Will this San Jose VTA site become location for quick build housing community?

Zach Fuentes Image
Thursday, September 7, 2023
Will this San Jose VTA site become location for quick build community?
A big decision is set to be voted on Thursday that could bring more interim housing to a VTA site in San Jose.

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- A big decision is set to be voted on Thursday that could bring more interim housing to a VTA site in San Jose.

San Jose Mayor Matt Mahan says it could help house hundreds of unhoused people, but a VTA staff report highlights big concerns about using the land proposed.

VTA buses and light rail cars are seen throughout the South Bay when they're done running for the day, but they're held at different locations and the Cerone Division Bus Yard is one of the most unique.

"This is the only bus yard VTA has that has room to expand," Jim Lawson, VTA's chief of external affairs said.

The expansion room is why some are looking at the Cerone Yard as the site for a quick build, interim housing community.

Earlier this year, Governor Gavin Newsom committed state funding for 200 quick build units for unhoused individuals in San Jose.

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Mahan is a VTA board member and at Thursday's board meeting, he plans to push for the Cerone Yard to serve as that housing site.

"We have actually surveyed over 100 sites in the city of San Jose," Mahan said. "I can say with confidence, we have found no better site than Cerone."

But this VTA staff report says that's not the case.

"There's a lot of reasons why the site at Cerone is just not the right place," Lawson said.

VTA has already leased three other sites, two to the city of San Jose and one in Mountain View, for interim housing.

But they say the extra space at the Cerone Yard is spoken for.

"Within three years," Lawson said. "We have immediate needs for that site."

One main need he said is for massive facilities and charging equipment, all needed to comply with mandates to eventually convert to zero-emission vehicles.

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Still Mahan says until then, the city can put a third of the 17 acres to use.

"We are asking for a five-year lease," Mahan said. "At some point when federal funding comes through, and they design and bid a project and want to expand, if that comes to fruition, we will move the site if that's necessary, and that would be baked into the contract."

The VTA report also found that staff at the Cerone Yard had safety concerns over non-employees living near large vehicles constantly on the move.

According to the report, staff at the yard also had security concerns.

"The staff of VTA have been through a lot of extraordinary upheavals between COVID, we've had a data security breach, we've had a mass shooting, which still triggers people and gives them some concern," Lawson said. "So we did hear from our employees that a lot of them are concerned that this could be a trigger for many of the people who are there."

Mahan says though that quick build sites have been successful.

"There's really no safety risks from the folks who were there," he said. "They're very well-managed sites with security with case management."

The VTA board considers the proposal Thursday, if they vote in favor of leasing the Cerone site, Mahan says the quick build community could open sometime next year.

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