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San Jose homeless housing project on Evans Lane wins planners’ OK

A proposal to redesignate a 6-acre site on Evans Lane near the Canoas Garden neighborhood so temporary dwellings can be set up for about 200 homeless people passed a hurdle last week.

The San Jose Planning Commission voted 4-1 on May 4 to support changing the property from neighborhood/community commercial to mixed-used neighborhood. The proposal goes to the city council on June 14.

Residents who attended the commission’s meeting had mixed feelings about the proposal. Some who live near the site said they fear it will result in more crime and lower property values, while others welcomed it.

Homeowner Katie Galli said she was upset because the city did not disclose its plan for the site when it notified neighbors about the proposed rezoning.

“The people in my neighborhood were only told that this is going to change land use from commercial to mixed use,” Galli told the Resident. “That’s all my neighbors thought, so they thought, ‘Great–apartments, shops, cute.’ They were not told anything about the homeless community. We pay some of the highest property taxes in all of San Jose, so why put it there?”

Jennifer Loving, executive director of the nonprofit Destination Home and a resident of the area, told commissioners the homelessness epidemic has traumatized the entire community, and the only solution is to build more housing.

“I want the folks that are living outside all around me right now to have more opportunities for places for them to live,” Loving said. “We can’t end homelessness without creating more housing.

The Rev. Robert Mize, pastor of nearby Cathedral of Faith on Canoas Garden Avenue, said he was “excited” about the project but urged officials to “use wisdom” regarding the location of housing. He suggested they instead consider some of the 30 city-owned surplus properties not being used.

“I think that will be a better thing to do instead of dragging more people into an already very populated area,” Mize said.

Renita Fleming, who has been camping on the front lawn of Grace Baptist Church in downtown San Jose for several years, said she has experienced multiple health problems including Type 1 diabetes, two strokes and a cancer diagnosis. She said living outdoors is detrimental to her well being and implored the commission to approve the land use change so she might have a chance to get better.

“My life is on the line, and I’m still sick right now,” Fleming said. “We all deserve a chance, and right now I need a chance to get inside.”