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 most with me personally. Not only is it in my district, but I spent 12 years going in and out of that station every weekday for my work commute. When I became a councilwoman, Rod Diridon Sr. took me there on a tour and showed me all the things about the station I had missed as a commuter. Along with other members of the Diridon Station Joint Policy Advisory Board, I will continue to push to incorporate the historic station into the new station design as part of the DISC process.
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 Roberto Adobe and Sunol House on Lincoln Avenue. It is the second oldest adobe in San Jose and one of important historical significance. It was built on land granted to Native American, Roberto Balermino, during the Mexican period in California. It is in district 6 and plans to reopen to visiting school groups in the fall. Its biggest threat is an homeless encampment near the Adobe structure which caretakers of the home feel could be burned down due to out of control, open fires. My office is working with the caretakers and Caltrans to try and address the homeless encampment near the site by offering housing and closing off the entrance to the hillside next to the Adobe.
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?
SB9 could be compatible with historic homes, but it’s not compatible with historic neighborhoods. Historic neighborhoods have a specific character to them. If three out of every four homes were newly built in a historic neighborhood – as could happen under SB9 – the character that defined the neighborhood’s historic status would be lost. As written, the city’s implementation of SB9 does not include design guidelines that incorporate the character of the neighborhood as a requirement for SB9 homes.
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 needs the strong backing of the City Attorney’s office to pursue compliance and fines related to chronic neglect and vandalism. I’ve been meeting with the City Attorney recently about moving forward on foreclosure on a severely blighted home in D6 that has an owner resistant to managing the blight. This is being done through a lien on the property by the city for past cleanups conducted by the city for safety and sanitation. The same process could be implemented on neglected historic properties. Another issue related to fire prevention that must be addressed is homelessness. Over the past few years, our unhoused population has been responsible for the greatest increase in calls for service related to fires. We need to restart regular abatements when we offer shelter to people in specific encampments, and we need to strategically choose encampments based on their potential danger to the community.
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?
As much as we can encourage developers to save historic resources by giving them incentives through the development process, I think we should. The cost of retrofitting an historic building can be extremely expensive, but through historic incentives, developers would have a reason to try and keep all or some of the historic elements of a structure. My fear would be if we allowed a compensatory mitigation fee to be paid instead of restoration, the developers would opt for that and we would lose more historic structures.
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?
As the liaison to the Historic Landmarks commission, I am acutely aware of the challenges PBCE has in updating the Historic Resources Inventory. Just as a new historic officer was brought on a couple of years ago, the pandemic hit and planning was thrown into a spiral and they lost the historic officer. I’ve been working with the planning director ever since I took office to put resources toward the historic resources inventory, since many historic neighborhoods and structures are in my district.
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?
It’s important for a community to look back on its history and look forward to its future. We’re shaped by our history and by keeping historic resources we can see a part of us. It keeps our culture richer and more interesting. Sometimes we need to be creative in incorporating history into new development, because we have to have a balance that allows the city to grow and change while celebrating our history. I’ve worked with a local neighborhood on Schiele Avenue to attain an Historic District designation. They are currently in the process of attaining that status.