Marshall Allen Woodmansee
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 associate most with the Burbank theater, the First Church of Christ, Scientist next to Saint James Park, Diridon Station, and Alviso Historic District. I would advocate for the preservation of all of these sites for the betterment of our communities health and wellbeing and to uphold the character of our past. I would ensure the Flea Market is able to operate at its location. I would encourage non-profit ownership of the Burbank theater to reopen it and make it run by volunteers, similar to the historical “Hollywood Theater” in Portland, Oregon. It was built in 1926 and the gorgeous presence of the venue drew residents from all corners to its seats. The presence of historical buildings brings a desirable experience that encourages people to come out of their homes and cars to spend time there. I would encourage City Staff to pursue a partnership with the First Church of Christ through a co-program with Parks and Recreation to provide essential community services at the park and the church. I would hold public meetings to discuss the future of the Diridon Transit center, the Burbank Theater, the Alviso Historic District, and Old City Hall, the Flea Market, and other important historical resources.
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?
Another addition to this list is the preservation of open spaces. This is a more nuanced issue that we all should begin to grapple with as development consumes our land. I would add to your list of 8 a series of open land areas that could provide great service to our community if used for public good. By preserving open space such as the unused lot next to De Anza Hotel, various vacant lots and soon-to-be-developed lots throughout our neighborhoods, the Cambrian Park Plaza, and many more, we can make room for food production. Food production is a key part of my platform because I believe it will help increase food security, engage young and old in nature and agriculture, unite communities, and provide essential nutrition to all. These spaces should be used for gardening, relaxation, family entertainment and play, community building, food production, distribution of essential services, and education.
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?
Increasing the density of our residential neighborhoods is compatible with preservation efforts. However, demolition of an existing building should only happen when necessary and with adequate reasoning against restoration. Additions and renovations are crucial aspects for many homeowners and through the engagement of community leaders, we can achieve both increased access to housing and preservation of the character of our communities. I believe that the character of our neighborhoods is threatened most by speeding, community disengagement, and car dependency. Improving the character of our neighborhoods is more a matter of preventing car crashes and dangerous driving, ensuring safe walking, biking, and skating in our neighborhoods, and increasing the presence of community gardens, farmers' markets, cultural events, road closures, and free entertainment. We can increase the density of our residential communities while preserving the craftsman appeal of residential architecture.
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?
In an effort to stop the loss of our historic sights, a better security net must be created for them. Stronger and taller fences, alarm systems, surveillance cameras, these are all ways in which protection can be provided. Directing more funds into preventative care systems and drug/psychiatric treatment centers will also decrease the amount of people who find it necessary to break in and stay the night in abandoned buildings. In my understanding, many of the fires are caused by people who break in to spend the night and try to cook something or stay warm. Getting our people off of the streets and into treatment will create a better environment for everyone in San Jose, and in order to do this, we need to build more MAT centers (Medication Assisted Therapy) to provide vital care and counseling to community members suffering from substance abuse.
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?
Current reports show a trend of our leadership shying away from development fees with millions of dollars being lost at the benefit of developers. I will implement existing development fees and include a new fee for the demolition of historic resources. These funds will be used to develop food gardens at historic landmarks and fund improvements to walking and biking infrastructure reasonably shown to improve access to historic places. Through my vision to make San Jose a food garden and create safe walkable and bikeable communities, historic resources will grow in importance as they become further engrained in San Jose culture. Historic resources are a great starting point for education on who we are as a city and will serve as a reminder for generations to come on what is possible. The bleak walls of the glass and concrete structures of our downtown must be compared to the building techniques of the past, especially at the Diridon Transit Station.
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 believe that keeping information about historic sites up to date and accurate is vital to the health and wellness of the city of San Jose. As Mayor, I would support an increase in City Funding to the involvement of HRI in our restoration and development processes. According to SanJoseCa.gov, “the inventory does not include all of the City's fine historical and architectural resources, as many structures have never been surveyed.” I think that more funding should be put into the classification of Historical Landmarks in San Jose, as well as maintaining and re-invigorating these spaces. Communities will directly benefit from my plan to unite San Jose history education and our public library system in a series of City sponsored learning events for all ages at libraries and community centers.
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 believe that keeping the history of San Jose intact where possible and recorded for public gain is vital to the happiness of our residents. Historic resources will co-exist along with my efforts to increase the production of food in San Jose and strengthen our communities around sustainability. The best example of my own efforts to bring about my vision for historic preservation is the house in which I was raised in West San Jose. I experienced the power that the history of a location can have as my parent's house was a bar from its creation in the mid 20th century to its conversion into a house in the 90s. My family bought the house in 2004 and former bar patrons must have thought the bar was re-opened because a few people walked into our house, quickly recognized the changes to the interior, and hurriedly closed the door! I helped my dad restore the sub-floor of the house which had sagged over three inches from the weight of the bar and develop the property using salvaged windows, lumber, and bricks from old homes. Maintaining old structures is a lot of work. Yet, preservation and restoration and good for increasing entertainment, skills, and culture while aiding in the reduction of consumption of natural resources.