San Jose City Council to decide its newest priorities

The San Jose City Council is set to lay the groundwork for its goals over the next year.

Ahead of Tuesday’s meeting, councilors nominated 28 ideas for the process that will assist city officials with managing their work loads and prioritizing the council’s most important initiatives.

Here are a few of the nominations:

  • Streamline the process for ‘granny units’, as submitted separately by Councilmembers Magdalena Carrasco and Pam Foley.

Both Carrasco and Foley submitted nominations for the Tuesday meeting with the goal of making it easier to build a backyard unit, often referred to as a ‘granny unit.’ They both cited difficulties that residents have with permitting and costs.

Foley’s nomination said the city could make it easier by, “streamlining the permitting process, reducing permitting costs and creating a consistent, seamless approval and development process.”

“Streamlined permits… would result in decreased timelines for homeowners and could incentivize additional construction allowing us to meet our annual 200-unit goal (for backyard units),” Carrasco added.

The so-called granny units have been hailed a potential solution for Silicon Valley’s housing crisis because they offer affordable housing on existing land.

  • Storage lockers for homeless individuals, as submitted by Councilmember Sergio Jimenez.

Last month, Jimenez proposed to crack down on abandoned shopping carts in the city. Now, he’s looking to create a solution for homeless individuals who use shopping carts to store their belongings.

“Houseless individuals living in encampments or shelters do not have a permanent place to store their personal belongings,” Jimenez’s nomination form read. “Belongings can be swept up during abatements, lost or are carried with them in shopping carts.”

Jimenez is proposing that the city create storage lockers at community centers, libraries and other accessible locations for homeless individuals to keep items such as documents, clothing or bedding.

  • Wayfinding signage, as submitted separately by Councilmembers Johnny Khamis and Raul Peralez, and Councilmember Dev Davis.

According to a Dec. 6 council memo, Khamis and Peralez expressed interest in placing kiosks that operate as wayfinding signs downtown.

“The San Jose Downtown Association now wishes to implement a program for wayfinding kiosks that would be paid for by advertising revenues for ads integrated into these electronic wayfiding kiosks,” the memo read.

Davis also submitted a similar wayfinding signage initiative to create a pilot program to help navigate the downtown area.

  • Climate Smart San Jose buyback program, as submitted by Khamis.

San Jose’s Climate Smart plan aims to provide 100 percent renewable energy by 2050. To help meet that goal, Khamis is proposing a city buy-back program to exchange gas powered lawn equipment for cleaner electric-powered equipment.

“Adding this initiative can have positive and significant effects on our city’s air quality… with minimal impact on the city’s finances if we are successful in finding external grant funding for implementation of the buy-back program,” Khamis’ proposal read.

  • Privately-owned public open spaces, as submitted by Councilmember Lan Diep. 

According to Diep’s nomination, the city requires developers to dedicate land for parks to help meet San Jose’s goal of 3 acres of parks per 1,000 residents.

“There are presently no clear policies around privately-owned public open space, where the developer commits to provide space for public use, but retains ownership and long-term maintenance obligations of the space,” Diep’s nomination read.

To solve the problem, he’s proposing that the city develop some sort of guideline for the creation of parks.

  • Reduce or eliminate parking requirements near transit, as submitted by Foley.

When developers build housing in San Jose, the city requires building a certain number of parking spaces for residents’ vehicles. According to Foley’s nomination, she wants to reduce the number of spots, or potentially eliminate the policy completely, when the development is within a quarter-mile or half-mile radius around a transit station.

“This policy would not prevent developers from producing parking spaces, but instead, would provide developers more room to be creative, and to determine for themselves the market demand for parking,” Foley’s nomination read.

She also added that the proposal could help increase the city’s housing stock as the cost of building parking can add thousands of dollars to a project.

Next Steps

Before city staff takes any action, the list will hit the chopping block on Tuesday where each councilmember gets nine votes to choose their favorite nominations. If an item receives six votes, it will move to the next round for prioritization.

The top ten items will be listed in the order of votes received from the previous round. Councilmembers will then receive an additional number of votes, to be determined, to help re-rank the priorities. The new priorities will be added to the city’s current list of 27 items, which includes renters’ rights, local hiring, electronic billboards and safe parking programs.

The City Council will set their priorities on Tuesday. The council meets at 1:30 p.m. inside City Hall, 200 East Santa Clara Street in San Jose.

Contact Grace Hase at grace@sanjosespotlight.com or follow @grace_hase on Twitter.

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