The San Jose City Council spent much of Tuesday’s meeting focused on one of the biggest topics of the season: the city budget. Officials also weighed an appeal for an Alviso development and considered going out to bid for a long-term operator for the city’s golf courses. Here’s what went down at the March 15 council meeting.
A new budget
Mayor Sam Liccardo’s March budget message sat well with all councilmembers, although some wanted more. Liccardo outlined six priorities: homelessness and affordable housing; public safety; fighting blight; climate change resilience; equitable economic recovery and fiscal sustainability.
Councilmember David Cohen requested funding for libraries to return to pre-pandemic levels—a $2 million ask that would help increase staffing and reinstate library programs and hours.
Councilmembers Maya Esparza, Sylvia Arenas and Magdalena Carrasco wanted two main items addressed in the budget— tackling wage theft and increasing city staffing levels, due to the high vacancy numbers.
About 100 community members called in to support funding the issues proposed by the council.
“Everything the mayor proposed, none of that could be possible without the work of city staff,” said Elizabeth Kamya with IFPTE Local 21, which represents 840 city workers. “The ship is sinking and to save it we must address city staffing.”
Councilmember Dev Davis supported Liccardo’s call to hire 15 more police officers, but wanted some to be allocated to the Traffic Enforcement Unit to combat the high number of traffic fatalities. Last year was a record-breaking year for traffic-related deaths and 2022 is on track to exceed it, city data shows.
Councilmember Raul Peralez had several funding priorities. He concurred with other councilmembers on funding to reduce traffic-related deaths. He also wants more dollars to provide mental health services for first responders, as well as funding for sanctioned homeless encampments—areas where unhoused residents could set up their tents legally and receive supportive services. It was an idea that stalled at council several times, most recently in 2021.
To make sure budget priorities are clear and goals are achievable, Councilmember Matt Mahan is suggesting the city create measurable metrics and incentivize employees to reach goals by giving pay raises to department leaders. He said doing so would increase transparency and accountability with the community.
“If we set goals, we should hit them and if we don’t we shouldn’t get as big of a raise,” Mahan told San José Spotlight. “It’s not meant in any way to be draconian or punitive. It’s just about trying to align incentives.”
Councilmembers approved most aspects of their memos, except part of Mahan’s proposal to explore using pay increases as incentives to meet goals—however, officials will work on outlining metrics to measure goals.
Appeals denied for Alviso development
The San Jose City Council unanimously denied appeals from two Alviso residents hoping to halt a roughly one acre proposed project to redevelop a vacant building at 1436 State Street. The appellants were Marcos Espinoza and Manuel Marquez.
Espinoza called for a full environmental review to address concerns including air quality, noise and traffic; specifically sharing concerns about the project being within 100 feet of a school bus stop, as well as the impact of carcinogens in asphalt fumes to residents near the project. He wanted council to delay the project until more information about the impacts are made clear.
“There are many open code violations with no resolution,” Espinoza said. “With this new project coming in it has just added to the impacts we are experiencing.”
Marquez, the other appellant who lives within 1,000 feet from the project, voiced concerns through a representative over truck traffic, noise, hours of operation and open code violations by different businesses in the area.
“You say you all want to fix these issues, yet you still push polluting projects in low-income communities, which are mainly minority communities,” Marquez’s representative, also named Marcos Espinoza, said. “This project would never be allowed in any high-income communities in San Jose.”
Clay Laucella, the owner of the site, responded to concerns and promised to be a good neighbor and partner.
“I understand the concerns of the appellant when it comes to code violation… We have worked for three years and three months to acquire this permit to do it the right way and follow the rules correctly,” Laucella said.
More green for golf
The city is going out to bid for a third party to operate its three public golf courses. Read more to understand why.
Contact Jana Kadah at [email protected] or @Jana_Kadah on Twitter.