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Bien Doan

Running for: 

Council District 7

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? 

All of the “Endangered Eight” have an emotional draw for me. If I had to choose one, it would be the Graves House. Having lived in Porterville, CA, when I first came to the U.S. in 1975 and then in San Jose beginning in 1985, I have lived around the orchards and slowly seen them disappear. I would recommend putting a commemorative plaque and storyboard at the proposed 40-unit apartment site and moving the house to another location for repairs and viewing by the public. A possible location would be the County Fairgrounds in District 7. The house could be used as a rental for venues and for tours; similar to the Rengstorff House at Shoreline in Mountain View. There could be an accompanying gift shop with apricot and peach jams and other farmhouse and orchard food products typical of the days of orchards and fruit stands. A storyboard of other farmhouses and orchards could be part of the attraction.

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? 

It is my dream to have a San Jose Historical Museum using all of the artifacts that are currently stored at our Central Yard which is located on Senter Road in District 7. The museum would have displays that reflect the stories and history of San Jose. It would utilize both public and private funding and would generate tourist interest and revenue. The location would be through purchase, donation or designated city/county property; such as the County Fairgrounds in District 7. The museum would be a permanent home for existing and future historic resources. This will preserve the richness and culture of San Jose’s past for residents, tourists and generations to come.

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?  

The state law SB9 doesn’t apply to single-family parcels within a historic district or lots already zoned for duplexes. However, the City Council, last December, agreed that city planners would spend the next year gathering public feedback to create design standards for projects permitted under SB 9 and determine whether — and under what circumstances — to allow them in historic areas and parts of the city zoned for duplexes. Many older homes are designated “conservation”, but not designated “historic”. Conservation homes and many other older homes are not protected under SB9. In general, the combination of SB9 and the unknown forthcoming design standards may not be compatible with preserving many of the older homes and historic neighborhoods.

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? 

Unfortunately, there are a variety of reasons that properties are being neglected. However, we cannot continue to let buildings become a safety hazard or remain in blighted condition. As a responsible city, we must ensure that we have adequate code enforcement personnel, enforce existing policy, and revise policy as needed to prevent the deterioration of these properties. First, I recommend that we enforce the existing San Jose ordinance that is specific to vacant or abandoned historic buildings, such as: 1) ensuring they have an operating security alarm system and 2) being maintained in accordance with the California Fire Code. If not maintained properly, we should follow the existing ordinance and enforce installation of fire alarms and sprinkler systems; register properties into the vacant or abandoned building monitoring program, impose fines and impose criminal or civil measures if all else fails. If the owner still fails to follow the ordinance, the city can discuss taking conservatorship of the property.

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?

My initial recommendation is to have a meeting with the Preservation Action Council, developers and community stakeholders to determine viable options for addressing the demolition of historic resources. There may be options, such as preserving part of the historic property and finding ways to carry on the legacy of the historic resource. In many cases, the property may already have deteriorated beyond any cost-effective reparations. Each situation is different and deserving of preservation action that is unique; to bring forward its memory and historic storyline. Community involvement and creative ideas should be a key component when historic resources are being demolished. Any associated fees could be spent on efforts to preserve the associated historic resource.

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. Our historic resources are key to preserving our culture. They are interesting, create an emotional tie to our city, and are a great attraction for visitors. Knowing historic concerns in advance will help alleviate any pursuing debates over historic preservation during the development process. Just as we should resurrect and preserve our art and theatre scene in San Jose, we should also proactively update our history resources inventory to maintain their legacy for the community.

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? 

Historic preservation should play a vital role in San Jose’s future. Its importance cannot be over-emphasized. It plays a key role in welcoming discussion and interest in our history and culture, as well as creating attractions for visitors and being a potential source of revenue. It can also be a low-cost, fun solution as an activity for children to be involved in. I participated in improving the Vietnamese Museum at Kelley Park by going to Orange County and bringing back a memorial monument for the significant battle of Quang Tri and participating in the inaugural ceremony of the monument. I also participated in the dedication of the bell at Fire Station 1 and the inauguration of the San Jose Fire Museum at Julian and Market Streets. I enjoyed being involved in these preservation efforts and will continue to make historic preservation an integral part of our community.

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