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Elizabeth Chien-Hale

Running for: 

Council District 3

Campaign Website: 

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. I am enthusiastic about the upcoming improvements to the San Jose transportation infrastructure, and I understand Diridon Station will be transformed into a major transportation hub for CalTrain, Bart, and High Speed Rail. The new station may also become a commercial center, in the style of the Union Station in DC for example. However, brining in the new does not require destroying the old. I hope the old Diridon Station will be preserved. We can build a new Diridon Station without destroying the old Diridon Station.

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? 

There are historical neighborhoods in San Jose that show the glorious days of old San Jose. When I was canvassing, I walked into a few streets south of San Jose State that host grand, old houses. One resident of the house walked me to the back and showed me where the horses and the carriages were kept. While I am glad we now have more humane ways of transportation, I recognized the charm. May be we can establish more historical neighborhoods to remember the past. All great cities protect their past.

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?  

SB 9 allows property owners to split lots zoned for a single home; however, SB9 does not apply to single-family parcels within a historic district. San Jose is considering allowing denser housing in the city’s historic neighborhoods. While I understand the urge to allow SB9 lot-splitting and higher density in all parts of the city, rather than putting the burden on only certain parts of the city, I believe that a city loses its soul if it loses too much connection to its past. Fortunately, public opinions will be a major factor in determining whether and under what circumstances such plans would be allowed to proceed.

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? 

Fire seems to always happen with a pandemic, referring to the Great Fire of London and the Great Plague. I hope the loss of our historical buildings will decrease or cease as the pandemic leaves us. I would advocate that the building owners be required for night patrols of the buildings especially when they are vacant.

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?

Compensatory mitigation fees only cover the financial aspect of the issues. Ideally, a buyer who chooses a property in a historical neighborhood makes the choice because s/he likes the overall community feel of the neighborhood. Owning a property in a historical neighborhood comes with an additional duty of responsible stewardship of the past. If someone buys an old house in a neighborhood with an established architectural style and the style's connection to history, I hope that owner will be responsible to the community in ways other than paying compensatory mitigation fees.

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? 

Yes, I will support the hiring of a full-time staff (or more if necessary) to be in charge of the project.

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? 

As I mentioned earlier, a great city is great because of its soul and its connection to the past. This does not mean a city should not transform itself. I am quite a proponent for bringing in new technologies in buildings to improve our environment. However, it is always a delicate balance between preserving the old while modernizing a city. I lived some time in Beijing while the city was transformed itself into a modern city. I believe New Delhi is also going through the same process. Both cities stood by the need to preserve its past and chose certain parts of the cities as "no-touch zones," and built out other parts of the city to accommodate the new.

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