Redistricting is firing up small business owners in San Jose
A vacant storefront at 3109 Alum Rock Avenue in East San Jose. Photo by Tran Nguyen.

    Small businesses are riled up over proposed maps from the San Jose Redistricting Commission that they say create a divide and hamper COVID recovery efforts.

    Groups representing small businesses across the city say maps being considered by the redistricting commission could split their neighborhoods. That could spell trouble for many small and minority-owned businesses.

    By splitting neighborhoods, business owners say new boundaries could confuse business owners who are trying to reach out to their council representative. They fear that split business corridors will dilute their voices when they raise concerns with their councilmember.

    “By drafting maps that divide many business districts down the center of the streets in which they are located, the proposed boundaries threaten to confuse small business owners when they are attempting to be heard by the local government on community projects and could threaten the robustness of their representation,” says a letter signed by six neighborhood business associations, including the San Jose Downtown Association and Alum Rock Business Network.

    The groups are asking that leaders keep these small business communities intact.

    “In conversation after conversation, our organizations have heard that small businesses are earning a fraction of their pre-pandemic revenue,” the letter said. “For many, support from government can be the difference between entrepreneurial survival and closure. It is always important that members of our community do not feel their representation has been divided; these next few years will be even more so for small businesses throughout our city.”

    The letter addresses three business neighborhoods—the Alum Rock corridor, the East Santa Clara Street corridor and downtown San Jose. A number of Latino-owned businesses are located along the Alum Rock corridor in East San Jose.

    The Alum Rock corridor is entirely in District 5, allowing district representatives and leaders to directly propose business rescue programs for the area. With businesses still recovering from the pandemic, owners say it’s even more important than ever to keep them together.

    “It makes it a lot harder and resource intensive to wade through this economic situation if we’re not able to be on the same page,” Carlos Diaz, owner of Knight Sounds Entertainment and president of the Alum Rock Business Network, told San José Spotlight. “If you break down a business district or street into two, that would make our job even harder. Now you’re dealing with two different council districts, you’re dealing with different folks promising different things. It gets harder to reach folks. Owners are just trying to keep their business afloat.”

    The 11-member San Jose Redistricting Commission , appointed by the City Council with each one of the commissioners representing the district they live in, is responsible for redrawing the city’s 10 council districts. Each district has roughly 100,000 residents. It does so every 10 years to reflect new population data from the U.S. Census.

    Proposed maps have already angered residents in different neighborhoods. At Monday’s meeting, commissioners fielded angry comments from Japantown and Naglee Park residents protesting several maps that split their neighborhoods into two or three districts.

    The redistricting process, or the redrawing of district lines, occurs at the local, state and national level. Historically, a lack of transparency and backroom negotiations have posed a threat to district representation in cities throughout the state.

    The six organizations protesting the new maps include the Alum Rock Santa Clara Business Association, the Alum Rock Business Network, Prosperity Lab, the San Jose Downtown Association, the East Santa Clara Business Association and the San Jose Chamber of Commerce.

    “We’re excited to partner with the other five organizations represented to raise this critical issue for a large number of our city’s small businesses,” Derrick Seaver, president and CEO of the San Jose Chamber of Commerce, told San José Spotlight.

    Contact Lloyd Alaban at [email protected] or follow @lloydalaban on Twitter.

    Redistricting Letter (Item 21-2239)
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