Alleged unsafe, unfair working conditions reported at SJ homeless housing project site

Dustin Dorsey Image
Thursday, March 14, 2024
Alleged unsafe, unfair working conditions reported at SJ housing site
Alleged unsafe and unfair working conditions are reported at a homeless housing project site in San Jose.

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- Unsafe, unfair working conditions are creating controversy at a San Jose housing project.

Work on San Jose's $70 million emergency interim housing site continues on Branham Lane.

The city's largest transitional housing project will feature 204 rooms within the three-story structures for hundreds of homeless people.

It was originally slated to open next month, but a look behind the fences shows there is still a lot of work to be done.

"You have non-compliant code issues," South Bay Piping Industry director of compliance Mauricio Velarde said. "You have mold. It's just horrible. Unfortunately, it seems to be a bigger problem though. Because we've had this exact same thing happen just down the street from that project at another modular housing project."

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Velarde is a watchdog for issues involving union workers, like what he saw with his own eyes at this project.

Workers first told him about the extensive building issues. They also voiced concerns over wage theft.

"My opinion is that it's simply greed," Velarde said. "It's simply greed. You have bad actors and the bottom line is to make as much money as possible, unfortunately at the expense of the taxpayer and ultimately the unhoused, the most vulnerable in our society."

At a Wednesday press conference, Mayor Matt Mahan once again pushed the importance of solutions for the unhoused - including quickbuild communities.

Despite a city press release saying the project would be open in April, Mahan now says opening day has always been this July.

MORE: New San Jose supportive housing complex changes lives of formerly unhoused seniors

When asked about the issues raised, he said the mold is likely due to the wet winter we had.

Mahan says the role of the city is to audit issues and make sure they're fixed.

"We need to make sure that every unit is safe and clean and dignified," Mahan said. "If any of those units do have mold or water damage, the contractor on site will have to replace them. If anybody has not been treated fairly, in terms of hours, pay or whatever it might be, we will make sure that the contractor makes that right."

Velarde hopes that's true for the workers' sake.

But he's still concerned that each of the two quickbuild communities he has investigated in the city had the same problems.

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