San Jose budget tackles homelessness and public safety
San Jose City Hall is pictured in this file photo.

San Jose has more money to spend this fiscal year and officials are prioritizing homelessness, public safety, fighting blight, environmental sustainability and equitable economic recovery.

On Tuesday, the City Council unanimously approved the $5.3 billion budget for fiscal year 2022-23. The city has $212 million more dollars to fund its 20 departments and various programs than it did last year due to an increase in capital improvement taxes, as well as one-time federal and state funds to support recovery from the pandemic. The city also saw a decrease in pension costs for the first time in two decades, resulting in a projected balanced budget for the next five years.

“The budget that (the mayor) presented was balanced,” Vice Mayor Chappie Jones said. “It hit all the right notes and it was spot on in terms of the things that are most important in the city.”

Mayor Sam Liccardo has said the city’s biggest failure—and No. 1 priority—is homelessness. More than 6,700 people are sleeping on the streets of San Jose, according to a tally conducted this year. San Jose—and Santa Clara County—has seen its homeless population explode in the last few years. The population in the region has exceeded 10,000 people this year.

To help combat homelessness, the budget allocates $40 million to build and run quick-build apartment communities, with the goal of getting 1,000 residences under development. It allocates $560,000 from Measure E, approved by voters in 2020, to support an African American Cultural Center with affordable housing. The city is also spending $30,000 to protect mobile home parks and $580,000 to accelerate rehousing approximately 46 out of more than 100 homeless residents living at Columbus Park in the flight path of Mineta San Jose International Airport.

Councilmembers are making investments in public safety,  such as hiring 16 walking-patrol police officers and four mental health officers. The city is also piloting a $150,000 program that would provide $10,000 bonuses to officers hired from other departments, as SJPD struggles with low staffing. The mayor also allocated a record-high of $6.7 million to the Gang Prevention Task Force to work with nonprofits that invest in prevention for the city’s youth.

“I just don’t want people walking away thinking somehow or another (we are) choosing cops over youth programs. I think that’s a false choice,” Liccardo said. “Our residents want both. They want more officers walking patrols and they want investment in our in our children… I can say with some confidence we’ve never invested more money in youth protection programs.”

Funding will also be used for community emergency certified trainings, red light traffic cameras following a rise in traffic-related deaths and additional gunshot detection equipment.

To fight blight, San Jose is investing in its 311 app where residents can report garbage or graffiti. The city is also spending more on street sweeping in downtown, putting no dumping signs and lights in the alleyways of the Guadalupe-Washington neighborhood. Other plans include investing in San Jose Bridge, which employs homeless people to pick up trash, homeless encampment management and abandoned vehicle abatement.

Other notable items in the budget include funding for 13 of San Jose’s libraries to reopen on Sundays in under-resourced parts of the city, ending San Jose’s no cruising car ban, expanding the pilot program to close San Pedro Square and Post Street from vehicle traffic and the purchase of Cesar Chavez’s historic home that will be used for community education, historic preservation and housing of young adults serving East San Jose.

Contact Jana Kadah at [email protected] or @Jana_Kadah on Twitter.

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