Safety concerns in downtown San Jose a focus for business leaders
Dai Thanh Super Market in downtown San Jose, where a 64-year-old Asian woman was robbed earlier this week. Photo by Lloyd Alaban.

    The recent robbery of a 64-year-old Asian woman on South Second Street in Downtown San Jose was on the minds of attendees at San Jose Downtown Association’s first virtual public meeting of the year.

    The discussion of downtown safety was a last-minute addition to the meeting’s agenda. But the association said its agenda had to change course following a spike in anti-Asian American hate crimes.

    “Traditional business watch has not been useful in the downtown core, and we want to change that and add to it,” said San Jose police Deputy Chief Heather Randol, who is one of seven finalists vying to be the city’s next police chief.

    Clockwise from top left: San Jose Deputy Chief of Police Heather Randol, San Jose police Capt. Stan McFadden and SJDA President Katia McClian. Photo by Lloyd Alaban.

    San Jose police promised a safer downtown and “more focused” policing as the department looks to new strategies, such as foot patrols, bolstering training for private business security guards and more emphasis on mental health resources to help reduce crime.

    Randol said the department is “reimagining” traditional neighborhood watch, especially in the downtown district, and hoping businesses can collaborate with each other and the department to help.

    Friday marked the beginning of Lunar New Year, the traditional start of the year in the Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Vietnamese calendars, and one of the most important holidays in East Asia.

    The SJDA also held a farewell ceremony for San Jose Deputy City Manager Kim Walesh.

    Walesh will retire from her position next month after 18 years with the city. She is credited with luring big tech companies like Google to the city, and leading planning efforts for the Diridon Station Area and Google’s downtown mega-campus.

    Deputy City Manager Kim Walesh, left, and SJDA Executive Director Scott Knies. Photo by Lloyd Alaban.

    In recent months, much of Walesh’s efforts have gone toward ensuring businesses stay afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic.

    “You can’t have a strong economy unless you focus on equity, and if you care about equity you need a strong economy to create opportunity for people,” Walesh said. “COVID has opened our eyes to really understanding the inequality and the work we need to do to address what it’s like for the lowest income of the people who live in our midst.”

    Also on the meeting agenda was an update from the SJDA’s Property-Based Improvement District committee.

    The PBID committee uses tax dollars to establish services to serve the district, officers to patrol downtown and a cleaning crew for the downtown area. The Groundwerx crew, part of the PBID’s cleaning services, relies on volunteers to help with cleaning up downtown’s streets. Also announced was a new dog park.

    The PBID is currently reassessing its programs in an effort to shore up its services to benefit downtown. The current PBID expires in December 2022. Friday’s meeting served as the first steps to come up with a new plan for the district and to solicit feedback for services.

    A Groundwerx crew member cleans up streets in downtown San Jose. Photo courtesy of Groundwerx.

    The SJDA is a nonprofit established in 1986 to represent downtown businesses and property owners. It is generally credited for revitalizing the downtown area through arts and cultural programming.

    “We cannot do this alone,” said Katia McClain, president of the SJDA. “Partnerships are key.”

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

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