San Jose council review: Google plans microgrid, homeless to have say on housing
Inside the San Jose City Council chambers on April 19. Photo by Jana Kadah.

A homeless advocate on the housing commission. Slicing off funds for the unhoused. Digital literacy grants and plans for a Google microgrid had San Jose councilmembers talking on Tuesday. Here’s a breakdown of the April 19 City Council meeting:

Housing commission expands

The City Council unanimously approved adding another seat to its 13-member Housing and Community Development Commission to help advise policymakers on housing-related matters. The new seat will be filled by an individual who has lived experience with homelessness in the past three years. This person will be the only commissioner to received a $200 stipend per meeting.

Homeless advocates, along with several councilmembers, emphasized the commissioner should be local to San Jose and a woman, since a woman’s experiences of homelessness are unique.

“I think there should actually be two seats, one for a man and one for a woman,” homeless advocate Shaunn Cartwright said. “That disparity between their experiences on the streets is vastly, vastly different. Men are raped (and trafficked) a whole lot less on the street than women. But if it’s just one seat, it should go to a woman. ”

Councilmember Raul Peralez asked city officials to add an alternate lived experience seat and look at other commissions that would benefit from a similar position.

Electrical grid for Downtown West

San Jose approved plans to study adding a Google microgrid run by the city in the Diridon Station area—the location of Google’s Downtown West project that will spans 80 acres and feature 7.3 million square feet of office space, 4,000 residences, 15 acres of parks and a 30,000-50,000-square foot community center.

Google is paying the city $300,000 for the initial study for the electrical grid. This includes hiring consultants to negotiate a business agreement, a framework for utility rules and regulations and rate tariffs.

The proposal passed 10-1 with Councilmember Maya Esparza as the lone dissenter. Mayor Sam Liccardo was particularly excited about the idea.

“We need dependable, resilient, reliable power and microgrids are clearly a pathway to doing so,” Liccardo said, adding the city has persistent problems with power outages.

However, Esparza and community members said creating a Google microgrid is not a priority when there are more immediate needs.

“Why are we giving carte blanche to do this for a very small amount of users when we have other viable options,” said Jeffrey Buchanan, director of public policy at Working Partnerships USA.

Digital inclusion grants

San Jose doled out $725,500 for its third round of digital inclusion grants to 15 community-based organizations. The largest grants are going to the Alum Rock Union School District, Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County and Step Up & Do Something, a San Jose-based nonprofit that supports at-risk communities.

The grants started in 2020 as part of the city’s strategy to increase access and digital literacy for low-income and disenfranchised households after San Jose residents were lagging behind compared to other Bay Area cities.

Measure E

After delaying the vote by a week, the City Council unanimously approved shifting how Measure E funds are used so that 15%, or $6.2 million, are applied to homeless services such as employment assistance, housing and safe parking. A portion of the funds would also go toward the construction and operation of interim housing.

Esparza requested any unused funds be spent on homeless prevention such as rental assistance. City officials agreed, but Liccardo said he is skeptical that any money will be left over.

The vote passed with no opposition and little discussion.

Property-based improvement district

Councilmembers gave the green light to move forward with the renewal process for a special district assessment tax that provides extra cleaning and security to downtown San Jose. Read more.

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

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