Lifelong San Jose resident Olivia Navarro was on her deathbed last year when she realized she needed to change her life.
While hospitalized from COVID-19, Navarro told herself if she recovered she would fulfill her high school dream of serving the community. Navarro is attempting to do just that by running for the open District 6 San Jose City Council seat, which encompasses Willow Glen, The Alameda and parts of downtown—where she was born and is now raising her three kids.
Navarro, 45, works as an insurance agent and political adviser for the LIUNA Local 270 union. Navarro has previous political experience from outreach efforts for Measure T, a $650 million bond measure approved by voters in 2018 to pay for disaster preparedness, public safety and infrastructure projects. She is a California Democratic Party Assembly District 28 executive board member—a powerful community voice in the party—and vice chair of the party’s Chicano Latino Caucus. Navarro has served as a neighborhood commissioner for District 6 in San Jose since 2016.
If elected, Navarro said she will prioritize public safety and finding solutions to the growing housing and homelessness crisis through a working families lens. She wants to focus on attracting high-paying jobs to bolster the region’s economic development.
“I think we have this idea that District 6 isn’t made up of working-class families, but there’s a lot of us,” Navarro told San José Spotlight. “They might own a home, but they’re one to two paychecks away from possibly losing that home. We are all struggling in San Jose to survive.”
The race to replace Councilmember Dev Davis, who terms out in 2024, may be a contested one. Alex Shoor, executive director of Catalyze SV, which advocates for more affordable housing, has thrown his hat into the race. Planning Commissioner and former Councilmember Pierluigi Oliverio is also considering running for his old seat.
For addressing public safety, Navarro wants to shorten police response times to emergency calls—which have been getting longer since 2018. She wants to focus on prevention and prop up more community centers to host youth programs.
To tackle housing and homelessness at the local level, Navarro said she wants to speed up the permitting process so more housing—affordable and market-rate—is built quicker.
“A lot of developers say that it’s not happening here because it’s very expensive,” Navarro said. “If we were to figure out another way of shortening the timeframe of the permitting process, that in itself would save the developers money, because time is money.”
In terms of blight, Navarro wants to promote more community cleanups. She watched her dad, the former president of the Tamien Neighborhood Association, organize weekly dumpster days and believes direct community work is the most effective. She also wants to encourage residents to use the city’s 311 app so their concerns are addressed immediately.
This is the first time Navarro is running for a council seat, though she unsuccessfully ran for a San Jose Unified School District board seat in 2016. Her husband, Ruben Navarro, unsuccessfully ran for a council seat in 2016 and 2020. She said although she is not as progressive as her husband, she is a bit more labor leaning.
“I’ve worked a lot with small businesses and I’ve worked in the private sector,” Navarro said. “I am not someone you can just stereotype as a labor person. I try to listen to all sides before making a decision.”
Navarro said her endorsements reflect that. She has secured support from Reps. Anna Eshoo and Ro Khanna and former San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, as well as San Jose Councilmembers Sergio Jimenez, Omar Torres and Peter Ortiz.
“(Navarro) is passionate about serving San Jose families and she has critical experience in advocating for reinvesting in our city,” Ortiz said, pointing to her work on Measure T. “Olivia would make a great addition to the San Jose City Council.”
Contact Jana Kadah at [email protected] or @Jana_Kadah on X, formerly known as Twitter.