Democratic club chooses Chavez for San Jose mayor
Supervisor Cindy Chavez praised the EPA during a news conference on Jan. 12 for accepting a petition from the county to evaluate the use of leaded aviation fuel. Photo by Tran Nguyen.

The Silicon Valley Democratic Club has overwhelmingly endorsed Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez in her campaign for San Jose mayor, with an 85% vote.

On Monday, the club held a mayoral forum where candidates San Jose Councilmembers Matt Mahan and Raul Peralez along with former congressional candidate Jonathan Royce Esteban and Chavez answered six questions to win over the club’s support.

The club tasked candidates with answering questions about police reform, climate change, attracting and retaining small businesses, increasing the affordable housing stock, transit and expanding the safety net for victims of intimate violence.

Affordable Housing

The four candidates agreed that increasing the city’s affordable housing stock is a top priority. To achieve this goal, immediate reform is required in the planning, building and code enforcement department. Expediting the building permit process is a must.

Chavez said the department is critically understaffed with 25% less personnel than it should have, so investing in employees is essential, as well as putting pressure on the state to continue funding housing projects.

Both Chavez and Peralez noted increasing benefits to attract and retain employees would help fill vacant positions in this department.

Peralez said the city’s mayor needs to be “unapologetically pro-affordable housing,” and ensure that development happens around the city without exceptions for certain neighborhoods.

Estaban voiced his support for SB 9—a state bill allowing for the development of up to four homes on single-family lots throughout California—and said the city should only approve denser urban housing projects. Mahan said the city needs a “mayor who is going to be aggressively out there recruiting dollars from both the state and the philanthropic sector” to supplement what he described as a “pretty small amount of dollars” to address the the city’s  affordable housing problem.

Business Support

When asked how candidates would attract and support San Jose businesses, particularly small ones, their answers were more nuanced but centered on streamlining the permit process, addressing homelessness and providing more support to small business owners.

Mahan said the biggest concern from residents is ensuring commercial spaces are clean, safe and not impacted by homelessness.

“The single best thing we can do is invest in our infrastructure (to) help our homeless neighbors transition out of our streets and into shelter and treatment,” he said, noting it would encourage more people to walk around and patronize retail centers.

Peralez, who has worked as a city councilmember for seven years, said the main concern of the business community is the city’s permitting process takes too long for small businesses to launch. The process needs streamlining.

“Ultimately (the process) at times puts them out of business and makes it impossible for them to be able to operate here in the city of San Jose,” Peralez said.

Chavez and Esteban agreed with Peralez’s sentiment, but Chavez noted she would want to replicate some of the efforts done at the county such as providing small business loans and making the permit process transparent and available online.

Police Reform

For police reform, all candidates agreed changes are necessary, but concrete steps differ.

“There is always room for improvement,” Mahan said, noting he wants to increase community engagement, expand the powers of the independent police auditor and use tech to identify misconduct in the police department.

Peralez, a current reserve officer, said “absolutely yes” to reforming the department. He wants to expand police oversight, bring back community policing and improve training, which he said is a statewide problem.

Chavez wants to improve training, hiring and retaining the best officers and building trust by working closely with police. Esteban shared similar sentiment.

Climate Change

Chavez said she would change building codes to encourage a greener future, retrofit old buildings to better use energy and focus on wildfire suppression.

“The work that we’ve done to improve our air quality over the last 10 years has almost been wiped out by one terrible fire season,” Chavez said.

Peralez would continue the ban on natural gas and fossil fuels for new developments, but would stop the city’s practice of granting exemptions for certain behemoth companies. He also said he would want to improve public transportation to reduce residents’ reliance on vehicles.

Esteban wants to increase access to electric vehicles and charging stations, and be aggressive in improving solar and renewable energy production in the city.

Mahan said the “single biggest leverage point” in addressing climate at the city level is land use policies. He would improve transit infrastructure, leverage the city’s purchasing power for renewable energy and commit to restoring the city’s declining tree canopy—especially in disenfranchised communities.

The Silicon Valley Democratic Club will meet March 21 at 7 p.m. to consider other political candidates for endorsement.

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

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