The City of San Jose's St. James Park is currently home to many of downtown's homeless individuals, and these individuals will be first in line to move into this new residential service facility featuring 78 permanent housing units and five interim housing units. Simultaneously housing and serving permanent and interim residents while addressing their differing needs was the primary design objective.
There is complete separation between the permanent housing units and interim housing units and their associated amenity spaces, in order to facilitate an atmosphere that helps the permanent residents to form a sense of community and stability as opposed to the inherently transitory nature of interim housing.
Design solutions combined with onsite services help residents transition from homelessness to living in a supportive community. For example, many formerly homeless experience anxiety when in enclosed spaces after what for many, has been years of living outdoors. Semi-enclosed spaces help ease that transition. As such, the design features:
- A semi-enclosed outdoor landscaped courtyard with the external access point secured via a decorative metal gate, designed by an artist.
- Stepped massing creating space for a rooftop deck with a view of St. James Park.
- Open-air circulation hallways, maximizing natural light in circulation areas as well as in units.
Maximized programmable space, achieving a total of 10,000 square feet, including:
- Office spaces and staff lounge for onsite property manager, case manager and other staff.
- Dedicated community room and secured lobby for permanent residents
- Shared laundry facilities on every floor.
- Space for visiting medical staff to provide health services.
- Sports services spaces that can combined into one space or separated into two.
- Multipurpose spaces that can be combined or separated as well as other flex spaces for events such as a farmers market to provide residents with fresh produce.
Minimized space dedicated to parking, as most residents will not own vehicles. Minimized staff parking impact (12 stalls) by placing 10 of 12 (1 EV stall) in a parking lift system.
Overcoming Community Opposition
A culmination of a collaborative partnership between developer, Affirmed Housing; support services provider, PATH Ventures; City of San Jose; and County of Santa Clara, Villas on the Park was the first 100% Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) project in downtown and only the second in San Jose. As the result of a highly successful community outreach campaign that turned the tide of community opposition, Villas received a unanimous 12-0 entitlement approval vote from City Council.
The ownership and design team conducted four community engagement meetings with the City and County advocating. Over 200 neighbors expressed strong concerns about proximity to their homes and the lowering of their home value. The team addressed concerns and demonstrated commitment to becoming good neighbors.
Over the course of these very well attended meetings there was a discernible shift in perception, and those who most vocally opposed the project became the most vocal advocates. These objectors-turned-supporters were instrumental in earning the support of their neighbors by the time of the last meeting. What won the opposition over, from a design perspective, was DAHLIN’s willingness to listen to concerns and make changes. Neighbors didn’t want a seven-story stucco box next to their homes that aesthetically didn’t belong. DAHLIN took a collaborative approach to ensure the design was not simplistic, boring or boxy. The beautiful design was truly influenced by the neighborhood input. The end result was a community that set aside their fears of PSH in their backyard and embraced the idea of housing the homeless.