Sergio Jimenez remembers playing on the corner of Checkers Drive and McKee Road in East San Jose in front of the El Rancho Verde apartments that were his childhood home. He watched as helicopters circled his neighborhood at night, lights flickering above as the sound of police sirens wailed.
Jimenez slept on the living room floor of the two-bedroom apartment he lived in with his mother, Sabina, and six siblings. While he wasn’t involved in gangs, he saw the violence that erupted around him, motivating him to get an education. Jimenez became the first in his family to graduate from college, and worked for eight years as a criminal investigator for the Santa Clara County Public Defender’s Office.
“There were certainly problems, but there was also a sense of community,” he said. “I grew up in a big housing complex where everyone knew each other.”
Today the street lined with tall, bristling trees Jimenez grew up on looks different to the District 2 San Jose Councilmember. Sometimes he goes back to that corner, recalling the rough neighborhood that inspired him to pursue a life in public service.
Jimenez, vying for a second term, remains fixed on the priorities that led him to run — tackling homelessness, increasing public safety and securing housing. The longtime District 2 resident said he’s continuing the work he started since his days as the founder of the Oak Grove Neighborhood Association and serving on the Parks and Recreation Commission a decade ago.
Housing and Homelessness
His biggest priority — building interim housing — starts by working with Santa Clara County in updating its Community Plan to End Homelessness, he said.
“The old plan focused only on housing, which I’m supportive of, but they failed and ignored what happens between homelessness and housing — those interim solutions,” Jimenez said.
Jimenez’s goal is to secure more safe parking locations, bridge housing communities, homeless shelters and beds, as well as navigation centers. He also wants to find ways to use existing or vacant buildings to house people.
“My view is this: We need more beds. We need more interim uses. You cannot continue to clear out people when they have nowhere to go,” he said.
That’s why Jimenez supports implementing a commercial linkage fee, for example, to boost revenue for building affordable housing. He said it’s part of the city’s responsibility to ask corporate partners to “step up,” instead of placing the tax burden on residents.
“I think the majority on the council have been carrying the water for big business — they’re unwilling to do anything that’s perceived to make it more expensive to do business in the city, all the while other neighboring cities are charging these fees,” Jimenez said.
Rudy Flores, who worked with Jimenez on the parks commission for five years, said he admires how Jimenez addresses difficult issues compassionately.
“He helps to draw awareness to the homelessness problem in a positive way,” Flores said. “I was always very impressed that he could speak on the issues that are affecting each part of the district. He was extremely thoughtful in the way he approached it and talked to those people personally, even before he was on City Council.”
Jimenez said he’s motivated to build community trust as a tool to make his district safer through events like Village Fest. The lawmaker said he believes that if everyone knew their neighbors, the community would be “all the better for it.” If elected to a second term, Jimenez said he wants to expand Viva Calle, an event where streets close to cars, to parts of his district.
To reduce crime, Jimenez is fixed on opening the San Jose Police Department South Substation by relocating the police academy there. Last year, he secured $1.5 million from the city budget to move the project along.
“One of the challenges of being (in District 2), is that it’s far away from other police stations and resources,” he said. “A new station will increase response times, increase morale for police officers and make the police department more accessible to the residents.”
Contact Nadia Lopez at [email protected] or follow @n_llopez on Twitter.
Name: Sergio Jimenez
Family: Married for 20 years, three kids between 13 and 20 years old
Political affiliation: Democrat
Education: Bachelor of Arts degree in political science from San Jose State University
Profession: San Jose Councilmember, District 2; public defender’s office investigator
Current or previous elected or appointed positions: City Council District 2
Top 3 priorities: Homelessness, public safety, housing
Top 3 endorsements: Santa Clara County Supervisor Mike Wasserman, U.S. Rep. Zoe Lofgren, U.S. Rep. Ro Khanna
Special talent: His ability to relate to people from every walk of life. “I’m like a chameleon, I can relate to people through life experience,” he said.
In one sentence, why vote for you? “I’m a longstanding, committed public servant who has shown a sincere interest in bettering our city and our community.”