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James Spence

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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 think my top two sites which need to be kept intact are the Downtown Historic District and the Diridon Station. With so many high-rise type buildings of glass and steel these two architectural features are a testament to the individuals who saw a vision for San Jose. I would work to see these structures are incorporated into any expansion plan for the downtown. I would support a City monetary investment in these projects. I certainly agree the other sites listed need to be considered for preservation.

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? 

Alum Rock Park and Mt. Hamilton observatory are sites which are unique to San Jose. I know that Alum Rock Park was the jewel of the valley back in its day. The trolley took people up to The Mineral Spring Plunge and the Soda Springs. I would like to see a restoration effort of these locations.

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 believe this bill does more harm than good. Several historical buildings, by today's new building codes, are not fit to still be standing. But look at them, they have lasted the test of time. It's my belief we need to, as much as possible , to keep our Valley history in tack by preserving these unique elements.

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? 

Most of these fires are started by people squatting in them. We need to hold current land owners responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of there properties. Code Enforcement needs to track the owners of these buildings so we can enforce by fines or court action the responsibilities of property ownership. Many of the hurdles to fixing buildings is due to the cumbersome regulations in our planning and building codes. We must make room here for the saving of history at the expense of modernization.

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?

The "ask for forgiveness rather than ask for permission" must have a very tangible high cost.
Mitigation fees should be based on a large percentage of the value of the new building being built rather than based on the loss of the history. Funds received from this illegal activity should be used to help fund preservation of existing historical projects.

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? 

The City spends lots of taxpayer funds on to many dead end projects and ideas. The fact the City does not fund its civic responsibilities to its history is shame full. I would insist on funding this project now and well into the future.

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? 

My parents supported the Historical Museum by participating in site repairs, up keep and information programs to teach our community about it's history. My family donated all the funds to an Eagle Scout project to build and repair the red entrance building at History San Jose. My family has rebuilt two Model A cars and one Model T car that have been used in historical shows at the Park. Both my parents have been members of Portraits of the Past, doing shows for numerous groups to demonstrate our San Jose history. After my parents passed my family made sure that historical items from my parents collections were donated to the Historical Museum for future use. I believe in San Jose History.

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