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Margaret Abe-Koga

Running for: 

Supervisor District 5

Campaign Website: 

1) PAC*SJ recently released its second annual “Endangered Eight” list of the most threatened historic places in San José. Which of these places (including those from our 2022 “Endangered Eight” of which some remain endangered) most resonates with you personally? Which of these would you use the power of your elected office to address, and how? 

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2) Is there a historic place or preservation issue not on our 2022 or 2023 “Endangered Eight” lists that you would nominate to be added? If so, what solutions would you offer as an elected official to address the issue/threat?

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3) In the past three years alone, at least six vacant historic buildings in San José have been lost to fire, and many more have suffered from chronic neglect and vandalism. Often, these properties were left vacant after former tenants were displaced in anticipation of future development that never materialized.  How would you propose more effective code enforcement and security measures to encourage better stewardship and to prevent the continued loss of our historic resources to neglect? What additional solutions would you propose to address these systemic problems?  

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4) Do you believe the County should require compensatory mitigation fees and/or surety bonds from developers who request and receive entitlements to alter or demolish historic resources under County jurisdiction?  If such policies are instituted and enforced, how would you like to see those funds directed?

Yes, if we had to allow the demolition or alteration. The funds should be used to incentivize and assist property owners to maintain their historic properties.

5) The County has long acknowledged that its Heritage Resource Inventory-- a countywide survey of historic sites intended to proactively guide development decisions-- is incomplete and out-of-date. Do you support increased County funding and staffing levels to ensure that the HRI is an up-to-date and effective planning tool for communities and developers alike?

Yes, although it would have to be conducted when the County is not facing a budget deficit.

6) Santa Clara County has yet to receive final approval for its State-mandated Housing Element, and is therefore currently subject to the “Builder’s Remedy” law requiring streamlined approval of otherwise non-conforming residential development projects in unincorporated areas of the County. How would you help ensure that citizens continue to have a voice in developments that might threaten the character and livability of their neighborhoods, particularly if there are historic resources at risk? 

The Housing Element allows for exemptions from by right processes for historic preservation purposes so there should be opportunity for public input. I think there are also ways where new development can happen while preserving existing historic buildings on a site. In Mountain View, we had a senior co-housing project development proposal on a parcel that had a historic home on it. The historic home was moved to allow for clearance in construction of a new development.The historic home has been used as the caretakers' quarters and as an affordable unit. More recently, I facilitated another City land purchase of a parcel with a historic home on it. In this situation, the property owner wanted to sell 1/2 the land to make it into a park. The property owner moved her historic home closer to an edge so the parcel could be subdivided into two, with the other half sold to the City with future plans for a park. We see it often in other countries where new development is built around existing historic buildings. We should be able to do the same in our community.

7) County park lands are a critical resource for the people of San José and are potential receiver sites for distinctive historic buildings that must be relocated to make way for new developments.  Would you support this as a mitigation measure for new developments with historic resources that would otherwise be demolished? How do you envision that these resources could be best utilized within the parks for the benefit of the public?

In Mountain View, we have had this practice a number of times. One was the Historic Rengstorff House that sits in our beautiful Shoreline Park. The House is used for educational purposes and rented out for events. Another more recent one is an immigrant house located in our downtown. I was able to facilitate the City's purchase of a resident's home who wanted to have the City make her land into a park in a neighborhood that is short of parkland. We (the City) purchased the land to build a park, and had the developer move the immigrant house to the new park. It is used for display of exhibits and tells the story of immigrants who worked in Mountain View, a part of history that is often not told. I would support similar actions at the County.


8) Santa Clara County has owned and maintained the historic but vacant Former San Jose City Hall since 2005. In 2022, County Supervisors voted unanimously to reject the building’s proposed demolition and directed staff to explore adaptive reuse options. Do you support this decision? Would you support a proposal to convert the building for housing or any other adaptive reuse? Why or why not?


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9) What role do you believe that historic preservation should play in creating and sustaining a vibrant and culturally diverse future for Santa Clara County? Is there a particular project or effort you have undertaken or would propose to undertake--either professionally or personally-- that best embodies your vision for historic preservation in Santa Clara County?

Historic preservation is key to creating and sustaining a vibrant community by sharing the stories of people who came before us and helped shape the County to be what it is now. I would point to the example of the Immigrant House as described above as an example of what I would strive to do. I would also work to clearly mark historic locations and have displays that tell the history of what happened in those significant sites. I would especially work to ensure that the stories of our multicultural past are conveyed. As a Japanese American, Japantown in San Jose is extremely important and significant to me but I also see what an important role it plays for the City of San Jose as a local attraction that brings together the community and attracts visitors which enhances the local economy. Thus Historic Preservation can be beneficial on many fronts.

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