Priority 3: Advance Sustainability to Preserve our Environment

There’s no question that global warming / climate change is the most important environmental issue we’ll have to address. We must do more to conserve our resources and use them more sustainably. I want to make San Jose the greenest city in America!

Pillar 1: Advance Sustainability
Pillar 2: More Trees, Better Parks & Lots of Open Space
Pillar 3: A More Dynamic, Valuable Transportation System

Pillar 1: Advance Sustainability

I support the move away from fossil fuels to greater reliance on clean, renewable energy through policies that emphasize public transit, walking, bicycling, electric vehicles, electric appliances, energy-efficient buildings, sustainable building materials, energy storage and smart grids, and solar panels.

Sustainable Development
Encourage Mass Timber
Repair Neighborhoods From Freeway Disruptions
Urban Agriculture
Reform CEQA

 

Sustainable Development: Despite a wet winter here and there, California is stuck in a cycle of recurring droughts, continuing fire seasons, and hotter days. To preserve our natural resources, I will push for policies that electrify our homes and businesses quicker to rely more on renewable energy, conserving our water, and more efficient heating and cooling systems. I propose:

  • Raising the City of San Jose requirement on all new multi-unit development from LEED Silver → LEED Gold. Or, as they do in Miami Beach with all new buildings above 7,000 sq ft, developers can pay a fee to have a lower environmental certification and the revenue can be dedicated to environmental initiatives. 
  • Incentives to encourage energy-efficient buildings, solar panels, sustainable building materials like low-carbon concrete, and energy storage and smart grids
  • Drought-tolerant, native landscaping and trees that use less water compared to green grass lawns. We should require 50% drought-tolerant landscaping in new developments.
  • Increased use of purple pipes, including the gradual conversion of recycled water into more regular, extensive usage. In the future, we might need to use this as drinking water and I believe it is now safe thanks to our recycled water plant. City facilities should increasingly rely on recycled water.
  • Greater water efficiency through rainwater runoff systems that return water to the ground
  • The city's sale or reuse of at least one of its golf courses to reduce water usage authorized by the city and provide a use that benefits more community members
  • Development that is outside of, or at least accounts for, areas prone to fires or flooding
  • Integrate the City’s Climate Smart Plan into our next General Plan

 

Encourage Mass Timber: Part of what makes taller buildings above seven stories expensive is they traditionally require steel, which is more expensive than wood. An emergent construction material called mass timber is improving the odds of construction commencing and getting completed quicker. Mass timber has direct environmental impacts. It can be made from a variety of trees which can lead to more sustainable forestry, and can limit large forest fires, and store carbon more effectively than traditional materials. At the same time, this building method also creates a benefit to reduce damage from earthquakes. This kind of innovation and efficiency is what we need in San Jose. Yet San José doesn’t have a single mass timber project. That’s why I promise an incentive program for any developer that commits to mass timber construction in projects between 9 and 30 stories by January 1, 2027. 

 

Repair Neighborhoods From Freeway Disruptions: District 6 community leaders have brainstormed this idea I believe is worth exploring.  To repair neighborhoods torn apart and hurt by the noise and pollution of freeways, San Jose should follow the lead of cities like San Diego by exploring a cap/top (also known as a freeway lid) over Highway 280 in District 6. I propose studying one between Race St & MacArthur Ave. The City should join other government agencies in sharing the costs of a feasibility study that looks at how the land above the highway could be used for parks and/or homes on it. 

 

Urban Agriculture: I take pride in this County as the Valley of the Heart’s Delight! One of the best measures we can take to build more sustainable communities is to grow local food instead of having our food shipped in from far away using energy-draining transportation methods that cause significant pollution and cost a lot. So I propose San Jose: 

  • Collaborate with a nonprofit like Village Harvest to create a city urban harvesting program (here’s an example from San Francisco).
  • Partner with the Open Space Authority to purchase land and put an easement on the land to reserve it for urban agriculture.
  • Encourage 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) 
  • Change SJ ordinance code to allow/encourage rooftop gardens as allowed by right (noteworthy examples include the Brooklyn Grange farm or Eagle Street Rooftop Farm in NYC). I would welcome incentives for D6 projects adding rooftop gardens. 


Reform CEQA: Though I don’t want to reduce environmental regulations, I do want to reform CEQA because it gets in the way of development. It is used as a tool by those who oppose housing, including affordable housing, and thus is an issue of equity.

Pillar 2: More Trees, Better Parks & Lots of Open Space

With some of the best weather in the US, San Jose has many beautiful parks and outdoor spaces that all residents should be able to enjoy. However, the quality of our public parks and neighborhood blocks has diminished in recent years. So I’m proposing a funding mechanism aimed at dedicating resources to 3 key city services and environmental benefits: maintaining our parks, keeping up our sidewalks, and planting more trees.

Tree Canopy
Park Maintenance
Open Spaces

 

Tree Canopy: The number of trees in San Jose has dropped in recent years, meanwhile, temperatures are going up. Building on efforts by Councilmember Cohen & Foley, we need to plant more trees in San Jose. Trees make our neighborhood quality of life and the environment better. They cool our neighborhood temperatures. 

  • This effort would be equity-based so more new trees are planted in the districts/neighborhoods with the fewest trees currently. 
  • The city should outline which trees provide the best coverage/canopy & require developers to choose between the trees with the best coverage. The community can play a role.
  • As outlined by the City Auditor, we need to ensure developers plant replacement trees at city-required. 
  • Speed up the planting of trees – in places where they are desperately needed like Cahill Park – through a specific fund for the Park. Funding mechanisms like this already exist through entities like the San Jose Parks Foundation.

 

Park Maintenance: Right now, only 6% of our city parks are fully maintained. My proposal will help to sustain our city parks,trails, and bike paths. My additional ideas for park improvement include:

  • Every park in District 6 has a “Park Improvement Day” focused on long-term improvements with a community engagement component surveying what neighbors want from the park.
  • Provide dispensers for sunscreen in city parks modeled after the wide availability of hand sanitizer during the pandemic. 
  • As outlined in my public safety platform, a zero-tolerance policy toward cars on trails like the Guadalupe River Trail in D6.

 

Open Spaces: We also need to protect our existing open spaces, including our hillsides, hinterlands, and trails. We should:

  • Partner with the Open Space Authority to purchase land and put an easement on the land to reserve it for urban agriculture. 
  • Create a “Green Zone” of 20 feet around our creeks where only recreation and maintenance are allowed.
  • Oppose development of the Coyote Valley



Pillar 3: A More Dynamic, Valuable Transportation System

Silicon Valley has some of the worst traffic around. Our transportation system is too reliant on cars to get anywhere, most of which rely on oil and emit harmful greenhouse gasses. The best way to cut down on traffic, the time we lose stuck in it, and the pollution it causes, is to support a transportation system with more options. Transportation is especially important to me and District 6 because of how close we are to the airport, multiple trails & Diridon Station.

Expand & Encourage Existing Transit
Transit-Oriented Housing
Understanding & Serving VTA
Invest In New Technologies
Streets for Walking & Cycling

Expand & Encourage Existing Transit: We need a focus on making it easier for all of us to bike, walk, take scooters, share cars, and use public transportation. Investing in more efficient public transit can mean higher use of our public transportation systems. That includes:

  • Creating more lanes for bus service and investing in efficient modes of transportation like rapid buses along key corridors. In fact, as VTA and the City of San Jose are currently exploring better public transit along the Stevens Creek Boulevard corridor from San Jose to Cupertino, my goal is to start construction on a bus rapid transit system along San Carlos Street in D6 by 2028.
  • Encouraging signal prioritization of VTA light rail as needed in San Jose and in other jurisdictions will lead to faster light rail trains. We need a fast system to bring in riders.
  • Increasing safety through adding new security officers to ride the trains and patrol the stations, which will attract more riders. Many San Joséans tell me they want to feel safer on light rail. 
  • Building less parking for new cars that clog your neighborhoods, in turn, supporting transportation demand management measures to offset this.
  • Speeding up VTA building of developments on land it owns next to transit stations. That means advocating at VTA and the state for expediting these projects.
  • Discouraging driving alone to work among city employees. I support the City of San Jose creating programs like cash incentives for those who don’t drive and/or a closed-loop system that encourages city employees to carpool like the one I initiated at Santa Clara County.

 

Transit-Oriented Housing: I will fight tooth-and-nail for more transit-oriented, sustainable development. We can make tremendous progress on this issue with Council leadership tuned into TOD development. On projects in San Jose, especially those in my district, I will emphasize projects that are multi-story buildings next to public transit and job centers like Diridon Station and along major San José streets, which in District 6 includes Bascom Ave, Meridian, West San Carlos, and The Alameda. 

These housing projects, especially if on public land like VTA-owned TOD sites, should ensure that the developers provide multi-year free transit passes to occupants to encourage more people to ride public transit. We need lots of homes and jobs next to transit to ensure our investments in these publicly funded systems pay off. This is especially important for affordable housing projects because these residents are most likely to need and use public transit. We need to ensure our investments in these publicly funded systems pay off.

Like Mayor Mahan, Councilmember Cohen, and Assemblymember Alex Lee, I oppose reducing the number of homes at the Berryessa Flea Market site from nearly 3,500 homes in mid-rise buildings to 900 townhomes. This lower number of homes is especially bad next to VTA’s Berryessa Transit Center and a BART Station, where we need higher densities to ensure higher public transit usage. 

 

Understanding & Serving VTA: With my experience covering VTA policy for Supervisor Ken Yeager in 2015, working at VTA from 2016-2019, and as a regular transit rider myself, I will continue to publicly extol the virtues and benefits of our public transit system. I care deeply about this agency and understand it better than most candidates. Because transit service is so central to District 6 and its residents, once elected to City Council, I’ll urge the Mayor and the Council to appoint me to VTA’s Board so I can better represent District 6 and advocate for transit. 

 

Invest In New Technologies: We have to invest in more modern transit technology. Yet we also have to be cautious stewards of public dollars to ensure we’re not spending millions of taxpayer dollars on new, untested ideas. So we should first explore new transportation innovations such as those that enhance existing transit like buses, BART, and light rail. If private companies are willing to take risks to invest private dollars in transportation solutions that provide efficient transit service and save taxpayers money, we should be willing to explore those options. 

 

Streets for Walking & Cycling: The way we design streets has a direct impact on the comfort, convenience, and safety we feel when cycling or walking our city streets. I propose the following to make streets safer for those not driving:

  • Protected intersections for the safety of bicyclists
  • Raised bike lanes like Santa Clara County is implementing along Lawrence Expressway
  • Increasing safety for pedestrians by Speed up implementation that allowings pedestrians to get a head start crossing through an intersection (also known as “leading pedestrian interval”) and flashing crosswalks to protect pedestrians, especially at night
  • Erecting more traffic calming measures on city streets to reduce speeding, such as
    • Speed humps or bumps on residential streets where speeding occurs
    • Roundabouts (traffic circles) to calm dangerous intersections
    • Flashing crosswalks to protect pedestrians, especially at night