San Jose evictions and airport upgrades tops City Council agenda

Rent relief is about to expire and thousands could be in jeopardy of losing their homes. Upgrades at San Jose airport will help those with disabilities, and redevelopment on North 1st Street is in the works.

Here’s your weekly breakdown of happened at the San Jose City Council meeting on March 22.

Rental update  

With the state eviction protections expiring on March 31, some councilmembers want San Jose to enact a last minute six-month eviction moratorium.

But previous moratoriums were passed amid a shelter-in-place order, rising infections and business closures—none of which exists currently. Councilmembers questioned the legality of framing the moratorium as a COVID-19 need.

With Councilmember Magdalena Carrasco pushing for the moratorium, councilmembers voted 6-4 for the city to review the issue and return in two weeks with an answer. This will be past the March 31 deadline.

Close to 7,000 San Joseans are at risk of eviction by the end of the month, according to city documents.

“Is this not a concern for the council…that we would have a tsunami of displacement?,” Carrasco said, noting the inability to enact an urgency ordinance was more of a “difference of interpretation” rather than a legitimate barrier.

The council also approved an Eviction Diversion and Settlement Program using U.S. Treasury Funds. This will  provide 15 months of emergency rental assistance for households impacted by COVID-19. Applicants—tenants or landlords—would turn in their state application, that are still pending approval, to a city-run site to get funding.

Airport improvements

The City Council unanimously approved a Federal Aviation Administration grant to fund upgrades at the Mineta San Jose International Airport over the next five years. This includes $19 million in improvements for persons with disabilities.

Additional upgrades will be made in the terminal to bathrooms, drinking fountains, doors and signs at a cost of $12.2 million, over a 16 month period. Other improvements may include upgrades to bathrooms, drinking fountains and signs at the Rental Auto Center’s facilities. The cost is estimated at $9 million.

Storm drain system 

The council unanimously agreed to approve a $6.3 million contract to Ranger Pipelines, Inc. to rehabilitate and upgrade the city’s existing storm drain system at the San Jose-Santa Clara Regional Wastewater Facility to avoid flooding.

The infrastructure is 20-60 years old and the public works department found that many components in the storm and sanitary systems are damaged, blocked or nearing the end of their use.  Officials said upgrades were urgent.

North First Street local transit village 

The city almost unanimously approved plans to rezone and amend plans for the North First Street Local Transit Village to increase maximum height limitations to 200 feet—the equivalent to 18 floors in residential buildings and 14-15 floors for commercial buildings. City leaders adjusted the boundaries on North First Street to preserve historical sites in the path of redevelopment.

The motion passed 8-0-3, with Councilmembers Sergio Jimenez, Carrasco and Esparza not voting.

The plans were met with mixed reviews from the public.

Tim Clauson, president of the Vendome Neighborhood Association, said most neighbors are frustrated with the lack of engagement but noted “most all feel that the Transit Village, if done right, will be good for the Vendome.”

Small business grant program

The city approved a $2.75 million agreement, using American Rescue Plan dollars, for a grant program to help small businesses negatively impacted by COVID-19.

The grants will be available from April 1 through Dec. 31.

Election regulation

San Jose is moving forward to draft laws that limit foreign influence in elections and close some campaign contribution loopholes. Read more.

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

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