Lan Diep began his first term on the San Jose City Council by wielding a Captain America shield when he was sworn in.
That colorful display of superhero fandom drew national media attention, and he has maintained his colorful demeanor since joining the council in 2017, occasionally wearing costumes to council meetings.
The first-born son of Vietnamese American refugees, Diep is running for re-election to represent District 4, which he won by 12 votes in June 2016 when he unseated incumbent Manh Nguyen.
Nguyen sued over the narrow election loss and criticized county election officials. But Diep emerged with a four-year term representing the Berryessa, Alviso, North San Jose and North Valley neighborhoods.
Diep declined an interview with San José Spotlight for this candidate profile.
His top priorities, according to his campaign website, include creating more housing and more jobs. In District 4, he helped implement “Dumpster Days” to reduce illegal dumping. He voted for Measure T, which allocates a $650 million bond for infrastructure, public safety and disaster preparedness. Diep also supports investing in bike paths, light rail and bringing BART to downtown San Jose.
The “number one priority of every public official” is safety, Diep’s campaign website states.
“This is the challenge of the moment facing our police force: trying to grow our ranks as we face waves of officers ready to retire,” Diep stated. “But I, along with my council colleagues, are supporting our police force with the resources they need.”
He has endorsements from business organizations including the California Apartment Association, the Santa Clara County Association of Realtors, the Business San Jose Chamber PAC, the SVO PAC and Carl Guardino of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group.
Eddie Truong, director of government and community relations for the SVO, said the organization endorsed Diep because he brings an independent voice to the council.
“Councilmember Diep has been a consistent vote for his district, not necessarily any special special interest, including my own,” Truong said. “I think that is why I respect him.”
Since his 2016 election, the 35-year-old councilmember has become a reliable ally for San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo on many of the most critical issues facing Silicon Valley, including housing, transportation and immigration.
Liccardo has endorsed Diep for a second term.
“For four years, Lan Diep has demonstrated the positive difference that thoughtful, independent and hard-working leadership can make for San Jose, and we need him now more than ever,” Liccardo said.
According to recent financial disclosures, Diep has raised more than $156,000 for his campaign.
Housing and growth initiatives
Last September, Diep voted with Liccardo in a 6-5 decision to offer tax breaks — including a break on affordable housing requirements — to high-rise developers in downtown San Jose.
Advocates of the breaks said fewer fees would spur needed housing that otherwise wouldn’t break ground. Opponents said the vote amounted to subsidies for developers at the expense of residents.
Diep also has supported affordable housing projects.
For instance, he voted to approve the city’s inclusionary housing ordinance, which requires developers to pay fees toward affordable housing or dedicate 15 percent of homes as affordable in other parts of the city. Diep has also been supportive of requiring higher percentages of affordable housing around Diridon Station and in North San Jose.
“We must build more housing of all types but we also must recognize that building market-rate housing alone won’t be enough,” his campaign website states.
Once a registered Republican, Diep left the party last year and now declines to state his party preference.
He’s facing competition from three Democrats, including David Cohen, a Berryessa School Board trustee and businessman; Huy Tran, a San Jose housing commissioner and employment attorney; and Jamal Khan, a tech worker.
Diep told San José Spotlight last year that he welcomed the challenge.
“I did not believe the incumbent I defeated was entitled to this seat, and I know that I’m not entitled to it either,” Diep said. “Whoever gets to represent District 4 earns that privilege by winning the trust of the voters.”
Contact Janice Bitters at [email protected] or follow @JaniceBitters on Twitter.
Name: Lan Diep
Political affiliation: Declines to state
Education: Bachelor’s degree in political science and history from the University of California, San Diego; University of the Pacific-McGeorge School of Law, Doctor of Law
Profession: San Jose District 4 Councilmember, legal aid attorney
Current or previous elected or appointed positions: San Jose City Council District 4; Vietnamese Language Consultant; Fellow at The Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center; Field Organizer at Organizing for America in Nevada for former President Barack Obama; AmeriCorps Legal Fellow at the Mississippi Center for Justice