned land in the county suited for affordable housing and add any other county property that officials find to be appropriate.

The five currently identified properties include vacant lots near East Santa Clara Street, the Valley Health Center Gilroy, St Louise Regional Hospital, DePaul Health Center and The Hub, the future site for a center for current and former foster youth.

Since these vacant locations are already near hospitals and transit corridors, Chavez said these units have extra built-in benefits and could offer easier access to both health care and transportation.

“We have a lot of people in our community who really are medically fragile, who would benefit from living closer to clinics or hospitals,” she said. “The other (opportunity) is taking a look at bus routes, access to freeways, being able to get people from one place to another and do some smart planning.”

County Supervisor Mike Wasserman agreed, and said he’ll push to build more housing for extremely low-income residents, whether it’s on land owned by the county or not.

“I’m supporting this because it says, ‘Administration, come back to the board with a list of properties where high density housing would be appropriate,'” Wasserman said. “I’m not closed minded to anything.”

The use of the county fairgrounds for homeless housing, which was the subject of a recent petition, was specifically not mentioned in this proposal because it has its own masterplan under consideration. The board said a decision on the fairground’s use can be expected in three months.

The vote Tuesday came less than a week after Chavez spoke at a forum on homelessness in San Jose, and alluded to this proposal. Now that the ball is rolling, Chavez is optimistic of this plan.

“The county of Santa Clara is interested in getting this work done,” she said. “This is really me just saying let’s prioritize opportunities for us to use public land because it may allow us to speed up the process.”

Contact Katie Lauer at klauer77@gmail.com or follow @katielauer77 on Twitter.

 

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