News

Tensions flare over water district's homeless housing idea

Waverly Park residents say they're left with more questions than answers after raucous community meeting

Residents gave the Santa Clara Valley Water District a fiery and frustrated response Wednesday night to a proposal that would allow homeless residents to occupy homes in the Waverly Park neighborhood, making for a raucous meeting with shouting, testy exchanges, and eventually, a police presence.

Starting last year, the water district launched multiple efforts to address homelessness in Santa Clara County, citing both an obligation to help the county's most vulnerable residents and a need to keep waterways clean and clear of encampments. The most controversial of the proposals calls for the water agency to use 19 district-owned residential properties along Stevens Creek to house the homeless.

The district bought the properties between 1974 and 1989 and has since rented them out through a property management agency at a time when creek erosion was a serious problem. The district determined that buying and maintaining the properties would be an environmentally sound and cheaper alternative to a major construction project to install a concrete-lined channel and high retaining walls.

Under the new proposal, the water district would refer any home that becomes vacant to the Santa Clara County Office of Supportive Housing, which would determine whether the dwelling would be appropriate for housing the homeless.

Many neighboring residents, some living in the district-owned houses themselves, used the meeting as an opportunity to voice an avalanche of opposition to the plan. Chief among the concerns was that the single-family homes in a low-density neighborhood are uniquely unqualified, since the neighborhood is far from public transportation, grocery stores and homeless services.

More than 100 people packed the Feb. 15 meeting, held in the multipurpose room at Huff Elementary, demanding information about a proposal for which they had few details. There was no clarity, they argued, on whether the occupants would be homeless families or a handful of unrelated homeless men, and there was no explanation of what kind of vetting process would be used to determine who was a right fit for the neighborhood. Details were scant on what kind of services would be available for those dealing with mental health and substance abuse problems.

Jonathan Pharazyn, a Waverly Park resident and former teacher, said the families currently living in the district-owned homes are charged at below-market rates, and wondered how beneficial it would be to take an affordable rental property off the market essentially taking away one solution to the housing shortage in favor of helping the homeless.

Other residents laid into the water district staff for failing to properly explain was being proposed, leaving many in the dark about the very plan they were supposed to be giving feedback on at the meeting.

Water district representatives argued that homeless housing in Waverly Park was part of a larger mission to get homeless encampments out of the county's waterways, but several residents said there appeared to be a mismatch between the water district's goals and what was actually being suggested. The county's selection of homeless residents suitable for the properties doesn't pluck homeless people directly out of the creeks, and instead comes from a more broad selection process by Santa Clara County.

Comments

13 people like this
Posted by Ron
a resident of Waverly Park
on Feb 16, 2017 at 2:38 pm

Yes, the meeting was a complete mess. If you have a vague proposal, give few details, offer plans that don't seem very thought out, and ask for feedback, this is what you get. Facilitator's job was to minimize the shouting and try to maneuver the only table with a couple of supporters to have the last word (which did not work because even THAT table was majority against). People were upset at not getting a proper proposal, and facilitator kept repeating the same details, which were very vague and not a proper proposal, so it went in circles.

In the end the water district rep claimed they would make a vote and did not need city approval. They also said that if the city did not like it they could pass an ordinance to stop it. City Councilman there however said the city had already given their misgivings to the district, and had no idea what sort of ordinance could possibly block the district, so that claim did not seem in line.

I guess we wait for the other shoe to drop (district vote).


11 people like this
Posted by Richard
a resident of Waverly Park
on Feb 16, 2017 at 2:38 pm

The meeting could have been a great opportunity for the Water District to help the community understand their plan, solicit feedback and layout a timeline. Unfortunately the meeting was extremely poorly run and the Water District was woefully unprepared. I hope the Water District learned from this failed attempt and that the next community meeting will be much more productive for everyone.


19 people like this
Posted by confused
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Feb 16, 2017 at 3:10 pm

someone please help me understand how this is anything other than "not in my backyard".


14 people like this
Posted by the_punnisher
a resident of North Whisman
on Feb 16, 2017 at 3:32 pm

the_punnisher is a registered user.

Since this was a COUNTY meeting, why were the cities NOT notified and to put the meeting on city websites and the meeting was not posted on The Voice and PAO?
Or are they trying to shove the newer policy through without proper feedback? This meeting reeks of the latter conclusion. Next time such a meeting is made, have every resident be informed about what you are doing and give them the right to oppose such a plan. Remind them who is the boss: WE,THE PEOPLE!


22 people like this
Posted by Kate the Contrarian
a resident of Waverly Park
on Feb 16, 2017 at 4:38 pm

Too bad there weren't some advocates for a reasoned discussion. I certainly understand the NIMBY contingent. But we have a real problem. Seems to me that with proper vetting (where have we read that one before?), using these homes as they become vacant is not such a bad idea.

My church supports San Jose Family Supportive Housing. They take only homeless families (could be single parent, male or female); They're housed for 90 days, during which time they have to be actively working toward getting a job, training for a job, saving money for 1st and deposit, and doing all the things that prepare them to get back into housing. FSH provides all sorts of support and help to make this transition a reality.
There is a transitional apartment building, donated (maybe built) by the Sobrato family, that also helps move them into more permanent housing. It seems to me that these folks would be ideal in those houses.

Those of us who have done well in Silicon Valley have a moral obligation to explore reasonable solutions. Properly implemented, I think this is one avenue to help solve the homeless problem.


17 people like this
Posted by Kate
a resident of Waverly Park
on Feb 16, 2017 at 5:22 pm

Why not take the money that they raise from the rents from these homes and put it towards housing many more than they could by putting in these 2 million plus dollar homes?
There is a group of people that can pay for renting a home, but can not afford to purchase a house. These people could end up homeless if they didn't have homes like this available.
I personally would like to see the water district lower my water bill or investing in research and development for water resources.


4 people like this
Posted by Bob G
a resident of Waverly Park
on Feb 16, 2017 at 6:55 pm

I did not attend the meeting as I had a prior commitment. Having said that, I saw this as an opportunity for the "Christians" in our community to take a stand for the poor, unfortunate, and oppressed. Apparently, the Water District presented a weak case and turmoil ensued. Their bad! Still, we're not talking about a wholesale influx of addicts! These same attendees will criticize "Delusional Donald" for his hatred of Islamic immigrants while attacking those among us who may have been victimized by circumstances beyond their control. I side, not with the Water District, but with the victims of today's politics/economics.


12 people like this
Posted by IVG
a resident of Rex Manor
on Feb 16, 2017 at 8:47 pm

This is what happens when a water district becomes both a residential property manager and a homeless services provider. If they want to help the homeless, instead of refunding their rental income to customers (us), they should transfer the money to a competent agency.


14 people like this
Posted by Jack Cormode
a resident of Waverly Park
on Feb 16, 2017 at 9:52 pm

At least one person pointed out the inconsistency of taking below-market housing
units and handing them over to homeless people in transition.
This is a zero sum game of housing. What about the people who desperately need below-market housing while gainfully employed? We are taking away a resource and
giving it to others, but hurting those who have been getting housed. Creating a problem while attempting to solve another.


9 people like this
Posted by Good plan
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Feb 16, 2017 at 10:34 pm

I'm happy that the properties will house those in need, rather than a handful of middle class families that are lucky to rent at below market rate.

It sounds like our local Trump supporters were at the meeting in force (in addition to trolling Town Square). The water district is trying to help the homeless situation. They should be applauded.


8 people like this
Posted by Republican not Trumpet
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Feb 17, 2017 at 8:41 am

@Good Plan you might be surprised at how many NIMBY urban Democrats that there are
This is not the Waverly Park Water District. It is a full county wide district. I pay taxes (as a property owner) to support the common good of flood control of the Stevens Creek. I get no direct benefit from those taxes as I don't live near a creek or flood zone (glad to support the common cause however).

Just because you may live in Waverly Park, near Stevens Creek does not give you veto rights on how this COUNTY district uses our property held in (temporary) trust for the common good. You may realize that YOUR PROPERTY VALUES are increased, by the flood control that MY PROPERTY TAXES pay for.


4 people like this
Posted by KD
a resident of Waverly Park
on Feb 17, 2017 at 2:56 pm

A good article by MV Voice.

SCVWD representatives appeared unprepared for requests for information from the attendees. Specifically, they were unable to cite the language of the resolution for which they were ostensibly seeking community input.

Here for reference, is a link to the Homeless Encampment Ad Hoc Committee’s Recommendations for Board Action as presented at the 11/22/2016 meeting of the SCVWD board meeting.

Web Link

Of note, and of interest to those in attendance, is this statement:

"When suitable District residential rental properties are identified and become available, the District may provide the County the first right of refusal to lease them for the purpose of housing the homeless, preferably homeless who have previously encamped along the waterways in the County.

A representative of the Housing Authority of the County of Santa Clara, when given the floor, stated that his mandate was to provide housing for families, using funds from programs described here:

Web Link

It appeared to me (and many in the room) that he was surprised that he was to give preference to "homeless who have previously encamped along the waterways" as opposed to families (presumably larger families, as many of these houses are 3 and 4 bedrooms) seeking housing assistance from the County.

Unresolved was whether the Housing Authority can justify spending $4,000 - $6,000 per month (an amount that the SCVWD should be collecting, as a steward of public funds) to house people in homes with market values in excess of $1,500,000.




8 people like this
Posted by Resident for 29 years
a resident of Waverly Park
on Feb 17, 2017 at 3:12 pm

"Democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not." –Thomas Jefferson


14 people like this
Posted by @Resident for 29 years
a resident of Monta Loma
on Feb 17, 2017 at 5:08 pm

You've been out of school too long, since that's just a made-up quote from Tea Partiers...

But, hey, it sounds great and slapping a founding father gives it some gravitas.

"You must house homeless people in the houses owned by the Santa Clara Valley Water District" - Abraham Lincoln


3 people like this
Posted by Resident for 29 years
a resident of Waverly Park
on Feb 17, 2017 at 6:08 pm

@ a resident of Monte Loma

Correct. Not a direct quote. Synopsis of direct quote: "To take from one, because it is thought that his own industry and that of his fathers has acquired too much, in order to spare to others, who, or whose fathers have not exercised equal industry and skill, is to violate arbitrarily the first principle of association, — the guarantee to every one of a free exercise of his industry, & the fruits acquired by it." - Thomas Jefferson from Destutt Tracy's Political Economy (1816)


10 people like this
Posted by @Resident of 29 years
a resident of Monta Loma
on Feb 17, 2017 at 6:22 pm

Yeah, that's not even close to a "synopsis" of that quote. And usually when people are providing "synopses" they don't put quotes around the statement and an attribution. Just admit you got caught pulling out a fake quote you saw on some Tea Party Facebook post, and move on.

"Democracy will cease to exist when the founding fathers are falsely quoted." - George Washington


6 people like this
Posted by Resident for 29 years
a resident of Waverly Park
on Feb 17, 2017 at 6:48 pm

@ Resident of Monte Loma

Although you could argue the quote is suspect, it pre-dates "Tea Party" affiliations as it was attributed to TJ in "Dreams Come Due: Government and Economics as if Freedom Mattered" by John Galt


6 people like this
Posted by Nora S.
a resident of Rex Manor
on Feb 17, 2017 at 8:50 pm

“If there’s one thing that really annoys me, it’s misattribution of quotations.” – Julius Caesar


6 people like this
Posted by Resident for 29 years
a resident of Waverly Park
on Feb 17, 2017 at 9:25 pm

If the Santa Clara County Water District is truly interested in housing the homeless, it would be more effective to sell the 19 homes valued at approx. 2M each and use the 38M to purchase a large apartment/condo complex. (There is a 56 unit building for sale in Mountain View for 27M). They could use the remaining funds to prevent creek erosion which is what they should have done initially.


12 people like this
Posted by @Resident for 29 years
a resident of Monta Loma
on Feb 17, 2017 at 10:19 pm

I don't know, Honest Abe was pretty clear on what we should do.


12 people like this
Posted by Sensible
a resident of Monta Loma
on Feb 18, 2017 at 8:38 am

Resident for 29 years, don't bother trying to explain, you're making too much sense when everyone else just wants to give things away because it sounds good and warm and fuzzy.


9 people like this
Posted by Lives Elsewhere
a resident of another community
on Feb 18, 2017 at 1:04 pm

I work in Mountain View. I don't live in Waverly Park, but am very familiar with the neighborhood. My wife grew up there and my in-laws still live there.

The residents of Waverly Park purchased here for the usual reasons. It’s schools, parks, hospital and community. For many, it represents a lifelong investment. The residents here have a right to be concerned about what affects their neighborhood and property values. The lack of means in others does not obligate the residents to disregard these concerns.

I would love to live in Waverly Park, but I can't afford it. I've worked hard, went to school and have a decent job, but this does not entitle me to live where I cannot afford. Just because I work in Mountain View doesn't mean I have a right to live there. That means anywhere... any neighborhood, city, or state where I cannot afford to live.

I believe the Water District could do more, much more if they want to help address the homelessness in the county. Sell the homes in Waverly Park and use that money (to fix the creek) and to house or purchase housing for a greater number of those in need. Did I mention fix the creek, which is what they should have done decades ago.


4 people like this
Posted by Residents
a resident of Waverly Park
on Feb 18, 2017 at 1:22 pm

I mean, if the other residents of Waverly Park want to say that they don't want to have to live among homeless or poor people, that's entirely within their rights. It's disgusting and sad, but we'll within their rights to feel that way. But they shouldn't couch it in faux righteousness about "doing more" to help the homeless.

The people of Waverly Park complaining about this are selfish and don't really care about the homeless. It's standard NIMBY nonsense, and pretending otherwise is disingenuous at best.


4 people like this
Posted by dennis
a resident of Monta Loma
on Feb 18, 2017 at 1:31 pm

There is no solution that would be favorable to all. The poor will always be with us, and the great majority of these homeless are young to middle aged males living as they desire in a state of alcoholic and drug ridden anarchy that is governed by the survival of the fittest. Violence always raises it's ugly head as these populations grow and make the areas they take over literal garbage dumps. The vast majority of these individuals are unable to be vetted due to mental illness and basic unwillingness to change their state of living. Through all our social deliberations of liberalized "do goodiness" is always taken advantage of, attract more contributers to the initial problem, and in the end often creates a greater headache for all parties. The only practical answer to all conflict is to destroy these encampments, clean-up the mess, make it a criminal offense therefore nipping in the bud these encampments before they take hold; period! Results are proven and this get tough policy will work if totally enforced; strength and consequences are the way of the street and what the "homeless" understand and respect, but only if strongly enforced to the letter of the law. It is the only solution for the overall benefit of the community.


2 people like this
Posted by Lives Elsewhere
a resident of another community
on Feb 18, 2017 at 1:54 pm

@Residents

If we set aside emotion and the intent to shame others, a viable solution can be implemented.

My proposal offers the following:

-Addresses neighborhood concerns
-Fixes the creek (corrects erosion)
-Houses the homeless


4 people like this
Posted by Residents
a resident of Waverly Park
on Feb 18, 2017 at 2:06 pm

Jesus, Dennis.

The vast majority of those being housed are families. That you are ignoring facts in service of a dehumanizing narrative shows the sad state of the dialogue here. It's a lot easier to furiously type rants with one hand while fantasizing violence being dished out to the less fortunate.


6 people like this
Posted by Public Agency
a resident of Cuernavaca
on Feb 18, 2017 at 2:08 pm

As a public agency, the Water District has an obligation to make the highest and best use of it's (financial) assets. That is not what's happening here.


4 people like this
Posted by Residents
a resident of Waverly Park
on Feb 18, 2017 at 2:27 pm

@Public Agency,

Wow, can you link us to the financial analysis you ran? It sounds like it was pretty in-depth, balancing risk and ROI for various options.


5 people like this
Posted by Sensible
a resident of Monta Loma
on Feb 18, 2017 at 4:17 pm

Oh Dennis and Lives elsewhere, there you go making too much common sense again. Can't you go with Resident and make the emotional, ridiculous decisions as he keeps insisting on?

Snarky, I know. But honestly Resident, what is your issue with the suggestions that make so much more sense and would provide even more assistance? What is this insistence that these people actually live HERE, in a neighborhood that they can't afford. Why wouldn't you support suggestions that would allow not just the few but MANY more to have homes in a more affordable place?


6 people like this
Posted by dennis
a resident of Monta Loma
on Feb 18, 2017 at 4:32 pm

[Portion removed due to disrespectful comment or offensive language]
Look, I know the streets, I have lived on the street. The families in need in Santa Clara County are being taken care of. They are not the ones that proliferate these encampments and disgraceful vehicles being lived in primarily in Mountain View and elsewhere causing a blight parked up and down residential streets. These primarily men don't give a rats behind about shelter until it gets too cold. They want their freedom to pick-up their monthly checks, snap, access medical care, etc and be able to pursue their lives of alcoholism and drug use. Go to these encampment areas when they are doing cleanup to get the squatters, yes squatters, and you'll see mounds of feces, liquor bottles, and enough syringes that one would think it was the needle dump of all the diabetics in the county. Please, checkout the history of the "homeless" in Santa Cruz until they got tough. San Francisco has always stayed the black hole of liberal attitudes of throwing money at the homeless that has nothing but backfired as the word got out decades ago. And to what end, tourists having to dodge human feces on the sidewalk and urine on their doorsteps. Many of these people are just plain old fashioned bums that liberals politically proper fuzzy wuzzy idealism can't seem to fathom. Once again many of the people are men, will take a mile if given an inch, will commit crimes of opportunity, and sneer at the thought of being vetted. And for those that still think I am wrong, just invite some of these "homeless" to move in with you to help them or camp in your backyard, and you will soon find out if not sooner or later ripped off, and seeing your residence dramatically losing its pretty middle class look. We need to get tough and correct this now! Quoting Barney Fife;"nip it in the bud."


4 people like this
Posted by Residents
a resident of Waverly Park
on Feb 18, 2017 at 4:36 pm

@Sensible, ah, yes, the "common sense" of Dennis's suggestion that the cops destroy these people's property and go cracking skulls in homeless encampments. Honestly, read that whole rant and tell me that it's "common sense." He wants to criminalize being poor.

This is all bog-standard NIMBY nonsense: the people complaining about this have an objection to homeless and poor people living among them, end of story. Everyone claims things like it being a better use of funds to do things like buy an apartment building(!) with zero rigorous analysis supporting them.


2 people like this
Posted by Residents
a resident of Waverly Park
on Feb 18, 2017 at 4:39 pm

Fantastic! Dennis came back with another rant while I was typing. He even managed to pull in our hard-working neighbors that have been priced out of our community and as a result need to live in their vehicles.

Take a look at that wall of dehumanizing, denigrating text, and tell me that's the person you want to agree with.


5 people like this
Posted by Gary
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Feb 22, 2017 at 12:03 am

Gary is a registered user.

What deceptive, manipulative politician or bureaucrat came up with the term "NIMBY"? How about this as a new rule? When politicians or bureaucrats come up with a plan for someone else's backyard, it must include their own backyard. Literally. In this case, that would mean that a plan for housing the homeless in this neighborhood would include homeless persons staying in the backyard (or guest house) of each member of the Board of Directors of the SCV Water District and each of its employees including Mountain View Councilmember Pat Showalter. How would that vote turn out?


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