Homeless housing advocates try to save San Jose building from demolition

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ByDavid Louie KGO logo
Monday, August 27, 2018
Homeless housing advocates try to save SJ building from demolition
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Santa Clara County leaders want to tear down an old, neglected building. However, housing advocates think it would be ideal to shelter the homeless.

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- Santa Clara County is finding itself being cast as not concerned about housing the homeless.

County leaders want to tear down an old, neglected building. However, housing advocates think it would be ideal to shelter the homeless.

San Jose's old City Hall was abandoned 12 years ago. With no maintenance done, the six-story annex structure has serious roof problems. Most of the building systems, such as air conditioning and heating, are beyond repair.

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Santa Clara County, which assumed ownership of the building, wants to tear it down as the cost to rehabilitate it would be in the tens of millions of dollars.

"You're looking at somewhere in the 60, $70 million range just to bring it back to what it was, an office building," said Miguel Marquez, chief operating officer of Santa Clara County.

Once the annex is razed, the land would be used for temporary parking. However, housing advocates believe the building could be turned into temporary housing for the homeless.

The owner of Garden City Construction doesn't see the structure as a lost cause. "The only reason we want to do this is because it's the right thing to do. Period. Period," said James Salata, the company's president.

Salata has been joined by members of the Affordable Housing Network of Santa Clara County, hoping for a chance to inspect the old City Hall Annex to do a feasibility study. They believe the building could house 120 to 140 homeless people.

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There would be "small rooms and not permanent affordable housing. Temporary housing only," explained Ron Johnson, vice president of the Affordable Housing Network.

The county argues repurposing the building for housing would trigger mandatory code upgrades and extensive repair to the electrical and air conditioning systems, which have suffered water damage.

There's also a concern that the low bid by a contractor to raze the building expires in a few weeks, and new bids would likely run considerably higher.

"Clearly, bursting at the seams here at our government center, if we could have reused the building, we would have," said Dave Snow, deputy director of facilities and fleet for Santa Clara County.

Housing advocates are hopeful they can get inside the annex building in a few days to inspect it. They've been given only two weeks to come up with a feasibility study before the Board of Supervisors meets to proceed with the demolition.

David Louie has more on this plan starting at 4 p.m. on ABC7 News. You can follow him on Twitter here.

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