Raj Chahal Leads Opposition to Santa Clara Affordable Housing Project on Civic Center Drive

By Robert Haugh

Last night, Council Member Raj Chahal led the effort against an affordable housing project in his district.

Charities Housing wants to construct a five-story 100 percent affordable housing development at 1601 Civic Center Drive. They propose to build 108 apartments with 82 parking spaces on a 1.4-acre parcel.

Proposed development at 1601 Civic Center Drive

The site currently has a two-story office building that’s been vacant since 2019 with a surface parking lot that would be demolished and replaced.

Existing site at 1601 Civic Center Drive

Neighborhood residents who oppose the project circulated a petition last year asking that the City study putting a neighborhood park there.

According to a resident who contacted us, Chahal encouraged them to do so. 

But City staff could not study the proposal because of personnel shortages according to Interim and part-time City Manager Rajeev Batra. The property is privately owned.

Affordable housing advocates pushed for the City Council to approve the project last night. They cited the need to move quickly to secure funding for the project. They also want Santa Clara to help address the housing shortage and homeless crisis. 

But Chahal convinced the City Council majority that the park issue has to be studied and decided first. The two choices were November 1 or November 15. 

The City Council voted 4-3 to place the affordable housing project on the November 15 agenda for action. 

The park study and issue will be agendized for October 18 or November 1. 

Chahal was joined by Mayor Lisa Gillmor and Councilmembers Anthony Becker and Kevin Park in voting yes.

Vice Mayor Suds Jain and Councilmembers Karen Hardy and Kathy Watanabe voted no.

19 comments

  1. Was surprised when SCN published this story. Raj Chahal was walking my neighborhood last Saturday and his flyers and long-standing position (since 2018) is in support of homelessness and affordable housing. How can he be leading the opposition? So, I watched the council video (link below), and you can see it happening.

    Timeline

    1:34:00 Raj Chahal request for continuance to delay discussion on agenda item 6 to discuss “Charities housing project”
    1:36:40 Becker seconds motion
    1:37:30 Public comment on motion to continuance
    1:37:40 Public commenter 1: Request to clarify action related to motion to continuance, take “Charities housing project” and continue / move to a meeting in the future
    1:38:10 Public commenter 1: Vigorously oppose that, in position to make presentation this evening, on schedule requiring interact county and state regarding financing, important decision made tonight, (both parties) prepared for it, important to move forward with discussion
    1:38:50 Mayor Gillmor asks for clarification if motion is for continuance to a certain time?
    Raj Chahal, continuance to move to after next item to next meeting
    Mayor Gillmor, do we have from staff when next meeting will, could be 6m from now? Any staff work on other item?
    City manager, no (work done on other item), referred to staff and put on “yet to be set” priorities session. No specific date specified. Need to review then go back to “charities housing project”.
    1:39:50 Public commenter 1: In conclusion (to clarification), issue clarified, additional information can be provided this evening, report provide and discussion with neighbors in questioning period, ripe for decision and doesn’t need context beyond hearing tonight.
    1:40:40 Public commenter 2: 2nd, strongly oppose continuance, people prepared to speak for and against, developer prepared for hearing, hope not underhand effort to kill project, a lot of time if things are continued without a set date really challenging for the project to recover, especially if 100% affordable housing project, very challenging to get funding, timelines continuously changed, very dramatic for a project, would hate for project to die, on a day of the hearing.
    1:41:50 Public commenter 3: Agree with 1st two speakers, looks like cynical attempt to kill the project by delaying it, delay cost money, everybody ready to make decision tonight, if you want to deny it have the courage to take the vote, have some guts, don’t just pretend you’re not denying it.
    1:42:33 Public commenter 4: reiterate fellow commenters, used to work in affordable housing, nothing like time that kills a project, time cost money, for all affordable project that relies on subsidies to provide for the most needed community members, to provide homes for the most venerable and marginalized, that is something that can’t be sat on, strongly encourage to continue the hearing, those that came here tonight have opportunity to express their values.

    — additional pro / con arguments —

    1:45:50 Public commenter 5: Unexpected from some in the community, our members invirted to participate, from community engagement perspective when decisions delayed makes more difficult to participate in local government process, better to proceed forward, council member talk about Santa Clara being business friendly city, makes it pretty tough we will vote on their issue and then in last minute tell them we are not, injures council reputation, better to have discussion tonight if you’re willing to do that.
    1:47:55 Public commenter 6: Echo previous commenter, advocating for affordable housing for many years, really important we don’t get this project behind schedule, they might lose their funding, lot of deadlines involved in affordable housing.
    1:48:40 Public commenter 7: urge council to hear as planned, member of your homeless taskforce for last several months, heard from countless individuals and expert about the gravity of the crisis being faced in Santa Clara county and city, need to act and take decisive action for hard-working low-income families, have a place to live and don’t end up on the streets, hearing tonight is a way to move forward and expedite the process, delaying delays families suffering

    — additional pro / con arguments —

    2:21:15 Council member discussion – Watanabe, Becker, Jain, Legal Counsel, Chahal, Mayor Gillmor, City Manager – Legal counsel says park and housing project does not have to be linked unless Council decides to link them.
    2:46:00 Motion to have housing project meeting on November 15 by Chahal and Becker. Park study on October 18 or November 1.
    2:47:50 Pre-vote on motion discussion
    2:51:40 Council Vote 4-3 for the motion to delay today’s planned hearing on item 6 “affordable housing”

    Video recording of the council session 09-27-2022 with Raj Chahal and Anthony Becker unexpected motion to delay hearing/vote on affordable housing project “charities housing”

    http://santaclara.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=1&clip_id=1800

    Click on the link above.
    Click “continuance / exceptions / reconsiderations” in the list.
    Click the play button in the video window

  2. Councilperson Raj Chahal has had over a year to bring this park issue forward.

    The city is now divided into districts. Each council person should have his or her finger on the pulse of what the constituents in that district bring forward as important issues. When hundreds of residents are united on an issue and go through the effort to gather hundreds of signatures, the councilperson of that district, who ran on a platform to represent citizens, needs to bring attention to the issue instead of just sitting on it for a year plus.

    Why did Raj Chahal not have time for this??

    Perhaps he was too busy in 49er meetings. How many did he have over the past year with the 49ers?

    This partially would explain why nothing was done with the petition and the park over the past year.

    The understaffed and awesome city staff, whom “The Five” has completely overwhelmed with some ridiculously unnecessary time-consuming search requests, were tasked last night with dropping what they are doing, and instead were immediately directed to have a park report done in a few weeks for council presentation. Absolutely and completely should not have happened to the staff, expecting them to come in at the crack of dawn and stay late because Raj et al kept putting off the park petition. What Raj did last night was covering his tracks, he was not somehow being magnanimous to all the citizens in attendance that signed the petition. He instead screwed over the many who actually took time out of their important lives to give their input. It was all for naught thanks to Chahal’s last minute “epiphany”.

    Think of the dozens, if not more meetings The 5 have had with the 49ers over the past year alone. Think of all the precious city staff time being sacrificed because of the 49ers undue influence on The 5. Think of the precious staff time that is not going to things such as the park issue or the development plans for El Camino Real that The 5 just punted down the road. Why are the only creek trails that The 49er 5 address with are the public trails around Levi’s Stadium?? We all know the reason.

    Hey 49er 5, the city has miles of creeks just screaming for pedestrian and bicycle paths, many already approved. Just as an education exercise, refer to Google Maps so you can all see how many more creeks there are besides the creek running by Levi’s Stadium.

    Is it not ironic that the 49ers have the power through our city council to shut down public trails around Levi’s Stadium during events. Families who want to enjoy nature and get exercise are being forced out by a bunch of drunk and belligerent 49ers fans, that come from out of town.

    Too bad The 5 are so tied up with the 49ers.

    Just take a look at Nextdoor and read all the issues these 5 council members have NOT had time to deal with and choose to neglect – You know, those things affecting the entire city but are non-49er related.

    Chahal, Jain, Hardy, Becker, and Park, all need to be voted out of office or recalled. Collectively they have done irreparable damage to the city, and whose allegiance, based on their voting record, is with the 49ers and NOT the average citizen in Santa Clara.

    Lastly, I would like to extend a very hardie “hello” to the 49er executives, the fine and hard charging investigative journalists who are always are so unbiased and always go way out of their way to find and present both sides of a “news article”; all those budding Edward R Murrow types at both the Silicon Valley Voice, San Jose Spotlight, and of course the mighty Mercury News Editors, who are reading this now. Thank you all so much!

    To those quasi journalists, you should all be ashamed and embarrassed at your lack of professionalism, but we all know you actually have zero integrity gleaned from the garbage you put out as the “truth”.

    To the executives at the 49ers, does one of you have the integrity to go against the corporate politics at the 49ers and actually suggest dealing with citizens of Santa Clara in an ethical and moral manner?? We simply can’t afford Portola Valley, Los Altos Hills, or Woodside and be your neighbors. Oh, where do we all score our free $500 face value tickets to this coming Monday Night’s Football Game at Levi’s??? We all promise to only consume one bottle of water each.

    Thank you to Mayor Gillmore and Councilperson Watanabe who have had to endure so much from all the 49er 5, especially Anthony Becker. You have so much community support. The other 4 have made such a huge political blunder hooking up their own fortunes to the ‘3 wheeled conestoga wagon’ that is Mr. Becker and his mayoral campaign.

    • Now it can be told

      In early 2021, suds jain and dominic caserta exchange texts

      A. Caserta tells jain

      1. Lisa Gillmor is evil
      2. DeAnna and Doyle must be fired. Becker needs to do it, jain must organize
      3. Rahul has the material meet with him
      4. 49ers will organize 2022

  3. Suds Jain is YIMBY’s endorsed candidate in SC but doesn’t support housing. We need more parks and less housing? Hmmmmm….

  4. I think the headline (and article) here is a little misleading (or purposely disingenous) in that Chahal didn’t state “opposition” to the CH proposal at 1601 at all. The truth is, that citizen park proposal did get put on the CC agenda months (over a year?) ago and zero action was taken to consider it seriously, which is the fault of every party on this issue. I think folks just assumed nobody would remember… so here we are.

    Rhymes with “due process,” I guess. As much as people keep crying about moral imperatives and other nonsense to try and guilt/shame an outcome here that fits their agenda, there is a process our government is required to follow, so let’s do it correctly.

    • Seems more and more that Chahal had a plan to delay the project discussion. What I find disingenuous is the delay has now caused concerns for the developer and funding of the project. Did anyone get a copy of the FPPC letter that Chahal claims allows him not to have a conflict and be able to vote on project?

    • What’s misleading is that Chahal is suggesting to the neighbors that this can be a park.

      #1 Charities Housing owns the site, not the City.

      #2 The City will never win an eminent domain battle that takes land away from an affordable housing developer. Never been done in CA.

      #3 The City has no money to put and maintain a park at this site.

      #4 It’s not in the City’s park master plan. (speaking of “due process”).

  5. This was such political smoke screen; Both Anthony and Raj say they fight for affordable housing and last night showed that A FULLY NOTICED PUBLIC HEARING was purposely blocked by Chahal to aid himself and Anthony Becker so that the voter over in the Civic Center area wont see how they would vote until after the election. Even the interim City Attorney said that the park issue did not need to hold up the Public Hearing. So sorry that so many folk came out and went home wondering , What the hell is going on with Chahal. Well, we know don’t we.

    • The fppc letter about chahal does exist. I sent it to burt field.

      Meet Michael Muir of San Francisco

      Ams communications

      He designed the ads you are watching cnn

      His last boss

      The IE Committee formed in 2018

      Supporting

      DOMINIC CASERTA!!!

  6. Here’s a thought by someone living in a different part of Santa Clara – Wouldn’t it be nice to add a Community Garden or perhaps a children’s playground to that site? Build a few less units and add a green area suitable for both tenants and neighbors. (Also, add a green rooftop?)

    • Given that all the housing developed in this area over the past 20 years is high-density, a community garden facility would not be far-fetched.

  7. Wow. Did we just find an issue where everyone on the council voted their conscience and not simply deciding whether or not they like Jed York? The 49er 5 split their vote and Watanabe and Gillmor voted differently. I live in this neighborhood and have complicated feelings about the issue, so I get the narrow margin.

    Huge positive to know that on an issue that only matters to ordinary folks in a potentially up and coming neighborhood the council voted their conscience and not on behalf of their benefactors.

    • It’s called kicking the can down the road. If raj is lucky he wont have to vote on this project. Just vote him out.

  8. What a way to start meeting.
    So many were there.
    11 th hour Hail Mary pass.
    Didn’t appreciate my time
    wasted like this. Do something
    or get off the pot.

    What you did wasn’t fair,
    Councilmember Chahal.
    All you did was protect
    your butt to get re-elected.

    Shame on you.

    • Why does Suds “i take a camera” Jain and Anthony “Chilli Cheese” Becker stand by Jed York who funds Jeff Denham??

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