San Jose to consider a new privacy policy and environmental building codes

On Tuesday, the San Jose City Council is expected to adopt a new privacy policy and a building ordinance that will create a more environmentally friendly set of practices for new construction.

As part of a growing effort to increase technological security, the lawmakers will hear a report from city officials on the importance of a city-wide policy on data collection. Councilors will also vote on implementing a new ordinance that sets the city on track to meet its climate goals before 2020.

Privacy Policy

The city’s proposed new privacy policy is the first-of-its kind in establishing a set of “privacy principles” that are meant to increase the public’s trust in city officials as they collect data and valuable information from San Jose residents.

The six principles were approved by the Smart Cities and Service Improvements Committee in early June, and were developed by the Harvard Cyberlaw Clinic, a team of technology experts who are a part of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society. The six principles assert that the city of San Jose strives to “value privacy, collect only what is needed, be open and transparent, give residents control over their data, share only what is needed, and design technology systems for privacy and security.”

“The city of San Jose used a combination of expert knowledge and public input to develop the privacy principles which are intended to guide city policies regarding how the city provides services through the collection, management, retention and sharing of data,” said Dolan Beckel, director of the office of civic innovation. “The Harvard team noted that while few cities in the United States have developed both privacy principles and a privacy policy, there is a need for such policy to guide still-emerging uses of identifying technologies and data.”

The city developed a “three pronged approach” in vetting its new set of privacy principles by creating a privacy working group, comprised of senior staff from various citywide departments, creating a privacy advisory taskforce, which is an oversight committee with eight members who meet quarterly, and by conducting public forums in English, Spanish and Vietnamese.

The city manager’s office will finalize the policy by the end of October. The City Council will hear an update after the winter holiday sometime by March 2020. Lastly, the City Council will hear an annual update in June 2020 to “assess the city’s approach, deliverables, and set the path forward for a citywide privacy policy,” according to Beckel.

San Jose Reach Code Ordinance

In an effort to comply with the city’s Climate Smart San Jose plan, city elected leaders will vote to adopt new building codes to “increase building efficiency, mandate solar readiness, and increase requirements related to electric vehicle charging stations,” according to city officials.

“The effects of climate change are devastating and increasing. To do its part to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and address climate change, the city adopted Climate Smart San Jose, which sets aggressive goals around electric vehicle adoption, solar installation, and zero net energy/carbon buildings,” said Director of Environmental Services Kerrie Romanow and Planning Director Rosalynn Hughey in a joint memo to the City Council. “The proposed reach code is designed to lower and eventually eliminate greenhouse gas emissions from new construction.”

The city’s climate plan aims to reduce greenhouse emissions drastically by 2020 by transitioning to 100 percent carbon-free base power. The proposed ordinance, called the San Jose Reach Code Ordinance, aims to increase building energy efficiency, will require building electrification and installation of “electric vehicle infrastructure” and solar energy. The new building code will apply to all “new residential and non-residential” construction in the city.

More than 45 cities and counties are considering adopting reach codes that require building and transportation electrification. If adopted, San Jose will join the other 19 cities in the Bay Area such as San Francisco, Oakland, and Fremont, that have adopted similar ordinances.

But critics of reach codes say they could drive up the cost of producing housing, which will worsen Silicon Valley’s housing crisis.

AB 1487

Also on Tuesday, San Jose housing officials will call on city leaders to endorse a state bill that, if adopted, will help raise funding for affordable housing in the Bay Area.

If enacted into law, the bill authored by San Francisco Democratic Assemblyman David Chiu — AB 1487 — will establish a new agency called the Bay Area Housing Finance Authority, which will be authorized to “raise and allocate new regional housing revenue,” according to housing officials, but would still require voter approval for such fiscal measures.

Potential funding sources include parcel and business taxes, general obligation bonds, regional commercial linkage fees, or grants. Certain taxes, such as parcel or business taxes, must be approved by two thirds of voters in that county first. In addition, the measures will need to be put on a ballot in at least four out of the nine Bay Area counties in order to be approved.

“The lack of affordable homes is at a crisis point in San Jose. Each night, approximately 6,000 people are unsheltered in the city,” said Housing Director Jacky Morales-Ferrand and Lee Wilcox, chief of staff to the city manager. “AB 1487 would create an entity that has the authority to seek voter-approval for new housing revenue, raise a regional commercial linkage fee, and administer funds.”

As one of the largest cities in the Bay Area, San Jose could receive a substantial new set of regional funds to “support and grow land acquisition, project development, preservation, and tenant protection programs.”

At least one San Jose legislator expressed concerns with allowing a non-elected body to raise taxes regionally.

“It’s basically a quasi government body that is not elected that will be able to put things on the ballot, such as taxes, that I am very concerned about,” said Councilmember Johnny Khamis, who plans to pull the item off the City Council’s consent agenda Tuesday for discussion. “It certainly takes away local control for taxation purposes. I’m not supportive of creating a new way of taxing citizens — there are enough ways of taxing already.”

The bill was recently sent to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office for review.

The City Council will meet 1:30 p.m. Tuesday inside the council chamber at City Hall, 200 East Santa Clara Street in San Jose.

Contact Nadia Lopez at nadia@sanjosespotlight.com or follow @n_llopez on Twitter.

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