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Peter Ortiz

Running for: 

Council District 5

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? 

Out of the endangered 8 list presented by PAC SJ, the Berryessa Flea Market is the site that resonates most with me and the residents of my district. The Flea Market has been a major landmark in San Jose history and has made our city a destination site for travelers. Not only has the Flea Market put our city on the map, it has also played a major role in our latino community as an economic powerhouse and incubator that has supported the development of businesses in our county.

In partnership with the Berryessa Flea Market Vendors Association, I was involved in the campaign to defend the economic and historical contributions of the Flea Market and I will continue this advocacy on the city council by pushing to invest resources to support displaced vendors, whether its assisting vendors with identifying a new location for the flea market, helping vendors with marketing and business support, as well as opening brick and mortar businesses within District 5. I will also advocate for the direct preservation of the historical site of the Berryessa Flea Market, through designating the site as a city historical location and the preservation of original buildings and structures as the property owners continue to draft development plans.

It will be important that the flea market site continues to offer a form of the Berryessa Flea Market at location that retains the cultural and historical look and feel of the original structures, has a museum / educational resources that shares with the public the significance of the Berryessa Flea Market and the role it has paid in our economic history. I will advocate from my elected position to preserve the culture and history of the Berryessa Flea Market site and will support the vendors who are at risk of displacement.

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? 

Little Portugal, in East San Jose. Little Portugal is a diverse community spanning from District 5 to District 3 that has unique architecture, historical cultural significance to the Portuguese and Mexican American community, and a thriving merchant corridor that has offered unique goods and services that cannot be found in any other location in our region. Due to increased demand for development, the City of San Jose’s form based zoning, and covid19 resulting in the displacement of our merchants, Little Portugal is in danger of cultural erasure.

As a leader in District 5, I have organized local merchants to form the Alum Rock Santa Clara st Business Association to advocate for anti-displacement policies for small businesses as well as to promote the cultural and economic benefits of the Alum Rock corridor. I am also proud to serve on the board of the Alum Rock Urban Village Advocates, an organization that negotiates with developers on the Alum Rock corridor to preserve the cultural and historical significance of our community.

When I am elected to the San Jose City Council, I will advocate to remove form based zoning in East San Jose to increase community input on development along the Alum Rock Corridor. I will also prioritize partnerships with ARUVA and the Alum Rock Santa Clara st Business Association to empower local community organizations and business groups that are rooted in the preservation and economic empowerment of the local community. Finally, I will push to designate Little Portugal a historical district to reduce the threat of development in that area.

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?  

Yes, I do. Many historical locations in San Jose are already populated by duplexes and triplexes. There are homes in Willow Glen and San Jose’s northside that have been able to retain historic homes while also offering multiple units on one plot of land. As our city implements SB9, it will be imperative that they put in protections for historical neighborhoods that limit the developers ability to tear down historic structures and ensure the preservation of architectural significance of our region.

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? 

I believe that our main barrier to addressing the neglect and vandalism of historical locations is the city's dire need to staff their code enforcement department. Currently, many of the reports made to the code enforcement department go unaddressed due to a lack of staffing and resources. It will be a priority for my office to increase incentives for quality applicants to seek employment within the code enforcement roles to improve quality of services and response times to the needs of 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?

Yes, absolutely! I see these fees as a disincentive for the demolition of historical structures. I am open to supporting all policy solutions that would provide pressure on developers and property owners to preserve historic structures and locations within our city.

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 do. The preservation of San Jose’s history is of significant importance to me and I will advocate for city funding and staffing to prioritize the completion of the inventory.

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 plays a major role in ensuring our city is able to retain our culturally vibrant neighborhoods, historical landmarks, and the stories of residents that have made our community what it is today. The city of San Jose must have a strong preservation policy that prioritizes the historical significance of our neighborhoods and forces new developments to adhere to development practices that compliment existing architecture and community aesthetics.

The main effort that I have been involved in regarding the preservation of San Jose’s history would have to be my involvement in the campaign to save the Berryessa Flea Market. As a grassroots organizer, I partnered with the Berryessa Flea Market and Catalyze SV to advocate for the vendors of the Flea Market and to preserve the economic and cultural benefits provided to the community. I wrote an op-ed featured in San Jose Inside that highlighted the importance and historical significance of the flea market, titled “Opinion: Don’t Gamble with Vendors’ Futures at the San Jose Berryessa Flea Market”, I participated in marches and town halls, and personally wrote letters to the city council and spoke at council meetings regarding the importance of preserving the Berryessa Flea Market.

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