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Cindy Chavez

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1) PAC*SJ recently released its first annual “Endangered Eight” list of the most threatened historic places in San José. As a resident of the City, which of these eight places most resonates with you personally? Which of these would you use the power of your elected office to address, and how? 

Diridon Station resonates with me because it serves as both a link to San Jose’s past and our hope for a better future.

Diridon was built in 1935 when San Jose was the center of an agricultural powerhouse region, the Valley of Heart’s Delight. Its architecture is a visual link that evokes that era.

Diridon is also where the future of Silicon Valley will unfold. It will be the regional transportation hub where BART, Caltrain, the ACE train, the Capitol Corridor, and California’s high speed rail line all link up. It will also be a focal point for Google’s San Jose campus development.

While we need to modernize Diridon to accommodate its future role, we also have to preserve its history and link to our past. That is why as a member of the Joint Powers Board I have pressed Caltrain’s management to perform much needed maintenance on the station’s roof and ensure there is no long-term water damage occurring.

2) Is there a historic place or preservation issue not on our “Endangered Eight” list that you would nominate to be added? If so, what solutions would you offer as an elected official to address the issue/threat? 

The Western Appliance sign on San Carlos Street is a vital piece of San Jose’s postwar history that could easily be lost or damaged, much as the Orchard Supply Hardware sign was in 2018. As mayor, I would work with the property owners and History San Jose to ensure that it is preserved.

3) Do you believe that SB9, which allows by-right redevelopment of up to four new units on most single-family-zoned parcels statewide, is compatible with the preservation of older and historic homes and neighborhoods? Why or why not?  

I am not in favor of SB 9 because I believe it imposes cookie-cutter requirements without regard for the unique circumstances and character of individual communities.

4) In the past two years alone, at least five vacant historic buildings in San José have been lost to fire, and many more have suffered from chronic neglect and vandalism. How would you propose more effective code enforcement to prevent the continued loss of our historic resources to neglect? What additional measures would you propose to address these systemic problems? 

Code enforcement is one of San Jose’s strongest tools for historic preservation. One of my earliest actions as a San Jose City Council member was to use code enforcement to ensure that the property owner who illegally tore down the original Lou’s Donuts building in 1998 rebuilt the structure in the same style and saw that he was sentenced to many hours of community service in addition to a financial penalty. As mayor, I would ensure that the code enforcement department clearly got the support it needed to fulfill its role in historic preservation.

5) Do you believe the city should collect compensatory mitigation fees from development projects that result in the demolition of historic resources? Why or why not? If such a policy was instituted, how would you like to see those funds directed?

The response that we helped lead to the demolition of the Lou’s Donuts building is a model for the prevention of our remaining historic inventory. If there is a project that removes historic resources, the funds should be only used for preservation of the remaining at-risk historic assets. In many cities around the world, the reuse and preservation of these historic buildings and areas are some of the most beloved parts of the community. The City of San Jose can and should be a leader on this.

6) The City has long acknowledged that our Historic Resources Inventory-- a citywide survey of historic sites intended to proactively guide development decisions-- is incomplete and out-of-date. Do you support increased City funding and staffing levels to ensure that the HRI is an up-to-date and effective planning tool? 

The Historic Resources Inventory absolutely needs to be brought up to date. As an example, while McDonnell Hall in East San Jose is a National Historic Landmark because it was where Cesar Chavez began his career as a community organizer and civil rights activist, it has not been recognized by the City of San Jose. I would ensure that enough support is found to bring the HRI up-to-date, including securing grant funding. As Mayor, I would meet regularly with the Historic Preservation officer/staff so that they understand that their work is important and a priority to me and my staff.

7) What role do you believe that historic preservation should play in creating and sustaining a vibrant and culturally diverse future for San José? Is there a particular project or effort you have undertaken--either professionally or personally-- that best embodies your vision for historic preservation in San José? 

San Jose has a remarkable architectural past that unfortunately all too often has fallen victim to the pressures of growth too often in the past. I am committed to changing that, and to restoring locations or memorializing them where possible. One current example is the partnership the County is undertaking with San Jose State University to memorialize Speed City, SJSU’s track and field program that not only produced world class athletes and Olympic champions but also civil rights icons such as John Carlos and Tommie Smith.

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