Small, local businesses should be at the core of San Jose’s economy. They deserve top-notch customer service from city staff and their elected representatives. I’ll support the City going to great lengths to help small businesses grow as they revitalize our neighborhoods. I will always talk to small business owners dealing with city processes to collaborate on how we can make them work efficiently.
Encourage New Small Businesses
Keep Small Businesses In Our Neighborhoods
A Small Business Expert In My Office
Empty Storefronts & Spaces
San Jose’s Airport
Berryessa Flea Market
Support Small Business Employees
Matching Small Businesses
Encourage New Small Businesses: Many of us love shops and restaurants on the corner of intersections because they make communities more walkable and vibrant. But finding space for small, local businesses to move into, or stay in, our neighborhoods can be hard. Some policies that will encourage more small, local businesses include:
- Pass an Adaptive Reuse Ordinance. This would enable commercial buildings to be more easily converted to residential uses. We could implement this through the upcoming changes to the General Plan.
- Push the City and developers to include active uses on the ground floor of new developments to benefit the broader neighborhood. These community amenities could include spaces for small businesses like retail, restaurants, coffee shops, and childcare.
- Change the zoning of parcels on the corners of streets to allow for up to two-story buildings by right with ground-floor commercial.
- Make it easier for individuals to make a living running businesses out of their homes, building off of lessons we learned from the pandemic.
- Encourage small businesses to use crowdfunding companies like SMBX to raise funds that can be used to grow their businesses, as well as promote those companies that use said services, through the City’s Office of Economic Development.
Keep Small Businesses In Our Neighborhoods: San Jose has so many existing small businesses that are at the core of our community. But it’s gotten harder for business owners to stay open. I propose passing a Legacy Business / Business Retention Ordinance like those in San Antonio or Seattle. Options for implementation include:
- reduced taxes for a set period for property owners that give lease agreements to locally-owned businesses and/or bring back businesses at risk of being displaced.
- a program run out of the City’s Office of Economic Development that could include support such as financial assistance, technical assistance, protective measures against displacement, preservation incentives, and/or marketing assistance and promotion.
- an educational program designed to raise awareness of legacy businesses, frequently administered by nonprofit organizations focused on preservation.
A Small Business Expert In My Office: I will designate a District 6 staffer to be our Small Business Specialist collaborating closely with small business owners. Their job will be joining me in:
- Matching growing businesses searching for space with available locations looking for businesses
- Assisting small business owners in navigating city government and accessing efficient city services, especially as they open or make updates so they can move quickly through city processes to open up on time and under budget
- Proactively visiting and engaging with D6 businesses to ask how they are doing
- Promoting D6 businesses on social media
Empty Storefronts & Spaces: San Joséans have told me how concerned they are about all the empty storefronts, commercial buildings, and offices sitting empty in our city. Empty buildings are not just a waste of space, they encourage blight, vandalism, squatting, drug use, fires, etc. Moreover, they can bring down property values. We should fill these empty buildings with housing and jobs. I want to address this by:
- Putting forward policies that first encourage property owners to lease their storefronts to small, local businesses shortly after they open. This could take the form of reduced property taxes for 5 years if new retail spaces are filled within the first year of vacancy.
- But what if owners choose to leave their buildings vacant and neglected for years? I suggest assessing an annual vacant fee on property owners who leave their land or buildings empty for more than 9 consecutive months without initiating any planned improvements. This would discourage property owners from leaving spaces empty long-term. It’s similar to the effort proposed in the 8/24/23 memo from Mayor Matt Mahan, Vice Mayor Rosemary Kamei, Councilmember Pam Foley, & Councilmember Omar Torres to increase the fee on the delinquent owner of the dilapidated First Church of Christ Scientist building.
- Encouraging property owners sitting on empty buildings or empty land to convert the land to urban agriculture (using the Urban Agricultural Incentive Zone I worked on at the County and City or other policies).
San Jose’s Airport: The airport, which is in District 6, has many great opportunities for local businesses in a high-traffic location. However, the process of opening a business there is complex and burdensome for businesses. I evaluated this process as someone close to me sought space in the airport and pulled out because the contract was so imbalanced and put the small business at too great of a risk. I aim to eliminate the “middle-man” operator at San Jose Airport that oversees onerous contracts with vendors/small businesses and pursue small, San Jose-owned businesses to operate businesses in SJC.
Berryessa Flea Market: With over 400 vendors selling at the Berryessa Flea Market, it is a huge source of economic vitality for our city and region. I played a key role in a coalition of organizations and individuals seeking to protect & prevent the displacement of hundreds of largely Latino & Asian Berryessa Flea Market vendors. Together, we successfully secured a better deal for these businesses as this redevelopment unfolds. Yet the issue hasn’t been resolved because the vendors still don’t have a long-term place where they can stay. So as this work continues, I support:
- Finding a new site on city-owned land for the market to operate
- San Jose giving that land to the operator of the market
- Encouraging Flea Market Vendors themselves to become the new market operator
- Increasing housing density next to VTA’s Berryessa Transit Center and a BART Station so the area is more vibrant and supports more commercial/retail space
Support Small Business Employees: Many small businesses, especially in the service sector, are struggling to attract and retain workers because it is so expensive for those workers to live here on the wages they make. Constantly recruiting and training new workers can be a greater hardship than keeping existing ones. That’s why part of ensuring small businesses can stay in our community involves ensuring their employees can too. More details on this topic can be found in my Priority 5, to be made available on 1/8.
Matching Small Businesses: In recent years, I have increasingly played a key role in “matching” small businesses to their locations. As a natural connector and as your councilmember, I will continue to assist small businesses in finding places where they can sell their products.
- While employed at the County, after a chance encounter with a restaurant owner while I was eating there one day, I informed her that the County was looking for a new vendor to run its cafeteria. She ended up getting the job!
- Not only did I play the leading role in starting the Rose Garden Farmers Market, but I also frequently recommend it to potential new vendors who can sell there and residents who can be customers.
- One of those vendors, an acclaimed Vietnamese fusion food truck called Hết Sẩy, is expanding to a location on The Alameda after I suggested The Alameda as a location and connected them with the Alameda Business Association.
As a foodie, I also love to eat at District 6 restaurants and promote them on my social media channels! I will continue to do that as your Councilmember.