Dozens of North San Jose residents want to prevent a tiny homes project in their neighborhood, and even a councilmember is  objecting to the plan.

District 4 Councilmember David Cohen will ask his colleagues at Wednesday’s Rules and Open Government Committee meeting to pause plans for homeless housing on Noble Avenue. The city council approved the site in June without any public hearings or community outreach, leaving residents in the dark. Cohen and Councilmember Matt Mahan voted against it.

“We’re asking to do additional outreach, to pause work on this site while we really look into the history of this and whether we want to set the precedent of converting park land into other uses,” Cohen said.

This is not the first time the city tried to build a homeless housing site on Noble Avenue. In 2015, residents fervently rallied against an interim housing proposal and San Jose listened. Cohen said for that reason, the city should’ve been sensitive to neighbors and done additional outreach again.

“The community had this battle before and the city moved it to somewhere else—therefore they deserved an additional level of communication,” Cohen told San Jose Spotlight. “This site is also unique because while yes, other sites are near some neighborhoods, they are also near major highways or other kinds of infrastructure that this site is not near. This is a different kind of site than the other sites across the city and therefore it requires a different kind of effort from the city.”

With increasing homelessness, San Jose has an ambitious goal to construct 1,000 tiny homes in the next year—100 in each district. San Jose already has 397 tiny homes at five locations. Tiny homes are much faster—and cheaper—to build compared to a traditional home.

Cohen said while he fully supports tiny homes and wants to welcome more into his district, the Noble site isn’t a good fit. The chosen site at 14630 Noble Ave. is lodged between two elementary schools and steps away from the Berryessa Branch Library and Noble Park. Cohen said his office identified about 10 other sites that could work better.

His biggest qualm is that the site is at a park, one the city has already invested in maintaining and improving over the last 20 years.

“People use these trails around the ponds to hike, to walk their dogs. There’s people who go fishing there,” Cohen said. “In fact, at the school across the street, some of the teachers bring their students here during their classes to experience the open space and be away from the normal classroom environment.”

Dozens of residents with handmade signs joined Cohen at Noble Park today to speak against the site’s proximity to community centers and schools.

“It is a safe and quiet neighborhood now where children walk to the library without supervision,” resident Zhulin Peng said. “We don’t want to put them at risk.”

He said he is sympathetic to homeless residents and is not opposed to tiny homes in general. He just doesn’t want one across the street from where his 6-year-old goes to school. Peng said he drove through his district to help identify other places he believes may be better suited for tiny homes. He found four that he shared with Cohen.

He and other neighbors hope the city will change direction with Cohen’s push, but understand it’s an uphill battle. If the city votes to move forward with plans, neighbors say they are prepared to sue.

“This is not a dictatorship, this is democracy,” said Xin Wang, a resident for 20 years. “There was no public hearing. All the residents in this neighborhood did not even know this was happening until we saw the news. But we do not want it. It’s our neighborhood—not theirs.”

The San Jose Rules and Open Government Committee meets Wednesday at 2 p.m.

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