The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to move forward with plans to buy Crestview Hotel in Mountain View in order to convert it into permanent housing for people who are homeless.
Efforts to repurpose the hotel began in October last year, when the property owner offered to sell Crestview to the city for conversion into homeless housing. The county has since led the effort, and is slated to acquire the property next month from High Desert Motel Group, LLC.
Along with announcing the intent to purchase the site, county supervisors also voted to apply for state funding to help pay for the hotel purchase, publicly revealing how much it's going to cost to buy the property. The county is expecting to receive $16.2 million through California's Homekey program, and anticipates pouring $7 million of its own housing bond money into buying the hotel.
Crestview, located at 901 E. El Camino Real near the border with Sunnyvale, is a 66-room hotel on 1.36 acres of land next door to a small strip mall that would be part of the purchase. The current plan is to convert the hotel suites into 66 individual housing units. The city of Mountain View agreed earlier this year to pitch in $3.7 million to the effort, specifically for rehabilitating the property.
The county will have to move fast once it's awarded Homekey funds. The money is meant for "rapidly" expanding the housing available for people experiencing homelessness through the conversion of hotels and motels, according to county officials, and there is a fast eight-month deadline after acquiring Crestview to complete all rehabilitation work and make it available for occupancy.
Reaction to the project has been mixed. During community meetings on the Crestview Hotel conversion, numerous speakers praised the proposal for getting homeless residents off the streets and in stable housing. Others feared it would cause safety problems in the neighborhood, and raised concerns that the future tenants will have serious mental illness, drug addiction problems and may even have a higher propensity to commit crimes.
Public comments at the Oct. 5 board meeting were unanimously positive. Bill Hilton, a Sunnyvale resident who lives one mile from Crestview, said the hotel conversion has the potential to reduce homeless camping and other makeshift shelters that have cropped up in the area, and will help treat homeless people with more compassion. Nancy Noe, a Mountain View resident, said many of the unhoused people in the area are the working poor who fell into homelessness and need help to stabilize their lives. She disputes the idea that permanent supportive housing at Crestview would cause problems for the neighborhood.
"In my experience, whenever housing or services for low income individuals are proposed, there are concerns in the surrounding neighborhoods about the possibility of increasing crime and lowering of property values," Noe said in a letter to county supervisors. "I don't know of any instances in our community where those dire concerns have come to pass."
The county's effort to buy the property has won the support of the Mountain View City Council, with Mayor Ellen Kamei sending a letter of strong support to acquire the hotel. She pointed out that nearly 6,500 households in Mountain View are considered extremely low income, and that many are just one medical emergency or layoff away from losing their home.
"This risk touches a wide range of people in the city and throughout the county, such as those working in the service sector, families with children and many others," Kamei wrote.
County Supervisor Joe Simitian supported the plans to buy the Crestview Hotel and apply for state funding to defray the costs, but said the county has an obligation to get as much community buy-in as possible. Because so many of the project's details have yet to be determined, county officials have been hard-pressed to answer many of the community's questions, he said, and it's important to update the public as frequently as possible.
"We've got a little bit of a chicken-and-egg challenge here in that folks in the community understandably have questions, and some of those questions can't be answered until there's greater clarity from our county about the future use of the site," Simitian said.
County supervisors are scheduled to formally vote on the acquisition of Crestview on Nov. 2.