The San Jose mayor’s transition committees have finally made their private discussions public.
Mayor Matt Mahan created five closed-door committees to meet and advise him on the city’s most pressing problems ahead of this year’s budget process—a move highly criticized because it lacked transparency and potentially flouted the law. The now-dissolved committees were tasked to create measurable goals to track San Jose’s progress on solving the city’s top issues. At Tuesday’s San Jose City Council meeting, the decisions were made public.
Mahan formed the five committees to help him tackle homelessness, crime, blight, permitting for development and downtown vibrancy. While most of the recommendations are iterations of the city’s already identified solutions, there are some unique initiatives. Here are the top takeaways from each committee.
Councilmembers Pam Foley and David Cohen and David Pandori, former councilmember and deputy district attorney, chaired the homelessness committee. The 25-member group was made up of nonprofit leaders and developers, including Huascar Castro, an associate housing and transportation policy director at Working Partnerships USA, Valley Water CEO Rick Callender and Sand Hill Property Company co-founder Peter Pau, but excluded most advocates and individuals with lived experience—a major point of criticism from residents during public comment.
The major goal is to build more housing, particularly interim housing. The No. 1 priority is to complete former Mayor Sam Liccardo’s 2021 goal to build 1,000 homes by the end of his term, of which only 317 were completed. Once the rest are finished, the committee suggests the council find more public land to build an additional 1,000 homes.
The committee also recommends reducing barriers for homeless residents to access services by creating sanctioned camps.
Vice Mayor Rosemary Kamei and Councilmember Bien Doan co-chaired the community safety committee with the help of community chair Gabrielle Antolovich, who heads the Billy DeFrank LGBTQ+ Center. The 25-member committee included faith and cultural leaders, police officers, the county sheriff, firefighters and other law enforcement officials with the goal to make the city safer.
The committee’s recommendations are not groundbreaking. In addition to hiring more officers, the committee outlined it would like to rely on mental health experts to respond to crisis calls and build out more self-enforcing streets and new designs to reduce traffic fatalities that have increased in the last five years.
The most interesting recommendation is to explore redirecting non-emergency 911 calls away from badged officers to community service officers who perform lower level duties like issuing parking citations and towing abandoned vehicles. This aligns with what the San Jose Police Officers’ Association and police reform activists want.
Councilmember Peter Ortiz chaired this 23-member committee with community co-chairs Deb Kramer, executive director of nonprofit Keep Coyote Creek Beautiful, and Helen Brock, founder of Beautify Almaden.
In addition to adding more public trash cans and planting more trees and flowers, the clean neighborhoods committee wants to educate residents on what services exist and how residents can report dumping and graffiti, and properly dispose of their own blight.
The committee focused heavily on expanding the city’s 311 mobile application, San Jose’s customer service tool to respond to complaints about potholes, abandoned cars, graffiti and blight. The committee wants the city to expand language access, increase marketing and create a mechanism for residents to provide feedback on services they believe are incomplete.
The committee also suggests the “gamification” of the 311 app where council districts compete with each other through the app to increase users and reporting by making it more fun.
The 20-member downtown vibrancy committee includes leaders from the San Jose Downtown Association, the Jay Paul Company, Sharks Sports and Entertainment and SAP Center, Adobe Inc. and San Jose State University. It was chaired by downtown Councilmember Omar Torres and developer Gary Dillabough of Urban Community.
The big ticket idea from this committee is to permanently create and fund a team of downtown-focused workers that coordinate between nonprofits, government agencies, the private sector and other local stakeholders. The team would consist of five members who will focus on economic development, cleanliness and safety, create more community engagement in public spaces and create a brand and marketing for downtown San Jose.
The committee wants the city to hire a team of five people by the end of Sept. 30 to serve in these roles.
Planning and permitting
The 28-member planning and permitting committee is predominantly composed of developers, including representatives from Boston Properties, Urban Catalyst, Webcor Builders and the Building Trades Council. Bayview Development Group Chief Investment Officer Ted McMahon served as co-chair along with Councilmembers Dev Davis and Sergio Jimenez.
The group focused on the lengthy building permit process. The committee suggests creating a project manager to assist with five different types of projects: large commercial, large residential, small residential, tenant improvements and affordable residential. Committee members see this as a way to improve communication and expedite the permitting process.
The committee also suggests refining the city’s web portal to better keep applicants informed of their project status.
Contact Jana Kadah at [email protected] or @Jana_Kadah on Twitter.
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