Santa Clara County supervisors voted unanimously on Tuesday to spend $ 23.2 million to buy a hotel in Mountain View and convert it into housing for the homeless, despite a wave of vocal opposition to the plan. the share of neighboring residents.
The vote at the Nov. 2 meeting sets in motion plans to transform the 66-room hotel into permanent supportive housing, creating apartments primarily for homeless county residents. The county is seeking to offset the costs by requesting $ 16.2 million in public funding and will secure financial assistance from the City of Mountain View to renovate hotel rooms.
While the project won many early backers from Mountain View City Council, preparations for the key county vote on Tuesday were marked by intense opposition from hundreds of nearby residents. During the hour-long public hearing, residents – most of whom live in Sunnyvale near Crestview – blasted the county for not listening to their concerns about public safety and the possibility of unsafe tenants living in the future apartment complex.
A flyer distributed prior to the meeting describes how Crestview is too close to high density residential housing, schools, parks and children’s playgrounds, describing local public and private schools in the vicinity of the hotel – including the Amy Imai Elementary School at Mountain Vue. Opponents of the project said they had collected more than 1,000 signatures from residents against the project in less than a week.
Speakers repeatedly urged supervisors to delay voting or abandon procurement plans altogether, and expressed fears that the project could be used to house high numbers of people with mental health issues. and drug addiction.
In a letter, resident John Chou told county supervisors that homeless housing should be moved to a “less populated” area, and that he did not understand why the county was looking to spend so much money on local residents. taxpayers to create an establishment that is located nearby. children in danger.
“Building a good neighborhood is very difficult and can be time consuming, but it’s so easy to destroy a good one just by one project like this,” Chou said.
Many residents stepped back and pleaded for what they described as much needed housing to stabilize the lives of people who have gone through difficult times. Sunnyvale resident Richard Mehlinger, a member of Livable Sunnyvale, said there was a lot of misinformation circulating about Crestview and that future tenants would undergo the same background checks as any other real estate development. Resident Scott Haiden said people are spreading fear of people with addiction issues.
“If we really want to help them, we will provide them with supportive housing to resolve any issues they are having,” Haiden said.
Resident Mark Farley, who has supported the hotel’s conversion, said the wave of opposition does not seem to understand that permanent supportive housing is taking homeless people off the streets, rather than luring them into the neighborhood.
“People think we are going to transport homeless people from Tenderloin to South Bay,” he said. “They’re not. These are people who have had medical emergencies, who have lost a job or two, the house they are renting has been sold below them – these are hard working people. with children. “
If built, Crestview would be the latest in a regional effort to convert hotels and motels, many of which are aging or run down, into homeless housing. These conversion projects are largely funded by California’s Homekey program, which encourages these developments as a relatively inexpensive and quick way to reduce the growing problem of homelessness in the state.
This would be the second Homekey project in Mountain View. Earlier this year, the city and the nonprofit LiveMoves received $ 12.4 million to build 100 modular housing units of temporary housing for the homeless, which today are nearly full and mainly serve to homeless people in the city of Mountain View.
Although Mountain View is playing a more limited role in the conversion of the Crestview Hotel, the city is still investing $ 3.7 million to rehabilitate the property once it has been purchased.
A constant complaint during the meeting was that the county lacked transparency and had not properly notified and informed the community of an upcoming hotel purchase. The intention to convert the property was first announced to the public in January, and since then the county has held community outreach meetings in March, August and October of this year. Almost 300 people attended the last of these meetings.
County supervisor Joe Simitian said there had been three board of supervisors meetings on the matter, as well as eight news articles, a county press release and postcards sent out to everyone unless 300 yards from the Crestview Hotel.
“I think at this point we have to agree that the project has been well and widely noticed,” Simitian said.
Simitian voted in favor of the project, but on condition that the county be transparent about how the project will affect the surrounding community, including a “community impact report” during the first 18 months of operation to keep track of everything. problem. He also called for annual meetings to allow residents to voice their concerns about the project.
Simitian added that he was concerned about the level of polarization caused by the hotel’s proposed conversion, and said it’s something the county will have to overcome in order to ensure the project is the best it can be.
Supervisor Otto Lee also called on residents, opposing or not, to stay engaged and ensure the project does not cause any kind of increase in waste or criminal activity. He reiterated that future tenants will go through a screening process and have no additional propensity to cause problems.
“The future residents will not be the so-called homeless or drug traffickers or passing felons, as stated in these flyers that we have seen on social media, because people like that will not pass the background check.” , Lee said.