City of Santa Clara moves forward with interim housing project despite community push back

The City of Santa Clara held a special meeting about a new interim project for unhoused people. But some in the community don’t support the project, citing safety concerns and the cost of the project. 

Dozens of residents attended the meeting, some of them vehemently against building the housing project in Santa Clara. The Council vowed to listen to people on both sides of the issue and make a decision Tuesday night.  

"If the City Council turns down the project, can the County build our project without our approval?" said Lisa M. Gillmor, Santa Clara City Mayor. 

Santa Clara’s City Council and residents for and against the proposed housing project wanted answers and a clearer picture of the project from the owner, Life Moves, the county and the city administrators. 

"As currently proposed, with the City as a co-sponsor with Life Moves, it’s our understanding that the City would be responsible with Life Moves with both cost overruns and as well as additional operating deficits," said Jovan Gorgan, Santa Clara City Manager.   

The housing project, called the Lawrence-Benton Homekey Project, would have 30 identical units and provide interim housing for 90 to 120 people or 30 families which must include a minor child. Jocelyn Arenas says she supports the project because she knows what it’s like to have no place to call home.  

"We lost everything. Moving one place to another, there were times when we had no beds and this is like, just giving people a chance to say I can come back and be normal again," said Jocelyn Arenas, from Lived Experience Advisory Board Silicon Valley.    

Affordable housing advocates at the meeting say they don't want more people to die because they're unhoused. 

"Last year, over 200 people died on the streets of Santa Clara County, and that’s just unacceptable. So we have to get people into housing," said Elysa Gurman, with Santa Clara Housing Advocates.  

The project will be located at Lawrence Expressway and Benton Street which neighbors say is a residential area with several schools and daycare centers.  

"The site is not a prison right? There’s no gate on that. You cannot guarantee, and you should not guarantee, people coming out of the site but have the freedom to walk on the street. It’s a low barrier. They don’t do background check at all, they don’t do drug tests, and you cannot evict people from the site," said Cindy, a Santa Clara resident.  

Some people walked out towards the end of the meeting as one council member explained why he supported the project. Vishal, a Santa Clara resident, says he lives less than half a mile away from the proposed project and doesn’t believe Life Moves has considered public safety enough.   


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"We are right behind the 7-11 in an ungated community. So that makes me worried about safety of myself, my kids, and my family. Nobody is answering that. Nobody is saying public safety will not be jeopardized whatsoever," said Vishal.    

Life Moves says increased crime or calls to the police have not been an issue at other housing projects. The council voted 4-3 to move forward with the project.