(BCN) — Noble Park in San Jose should remain an open space for the community, rather than become the grounds for a tiny-home project for unhoused residents, city councilmember David Cohen said in a news conference Monday.
In June, the city council voted 8-2 to expand upon its tiny home villages — totaling to 400 units for the unhoused — in efforts to mitigate the rising rates of homelessness in San Jose. One quarter of these homes would be developed on a new site on Noble Avenue, near Penitencia Creek Trail and between the Dr. Robert Gross Ponds.
A previous proposal for temporary housing in the area was immediately met with backlash from community members, as the area is across the street from Noble Elementary, a block away from the Berryessa Library and next to a popular recreation site. Cohen argues that the park is a “connected system that’s important for the community,” and though the site is in close proximity to resources and amenities, the city can find a spot elsewhere that won’t take away open land for the neighborhood.
“It’s important for us to preserve all the open space we have as a community. We talk as a city about the desire to preserve and protect our open space, and have open space across the city. It sets a bad precedent if we take space that’s been dedicated as parkland and convert it into other uses,” Cohen said in the news conference.
Cohen submitted a memo for Wednesday’s Rules Committee meeting, pleading for staff members to immediately stop development, invest more in community outreach and look for viable alternatives. Wednesday is the city council’s first meeting since summer recess, and on the agenda is a discussion on how to approach the interim housing project.
“We’re hoping that my fellow rules committee members will agree that this is a prudent course of action, and that we will be able to explain to them that this is more than unused, surplus land but actually a park,” Cohen said at a news conference.
He specified that he has confidence in the interim housing project as a whole, and recognizes the need for expanding housing services. Cohen also said that community members need to have a seat at the table with discussions on housing projects. He said that residents were the ones who taught him how much the park has developed over the years, like the recent tree plantings and amenity installations.
“Most of my council colleagues really don’t know the land. They trust that the staff is doing the proper research,” Cohen said. “It’s important for the neighbors to help them as a council understand how this park is used, how important it is as far as preserving open space here in our city, and that it’s not the ideal site to do this housing program.”
He said there are nine to 10 sites in his district that are larger than an acre and have potential to host 100 or more units. He’s asking the council to review one potential site on Montague Expressway, another on King Road and a few in North San Jose that are owned by private developers.
But regardless of where a site is selected, Cohen said he fully anticipates initial resistance from community members. He hopes to mitigate this with more community outreach – things like presentations that explain how these sites are important, and how they’ll be managed.
“Certainly they’re going to have to overcome that natural fear, no matter what site is built,” Cohen said.
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