top of page

Irene Smith

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 is a staple to San José. It’s an iconic building that is frequently used and can leave a lasting impression on residents and visitors. We should do what we can to preserve Diridon Station because of how crucial it is to downtown’s image and because it is a hub of transit for our residents and visitors.

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 don’t have anything to add.

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?  

Conditionally, SB9 can be compatible with the preservation of older and historic homes and neighborhoods. When there are new projects being proposed to be built, it is very important to involve all stakeholders. Including stakeholders such as residents, businesses, and developers in community meetings, ensures that historic buildings or unique aspects of a neighborhood are preserved. In Downtown only one neighborhood, Hensley is actually protected through historic designation but will still require their community input on changes moving forward. We need more housing and while I prefer local control, SB9 has been voted into State law. We can build more housing, meet the requirements of SB9 and verify that we are getting community input for preservation priorities during initial project planning when development is inevitably proposed for a neighborhood.

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? 

We need to have accountability for Code Enforcement and user-friendly systems to allow residents and interested parties to easily learn about a case and what actions have been taken. I would ask for a formal audit of Code Enforcement and how they can be much more responsive to residents. At the core, we need to refresh the processes of City Hall. I also want to increase penalties for repeat offenders.

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?

It is already expensive to build anything in San José. If we slap on another fee, it will discourage investments in the city. I want to be clear here and emphasize that I believe in local control and keeping neighborhoods in-tact; however, we have to acknowledge where our city currently stands with the high cost of housing and the number of folks living on the streets. The city already has an overly complicated permitting processes tacked on with fees. If such a policy is instituted, I would like to see the funds used towards building more affordable housing.

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? 

I realize the website is outdated and upon visiting this website, I commend staff for their work in documenting historic inventory in the city up until this point. I understand the need for preserving our history and that there are more pressing issues the city is facing. I am open to community involvement in assisting with the HRI in further development. I am not interested in preserving a building that is dilapidated and neglected. Neglected buildings eventually become blight and can be a hazard if the structure isn’t maintained. I would like to use both the carrot of encouraging good stewardship of historical structures while also using the stick of fines through a better code enforcement process.

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 love older homes. They are a work of art. Much easier to tear down and start anew but these homes and historic areas are labors of love. Historic preservation adds to the culture of the city. Who doesn't like to walk down the cobblestone streets in Boston or NYC or see the various types of brick work and architecture? We should maintain this culture in San Jose as well, especially in downtown. This is without a doubt important. It keeps the city interesting and vibrant. And we can be smart in how we approach preservation. I have restored three homes in Naglee park. They need constant attention; and the improvements, repairs, and maintenance never end. But as I said, it's an art form and I'm glad to have had the chance to be part of it.

bottom of page