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?
I am a lifelong resident of San José and I have valued learning about and sharing our tremendous history with others. I even developed a four hour history tour which I have taken several local stakeholders on to help them better understand our city. I first became a member of PAC*SJ nearly a decade ago, provoked by my own interest in learning about and preserving our city’s history. I have and will continue to fight with you on the preservation of historic assets in our city. I personally resonate closely with five of your “Endangered Eight” and as you likely know I have already been one of the few champions to fight with you on several of them. I am the only Mayoral candidate to have stood up and fought for the Flea Market, while my opponents either sided with the property owner or are currently endorsed by them. Most recently, along with your support, I issued a memo to highlight the importance of preserving Diridon Station during a discussion of an MOU with the High Speed Rail Authority. I am confident we can preserve Diridon Station if we plan for it and don’t compromise, and I’m committed to that effort. I fought to incorporate the First Church of Christ Scientist within the new development plans, and when they stalled I ensured the property owner covered and protected the building each rainy season. My father grew up in Alviso and much of my family still lives there today and even as the Downtown Councilmember I have often been one of the lone votes in protecting it from overdevelopment. Lastly, as the Downtown Councilmember I have worked diligently and closely with you to ensure we can balance preservation and growth, especially in our Historic District.
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?
I believe Japantown is another area I would nominate to be added to your list. San José’s Japantown is one of three remaining Historic Japantowns in the country and as the Councilmember representing Japantown I can tell you that I have worked very hard over the years to ensure new development hasn’t threatened that status. For example I worked for six years to meticulously create an acceptable development proposal at the old corp yard and ensured important details such as ground floor commercial spaces with smaller footprints to deter big box stores and encourage more mom and pop shops. I also ensured last year that as the Council voted to intensify mixed use opportunities in Japantown and other commercial corridors that we specifically avoided Jackson Street and focused on Taylor Street instead. I am concerned that as many of the property and business owners transition out that new investors or franchises will want to come in. It will be incumbent on the next District 3 Councilmember that they remain steadfast and diligent to ensure we can preserve this tremendous asset. I am proud to have earned the support from so many stakeholders in Japantown and they know that as Mayor I will remain committed to preserving its important status.
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 the only Mayoral candidate who supports the modest upzoning law that is SB9. The law still allows the city to impose objective design review standards and I can assure you I have no interest in supporting any developments that don’t conform or match the character of the neighborhoods they will be developed in. This is a standard for me today and it will remain so with SB9 projects. I myself grew up in a quad-plex apartment that from the front looked like a two story single family home and in fact it was overall smaller than a lot of single family homes are today. Today I live in a single family home and several homes on my block, including my adjacent neighbor, have already converted to duplexes, which has been a common practice in San José for decades. These projects can and should fit in well with the homes surrounding them and I will support nothing less. Most importantly SB9 states that it restricts development located within a historic district or property included on the State Historic Resources Inventory, or within a site that is designated or listed as a city or county landmark or historic property or district pursuant to a city or county ordinance.
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 we need a two pronged approach. First, we know that city staff, specifically code enforcement, are understaffed and we have numerous vacancies to fill. We can all benefit from a focused hiring effort to shore up our own staff resources and ensure we can adequately and proactively address some of these more vulnerable sites. Secondly, we need a tough stick approach with property owners who allow these sites to fall into disarray and neglect. From my years on the council I can say that most often the culprits are absentee property owners or large development firms who don’t value the sites as we do. I would propose that we use the historic status of a vacant building to create a higher fee and fine category so that we can entice property owners to better care for and manage their properties.
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?
Today we have an overriding consideration vote process before we can permit demolition of a historic resource and I have seen how that has helped in the preservation of certain buildings. I have also seen how we almost lost a building, the Pallesen House, even after a vote of support to preserve it. Funding the relocation and identifying a location was part of the challenge and I do believe that compensatory mitigation fees for either the demolition or relocation of a historic resource could help the city to preserve these assets. We also have been in need of additional resources for evaluating our historic resources citywide and these funds could help in that effort as well. I would consider creating and supporting such a fee.
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?
Shortly after joining the Council I learned about this challenge and I was running across many individual project proposals that could have benefited from having an up to date Historic Resources Inventory. So after being neglected for many years by the Council, I co-led an effort to allocate adequate resources to address this. In June of 2017 I, along with former Councilmember Don Rocha, submitted a memo to update our Historic Resources Inventory by hiring a new dedicated staff member in the Planning, Building and Code Enforcement department to manage the survey. I’m proud that effort was supported and that we did hire a dedicated staff member. Unfortunately that staff member is no longer with us and the work remains unfinished. I am supportive of allocating additional funding once again to reinitiate this effort and complete this important work.
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?
I don’t believe we can sustain a vibrant and culturally diverse San José without prioritizing historic preservation. I have grown up here my entire life and my family picked the crops in this valley. Today you wouldn’t know just by looking around that San José was once the Valley of Heart’s Delight. There are very few orchards that have been preserved today and I have valued taking my own family to see them at places like the Guadalupe Park and Gardens and Emma Prusch Farm Park. We can best tell the story about our city if we preserve some of its most important landmarks, like how the historic Gonzalez-Peralta Adobe and the Fallon House have done for so many. I have fought for the preservation of many assets over the years but I believe the one that most embodies my vision was that of the Pallesen House. I worked from start to finish to first create an opportunity to save and relocate the house. When time expired and we were threatened with demolition I stepped in to convene all relevant stakeholders and to apply pressure to the developer. And with great partners like PAC*SJ, together we hammered out a solution in rapid time and were able to Save the Pallesen! I was proud to work with you on that effort and I look forward to continuing our work together as your next mayor.