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David Cohen

Running for: 

Council District 4

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? 

The Alviso Historic District is an important gem of the South Bay. As the Councilmember representing District 4, I will do all I can to preserve, protect, and restore the historic buildings in Alviso. I have also worked hard since I got into office to find a way to preserve the legacy and economic impact of the flea market as the needed urban village development moves forward in the future.

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?

The old Alviso Community Center is a historic building that has a lot of potential as a community benefit. I will look into what we can do with PRNS to find resources to upgrade the building so it can open to the public once again.

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?  

The Wade Warehouse in Alviso in my district was a terrible loss. It's often unknown to city code enforcement when there are risks to a historic property. We need to encourage the public to be our watchdogs of these historic sites so that we can step in to protect properties that are under threat. We need to seek federal and state grants to systematically preserve and protect important historic structures.

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

My preference is to work to preserve historic structures through new developments as much as possible. Given the high cost for development, we have to be very careful about adding additional cost for building housing. But I'm willing to consider additional tools to encourage at least keeping facades of buildings to preserve historic character, at least in our downtown core.

5) The City has long acknowledged that its 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 for communities and developers alike?

We should determine how to update our historic resources inventory without increasing staffing. I believe it is possible to build a systematic process to do the update given current resources.

6) San José 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. 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? 

All projects that are attempted under the Builder's Remedy still must conduct an EIR and mitigate the environmental impacts, which includes considering historic preservation. San Jose must make sure all developers conduct requisite EIRs for their projects. (I'm hopeful that the Housing Element will be certified soon.)

7) City 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?

We should always consider how to preserve historic buildings, after case-by-case analysis of the true historic nature of structures. Parks should be designed to pay homage to the historic uses of the properties where they are developed.


8) In 2022 California passed SB9, which allows by-right redevelopment of up to four new units on most R1 (single-family-zoned) parcels statewide, but exempted historic properties, historic districts, and R2 (duplex-zoned) neighborhoods from eligibility. In 2024, City Council will consider expanding SB9-type entitlements to include historic properties and R2 districts. Do you believe this type of development is appropriate for historic homes and older neighborhoods? Why or why not?


It depends on how this is implemented. I have not made a decision regarding my position on this issue.

9) 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 or would propose to undertake--either professionally or personally-- that best embodies your vision for historic preservation in San José?

Cities should always strive to preserve their historic character. I was particularly concerned that the zoning of the San Jose Flea Market back in 2007 did not take into account the historic nature of the use of the property and would have preferred that it was taken into consideration. When I came into office in 2021, I asked how we can do more to ensure that the flea market is preserved in some form and that the urban village development pays homage to the flea market.

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