SJ Councilman Receives Backlash For Backing Tiny Homes Plan

San Jose’s plan to set up so-called tiny homes for the homeless is generating outcry from opponents and could lead to a political backlash against an outspoken city council member. Robert Handa reports.

(Published Wednesday, Dec. 27, 2017)

San Jose’s plan to set up so-called tiny homes for the homeless is generating outcry from opponents and could lead to a political backlash against an outspoken city council member.

One of the potential sites for tiny homes is an empty lot at Monterey and Bernal roads in South San Jose. District 2 Councilman Sergio Jimenez, who represents the area, backs the project, and he is now receiving backlash from his constituents.

"The reality is this is a tough topic that impacts every corner of the city," Jimenez said. "Is it the end all solution? I’m not so sure. But I think it’s a movement in the right direction."

Jimenez’s support has drawn some fire. About 600 residents have signed a new recall petition targeting the first-year councilman on Change.org. Mayor Sam Liccardo said it's still very early in the city's process, and drastic action such as a recall is misguided.

"A petition for recall is really the wrong approach," Liccardo said. "We’re going to have many community meetings and public hearings before any decisions are made about any tiny home villages. And councilman Jimenez, like any council member, has to stand up and make tough decisions."

Tiny homes essentially are 70-square-foot structures with water and electricity designed to provide basic living needs. San Jose's plan hasn’t been a popular proposal, but Jimenez like other supporters believes it's a positive step.

"I think a lot of elected officials shy away from controversial topics such as this, and so I’ve done the opposite," he said.

At one time, the city had identified 99 possible sites for the tiny homes, and it's now down to two: the Bernal site and a lot on Branham Lane.

Opponents have said tiny homes are too expensive to build and operate and attract drugs and crime.

A Change.org petition cannot trigger a recall; there are legal steps required for that process. Even if it was official, the 632 signatures gathered so far is well short of the thousands that would ultimately be needed.