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Vanessa Sandoval

Running for: 

Council District 2

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? 

Of the places that are listed on the “Endangered Eight,” the one that is located in District 2 is the IBM Building 11. This site has been the subject of interest by many of our neighbors who live in proximity to this project and would like to see this area activated and cleaned up especially as it is close to Ramac Park, which is highly used. I would engage the community to find out what services are important to them as well as uses they would like to see the site used for. I would also work with the property owner to help ensure that the resource is maintained.

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?

One area that perhaps is not well known is the unincorporated area in South San Jose called Coyote. Coyote is notable for its historic Grange Hall, close to the Post Office and the Metcalf Energy Center. This area is close to the proposed site of LS Power Grid’s High Voltage Direct Current Transmission facility which will certainly change the face and feel of this area. This area is also considered in the Coyote Valley Corridor Study and would welcome the input of PACSJ as this plan progresses.

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 City’s Code Enforcement Division is severely understaffed. We must dedicate resources to adequately address the backlog of cases. More importantly, proactive and frequent inspection can help ensure that these buildings do not fall into such a horrendous state of disrepair. Excessive deterioration and dilapidation means that the structure will only become more expensive to repair, and eventually no option other than demolition may be viable. We must also step up enforcement, including stronger penalties, to compel owners of historic resources to maintain their properties, avoiding blight and increasing the likelihood that these buildings will be preserved.

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? 

The City should make every effort to preserve historic resources, and discretionary review can allow the City to work effectively with developers to maintain historic structures that are affected by development proposals. Only after all alternative options are thoroughly investigated and exhausted should fees be considered. Fees are rarely a suitable mitigation measure; demolished or significantly altered resources are lost forever, and fees cannot bring them back. I would support fees or bonds as mitigation measures only if no viable alternative exists that would ensure that a given historic resource is preserved, and only if the benefit of the development proposal is significant enough to merit consideration of the loss or modification of the resource. Statements of Overriding Consideration must have a high threshold for approval.

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?

Yes, I support increasing staffing and funding to meet the City’s historic preservation goals, enforce preservation regulations and laws, and provide transparency to applicants and to the public alike. Having an up-to-date inventory is essential to achieving these objectives.

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? 

HCD has recently certified the City’s Housing Element, which means that no additional “Builder’s Remedy” applications can be submitted. It is important to remember that the “Builder’s Remedy” refers to a provision in the state Housing Accountability Act, which stipulates that a jurisdiction with a non-compliant Housing Element cannot deny a housing project simply because it does not conform to the General Plan land use designation or the zoning of the property. However, these Builder’s Remedy applications are still subject to CEQA and other provisions of state law. They are not “streamlined” (that is, they are NOT approved ministerially), and cities are not obligated to approve them. They just cannot be denied for nonconformance with General Plan or zoning. The City should solicit input from the community while reviewing these projects and work with the applicants/developers, while complying with state law, to ensure that the projects benefit the community and mitigate negative impacts, including potential loss of historic resources.

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?

While the City should make every effort to preserve historic structures, if no other option is feasible, then I support careful relocation of historic buildings to public properties, including parks, where appropriate and only if the relocation does not diminish public access to valuable recreational space. When historic buildings are relocated, the City should work to maintain the structure and find compatible uses for the building. This should also be an opportunity to educate the public about the historical value of the building. It would also add value and a resource that could add vibrancy to our park system.


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?


SB 9 allows a single-family homeowner to subdivide their parcel (“urban lot split”) once and construct up to two housing units in each parcel. In addition, state law already allows homeowners to construct up to three units on a single-family property: a single-family home, an accessory dwelling unit (ADU), and a junior accessory dwelling unit (JADU). I support allowing owners of historic homes to subdivide their properties and construct ADUs or second units as long as they preserve the historic home. Historic property owners would not be obligated to subdivide or construct additional units, but they should have the opportunity to help provide additional housing for the benefit of their families. Since expanding the applicability of SB 9 is discretionary, the City should require that the property owners preserve any historic resources on the property if they do take advantage of SB 9’s provisions.

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?

San José has a rich, diverse, and unfortunately underappreciated history, much of which is experienced in the older buildings that are scattered throughout the city. While a plaque or some other commemoration can help elevate this history to the public, activation of these buildings will more effectively convey stories of our past to engage as well as educate the community on the rich diversity which is a true reflection of San José. I grew up in scenic Bishop California, a small City which proudly honors its history, so I deeply value and respect the need to incorporate our rich heritage into our development and planning efforts. I support increasing staff to address historic preservation so we can adequately review and maintain our inventory in order to not lose more valuable resources and protect the treasures we have.

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