Real estate audit reveals holes in San Jose’s property management
San Jose's latest real estate audit shows a need for a comprehensive database of city-owned properties. Photo by Alejandra Arevalo.

San Jose owns more than 1,250 properties including City Hall, parks and revenue generators like the San Jose International Airport. But there’s no consolidated inventory which makes management and maintenance difficult, a recent city audit revealed.

Whenever a question about a city-owned property comes up, officials have to do extensive research across departments and use a third-party database to get information on what type of property it is and who manages it.

“It’s a big city and each department manages properties in different ways,” City Auditor Joe Rois told San José Spotlight. “(The real estate services department) has wanted software to help them over the years, but it’s been something they hadn’t been able to take on.”

Rois led this year’s real estate audit—the first one in over a decade—to offer solutions for the lack of centralized property management.

According to Rois, the real estate audit became a high priority during the pandemic as a way to identify sites for COVID-19 vaccination centers and shelter for the unhoused. He also mentioned that the city needs a real estate database to provide efficient maintenance services to its properties, especially vacant ones.

“Possible issues in terms of weeds, graffiti, lights and cleanliness cause real concerns to the residents and at the very least, the city shouldn’t be contributing to that,” Rois said.

The audit also showed that the city doesn’t have an up-to-date inventory of its vacant properties; the list was last updated in 2015.

According to Nanci Klein, director of economic development, the city owns about 25 vacant parcels classified as not developable for recreation or housing due to their locations in areas such as buffer lands and the Singleton landfill.

The real estate services department will present a comprehensive list of vacant properties to the Community and Economic Development Committee in November and update that list yearly thereafter.

Rois emphasized that the city didn’t lose track of its vacant properties, it was more a matter of lack of organization.

“(The city) seems to have a handle on them, it was more about how efficient the process was to identify those things,” he said. “We work for the residents and try to work as efficiently as possible because, to the extent that we’re not, then we’re just more expensive.”

This parking lot is one of several city-owned vacant properties according to the latest real estate audit. San Jose doesn’t have an up-to-date inventory of its unused land. Photo by Alejandra Arevalo.

The audit outlined recommendations to improve processes for tracking and maintaining city properties, all of which the City Council approved on Tuesday. Suggestions include implementing a centralized real estate database and creating an annual report of vacant properties.

Kevin Ice, senior manager for real estate services, said the city should have a fully operational real estate database by the end of the year. The city budgeted $105,000 for the buildout of the platform.

“We’re pretty excited about this, we live in Excel spreadsheets right now,” Ice said at the council meeting. “We have a good opportunity to really lift up our work through a better database.”

Contact Alejandra Arevalo at [email protected] and follow her @alejandrareval_on Twitter.

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