COVID-19 restrictions are easing. Millions in Google money is ready to be spent. The city is looking at how it can improve its police department and make parks more friendly for families. Here’s what went down at the March 1 San Jose City Council meeting.
Booster mandate repealed
In a 9-1 vote, the City Council repealed the COVID booster mandate for large events at city-owned facilities—less than a month after they implemented it.
Events with more than 50 people at facilities like the SAP Center and Center for Performing Arts will no longer need to show proof of booster shots before entering. The city will align with state guidelines. Attendees will be required to show proof of vaccine or a negative COVID test at indoor events with more than 1,000 people. The state also recommends these guidelines for outdoor events with 10,000 people, but it is not mandatory.
The move comes as the state and county loosen health orders. On Wednesday, the indoor mask mandate lifted in Santa Clara County.
Councilmember David Cohen was the lone dissenter and wanted the city to wait and see the impacts of ending the mask mandate before repealing the city booster policy.
Other councilmembers said it would be good to align with the state because it clears confusion among residents.
“We need to rebuild the trust with the public,” said Councilmember Dev Davis. “Having a mismatch of mandates all over the place is not helpful.”
San Jose is also considering reversing plans for a booster mandate for city employees.
Parks maintenance update
The city’s parks department presented its annual report on the city’s 260 parks and 63 miles of trails.
The department created a new way to assess city parks—analyzing amenities like benches, grass/turf, garbage collection and playgrounds.
Councilmember Magdalena Carrasco, who represents District 5, gave an impassioned plea, highlighting the inequities of park conditions in East San Jose.
She showed pictures of Mayfair Park with its graffiti-ridden, unkempt bathrooms; yellowed, unmaintained grass and an old playground slated for replacement this year.
“Everything that we do and everything that we’re in charge of has to be about the value that we place on our kiddos,” Carrasco said. “They mean something to this city.”
Many councilmembers echoed her frustration and concern, probing the department on improvement.
Parks Director Jon Cicirelli emphasized new work plans are being developed for low-scoring parks and bi-annual check-ins to score their performance.
“I think this system on its own, it’s going to move the needle,” Cicirelli said. “But fundamentally, it is a resource issue.”
Police reports accepted
As part of the city’s larger discussion on police reform and accountability, the council discussed three reports recently released by the independent police auditor.
The reports detail how the San Jose Police Department failed to comply with procedures due to a lack of training that resulted in poor policing. One report points out how the local Latino population was disproportionately targeted by police use of force. It also shows how officers failed to properly file use of force reports and how officers’ actions made the 2020 George Floyd protests more chaotic.
Police Chief Anthony Mata said in other police departments, recommendations like the ones in the reports have shown to take $1 million and 5-10 years to complete.
“We are not those agencies,” Mata said. “The San Jose Police Department has consistently self-assessed its policies, procedures and programs to improve these processes. And it is dedicated to provide the best possible police service.”
SJPD will come back to council in the fall with a progress report.
San Jose is spending millions from Google on economic recovery as the tech behemoth gets ready to start expanding into the city with its Downtown West project. By the time the project is completed a decade from now, Google will have doled out $200 million in community benefit funds.
Read more about how the city will disperse $4.5 million toward economic resilience.
Contact Jana Kadah at [email protected] or @Jana_Kadah on Twitter.