Residents, retailers mixed about potential purchase of San Jose affordable housing sites

Standing in a small parking lot near his San Jose apartment complex, Jessie Osornio said that during smoke breaks he’s seen people using drugs in and around a dilapidated building over the years that sits right beside his residence.

The broken down two-story structure with a black-and-white striped awning on 750 West San Carlos St. has broken windows and part if it is charred from a fire that happened three years ago, a nearby business owner said.

It’s one of two buildings in the city, including another still-intact property roughly six miles south on 3090 South Bascom Ave., that the Santa Clara County Supervisors will vote Tuesday on whether to purchase for a combined $11 million.

If the county makes the buy, it would lease the sites back to developers and create 159 units of affordable housing.

Osornio, who has lived for three years on West San Carlos St. and would be residing right next to the affordable housing development, promised to be 80 units, said he is in full support of the county’s purchase.

Half of the units would be for those making 50% of the area median income, while the other half would be rapid rehousing units for homeless individuals and families. The developer, The Danco Group, is a California-based company that specializes in housing for low-income residents.

“I’ll be glad when it’s torn down,” Osornio said about the existing building between puffs of his smoke. “It’s been like this since I’ve been here. Affordable housing is needed.”

Looking up at his apartment building, he said its “definitely not affordable.” The average rent for a two bedroom in his complex exceeds $3,500 a month, said Osornio.

Others near the dilapidated site also support the project, including the owner of the truck driving school Timothy Ramirez, whose business sits directly beside the site, as well as Ricardo Alexander Duran, who owns a gym across the street.

However, an employee at a feed and supply store also across the road said they opposed the development and said other areas should instead be considered.

“Stop putting it in San Jose,” said Sam’s Downtown Feed & Pet Supply cashier Adrienne Lambert. “Why not in all the affluent areas? Put it there. I’m sick and tired of it being here. I’m tired of all my tax money going for all the homeless people here. I live here. I don’t mind helping them. But I’d like to help them in another city, too.”

The funding for the two sites — $5.5 million for the West San Carlos St. and $5.45 million for South Bascom Ave. — would come from Measure A funds, a housing bond approved by voters in 2016 that puts $950 million towards combatting the county’s housing and homelessness crisis.

So far, the county has committed a large chunk of the pot, $666 million, towards housing projects, including 34 developments and 3,600 new and rehabilitated homes. A large majority of the developments funded from Measure A that are completed, under construction or in a pre-construction phase are located in San Jose, while a few others are in San Martin, Gilroy and Mountain View.

SAN JOSE, CA – November 11: The building at 3090 South Bascom Avenue in San Jose, Calif., which was formerly occupied by Guitar Showcase, is one of two affordable housing development projects that Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors will be voting on next Tuesday. (Dai Sugano/Bay Area News Group)

A 10-minute drive south at South Bascom Ave. sits a beige and brown commercial space previously owned by longstanding retailer Guitar Showcase.

If purchased by the county, the development by the San Diego-based Affirmed Housing Group would create 11 permanent supportive housing units, 23 rapid rehousing units, five units set aside for veterans, four units for those earning half of the area median income and 34 units for those making 60 percent of the area median income.

Aside from concerns about how the development of the site will impact his business, Guitar Showcase Director of Operations and Executive Vice President Dave Zimmerman said that he is open to the project.

“The construction of course will be a challenge,” said Zimmerman.

But homeowners in the area are a bit more skeptical.

Matt Loera, who lives in a one-story home directly behind where the proposed project would be located, said that in general, the surrounding community was fine with the project as long as they could convince the developers to decrease the height of the building — a battle that they ended up losing.

While Loera said that the space is a “good use” of commercial space and acknowledged the area’s lack of affordable housing, his biggest concerns is how an injection of over possibly hundreds of more people is going to affect the area’s parking.

“It’s gonna get trafficky, fast,” Loera said as he peered over to the area from his backyard. “There’s good with density, there’s bad with density.”

Carmina Pascual, whose fence runs right along where the proposed development is located, said that she’s most concerned with privacy, as well as the impact the project could have on her property values. She thinks residents of the site will have an intimate view of her one-story home.

“Bad, good, rich, poor,” said Pascual about the residents, “it’s still privacy.”

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