The city hall annex in San Jose.

Matt Bigler/KCBS Radio

San Jose 'City Hall' Could House The Homeless Under Revived Plan

Matt Bigler
March 26, 2019 - 10:57 am

SAN JOSE — The idea of turning the city's old City Hall building into housing for the homeless is gaining traction again.

There was talk last summer about potentially turning the City Hall annex building into a homeless shelter, but the county at the time believed the building was "beyond its useful life." 

In September, Santa Clara County supervisors voted to tear down the annex building and use the space for a temporary parking lot. 

But now, they want to look at the possibility of also building supportive housing on the site. 

Shaunn Cartright, a Santa Clara County homeless advocate, told KCBS Radio that it's time to put this site into good use. 

"Its just seems like a win-win," she said. "It's a strategic location it's next to all services, like transportation. There's no other location like this. It's a prime spot for a public-private partnership with the money provided by philanthropists." 

Related: San Jose Looks To Tiny Cabins To Help Homeless People

The Sobrato Foundation and Garden City Construction have offered about $20 million to renovate and retrofit the six-story building as a homeless shelter. 

"We can turn that into 150 individual and family apartments to house these people," Cartwright said. 

But there is a problem with that plan: The building is in the process of being torn down. 

"Back in 2015 we had an outside consultant come in and do an assessment [of the building]," Miguel Márquez, Chief Operating Officer of the County of Santa Clara, told KPIX-5. "Using the annex itself, given the condition of the building, which is very, very poor -  it's not from the county's view the right vehicle." 

That assessment reportedly found that it would cost $50 million to make the building habitable again. That figure, though, has been disputed. 

The county now has a feasibility study in the works, according to the San Jose Spotlight. The study's aim is to determine the best locations for homeless housing. The City Hall site is party of that study. One idea is to build tiny homes to house up to 75 people on the site once the building is gone. But some San Jose city leaders are reportedly questioning the decision to tear down the annex to make a parking lot, only to turn the parking lot into tiny homes.

Written by Diana Shook