(KRON) — Some union leaders and workers are demanding that San Jose officials develop a safety plan before the city constructs tiny homes in the Cerone Valley Transportation Authority Yard for hundreds of homeless residents.

The VTA Board of Directors approved the construction of 200 tiny homes for emergency interim housing on Thursday evening. The project has triggered safety and security concerns for VTA workers and surrounding neighbors.

“With no safety management plan being offered or funded by Mayor Matt Mahan and the lack of safety oversight by the City the San Jose, we are deeply concerned about the potential impacts of cramming hundreds of currently unhoused residents onto the Cerone VTA Yard,” said Jean Cohen, executive officer for the South Bay Labor Council.

Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority workers (File Photo by Justin Sullivan /Getty Images)

San Jose Mayor Matt Mahan is pushing hard to rapidly complete tiny homes projects.

Mahan recently wrote on his website, “This is a ‘Housing First’ approach. Some say we don’t have enough money to build sufficient shelter. That is not true. We don’t have the money to build enough ‘affordable’ housing units at the nearly $1 million per door local governments pay now. But we do have the resources to build secure individual cottages, casitas or safe sleeping units on public land. And these ‘quick-build’ projects work.” 

Mahan said he has joined community cleanups nearly every weekend since he became the city’s mayor. At encampments, “the artifacts of human misery are everywhere — trash, needles, human waste,” he wrote.

The South Bay Labor Council, which represents thousands of bus and light rail operators, mechanics, and staff members, also recognized a dire need for bringing the city’s unhoused population indoors. According to the county’s 2023 Point-in-Time homeless census, 7,401 people are unsheltered.

“Throughout Santa Clara County, we continue to grapple with the unhoused crisis and the immediate need to create housing opportunities for all residents. VTA unions and the South Bay Labor Council stand together to support initiatives aimed at helping unhoused residents to access homes, including the creation of emergency interim housing at various VTA sites throughout the County,” Cohen said.

VTA workers and union leaders said the mayor needs to guarantee safety and security in the Cerone VTA Yard before the 200 tiny homes open.

Cohen said, “Mayor Mahan needs to present a comprehensive funding plan for how the City of San Jose will guarantee the safety and security of the Cerone VTA Yard, VTA staff, and residents of the surrounding community, as well as provide comprehensive and accessible mental health treatment services for the future residents of the 200 tiny homes. Mahan’s poor planning and dismissive nature toward stakeholders is demonstrated by a lack of safety priorities.”

FBI agents work the scene of a mass shooting at the Valley Transportation Authority light-rail yard on May 26, 2021 in San Jose. (Photo by Philip Pacheco /Getty Images)

Workplace safety in the VTA yard made national news on May 26, 2021. A disgruntled VTA employee carried out a mass shooting in a San Jose rail yard and killed nine of his co-workers.

On Thursday night, the VTA Board of Directors approved the city’s tiny homes project for 7.2 acres of land in the Cerone yard with conditions. The unanimous vote granted the city a 5-year ground lease agreement.

The agreement was made under the following conditions:

  1. Approval of the security plan by the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority
  2. Approval of an operating plan by SCVTA with support services including, but not limited to:
    1. Mental health services
    2. Drug and alcohol rehabilitation services
    3. Food services
    4. Transportation services
  3. Approval of a termination and removal plan by SCVTA

The agreement also requires a phased opening approach to the facility and the establishment of a Safety Advisory Committee and a Community Advisory Committee.