San Jose insider enters District 2 council race
Vanessa Sandoval, District 2 San Jose Councilmember Sergio Jimenez's chief of staff, is running to replace him. Photo courtesy of Vanessa Sandoval.

    A San Jose City Hall insider is running to replace her boss for the southside council seat.

    Vanessa Sandoval, chief of staff for Councilmember Sergio Jimenez, has joined the race to represent District 2, which stretches from the border of Morgan Hill and up to a portion of South San Jose, ending at Sylvandale Avenue. Jimenez terms out in 2024 after eight years in office, and so far three people are vying for the seat, including Babu Prasad and Pamela Campos.

    What sets Sandoval, 40, apart from her challengers is her seven years of experience working in the district office, she said.

    “I have the knowledge, the experience and the education to do this job well, and I want to continue in public service,” Sandoval told San José Spotlight. “I know the sacrifices it entails, and I know how to get things done.”

    As a mobile home resident, Sandoval’s chief concern is affordability—particularly for housing. If elected she would focus on creating policy to protect and speed up development of affordable housing, as well as stronger rent control.

    While she’s a big proponent of using interim housing to shelter the city’s homeless population, Sandoval said she wouldn’t want to add more in her district. The area already has 500 homes completed or in the pipeline—much higher than any other district, she said. Also, much of the available land is far from transit, grocery stores or other essential services, so it isn’t ideal for homeless residents.

    Sandoval said she would also want to ensure the 500 homes are for unhoused people in the district, so residents can visibly see how it helps shrink the homeless population.

    Another priority for Sandoval is public safety. Like other elected officials and candidates, she maintains that San Jose must beef up its police department, but she also wants to focus on alternative policing.

    “You don’t always need a police officer with a gun showing up at a call,” Sandoval said. “Having community policing strategies in place will actually subsidize our law enforcement so that our police officers who are badged and trained and have gone through our academy can actually focus on the work they’re trained to do.”

    If elected, Sandoval also wants to focus on the environment. Her top priority is strengthening protections in Coyote Valley while preserving the rich agricultural history of the area. Sandoval said she grew up in a small town in Northern California, with fresh air and clean water. She wants to preserve the natural beauty of San Jose.

    Sandoval has called San Jose home since 2006 and moved to District 2 in 2011. Her 3-year-old son was born in the district. Before joining Jimenez’s office, she was director of legal services at SIREN, a local nonprofit that protects immigrant rights. She holds a bachelor’s degree from UC Berkeley and law degree from Golden State University School of Law.

    Jimenez said he supports Sandoval and can attest to her extensive understanding of how city government works and her dedication to serving all residents in South San Jose. Jimenez is dual endorsing Sandoval and Prasad.

    “The city will benefit from her leadership and her commitment to addressing the housing crisis, improving public safety and protecting the environment,” he told San José Spotlight.

    Sandoval said her work with Jimenez may be her greatest strength and weakness. She is confident the residents she has worked with will appreciate what she has done and support her—but understands the apprehension of others who may not want a city hall insider.

    “I want to continue the good work we’ve started. But I also want to hear from people about what they haven’t liked, and what differences they would like to see in me because I am not him,” Sandoval said. “I am a woman. I am a mother. I have different lived experiences. I hope that the residents of San Jose will see that I care about our community and that I want to continue to serve.”

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

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