San Jose needs a jolt in the arm to revitalize our local small businesses, fill up our empty storefronts, enliven our commercial streets, and celebrate our city’s history and culture. I plan to lead initiatives that celebrate our community’s diversity, increase local pride, and spur economic growth that benefits all residents.
Priority 4: Growing & Celebrating District 6 Neighborhoods & San Jose
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.
We live in a special place, and San Jose deserves to be celebrated. District 6 has so many iconic, thriving places we want to maintain like Lincoln Ave, the Rose Garden, & the SAP Center on game nights. I’ll pursue ideas that build up our civic pride, create a sense of place, and draw people to them.
Vibrant Neighborhood Spaces
On the Google Project, Fastrack Construction and Demand Promises Be Kept
Building an Entertainment District around the Sharks
More “Districts” in San Jose
Silicon Valley African American Cultural Center
Revitalizing Existing Places
I plan to continue celebrating these places, as I have a record of:
- I launched the effort to bring a farmers market back to Midtown San Jose, which opened in the Rose Garden at Lincoln High School in 2018
- As a Shasta / Hanchett Park Neighborhood Association Board member, I made the motion to dedicate $400 to paint rainbow crosswalks on The Alameda.
- I initiated the successful effort to rename a street in San Jose after America’s first black president, Barack Obama Blvd.
- I shepherded the process to create and make available apparel with designs that celebrate iconic places in San Jose, including the Rose Garden, Alum Rock Park, Mt. Hamilton, & Japantown
Vibrant Neighborhood Spaces: Enlivening neighborhoods with activities for people of all ages and interests is fundamentally good for San Jose. Some of my ideas for encouraging vibrant, fun community spaces include:
- Reduced fees for buildings that activate their rooftops for services such as parks or other usable places. We should change San Jose’s ordinance code to allow or encourage rooftop gardens.
- Create incentive programs to develop more community gardens. We should dedicate Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) money to pay for them.
- Working with the nonprofit Village Harvest to create a city urban harvesting program
- Replicate in other D6 neighborhoods the Back Alley Block Party at Business Circle in Burbank which I worked on
- Continue the tradition of sponsoring outdoor movie nights in neighborhood parks, rooftops, and parking lots
- Design pedestrian spaces by closing targeted streets off to cars, like what is currently being done with San Pedro St
On the Google Project, Fastrack Construction and Demand Promises Be Kept: My organization Catalyze SV and I enthusiastically supported Google’s mixed-use development next to Diridon Station and pushed hard to ensure affordable housing as a major project component. Google’s community engagement efforts were excellent. Its $150 million community benefits package was pioneering and one we should encourage in future San Jose projects. Google has assured me and others the project is moving forward, but not as fast as first expected or I’d like. I anticipate it won't be fully completed for 15-20 years. As your Councilmember, I will:
- Stay in regular contact with Google, collaborating to provide my constituents and our broader community with up-to-date information on the progress of the project.
- Push Google to maintain its promises to the community.
- Urge Google to begin distributing the $150-200 million dedicated to community benefits sooner.
- Be a hands-on participant in the design of the project as it firms up to ensure it shapes iconic new places in San Jose.
- And if, for some reason, Google decides to reduce or pull out of this project, I will join with City staff and the Mayor’s Office and expend a great deal of time finding others willing to develop this prime piece of land that is worth its weight in gold to be the San Jose gem it can and should be.
Building an Entertainment District around the Sharks: Located in District 6, blocks from where I live, the San José Sharks is a beloved team, cultural benchmark, and anchor business in our community. We need to find additional ways to support the Sharks, as well as the area around it. That’s why I propose we create a “Sports Entertainment District” in this area. I propose incentives to businesses connected to this theme that relocate here. I also support efforts to reinforce the branding of this area as connected to the Sharks. I have suggested to the team’s leaders that we create branding, such as additional street signs around the Shank Tank, alluding to the Sharks. My two ideas for such a name:
- Like the cultural mecca Beale Street in Memphis, we call the area “Teal Street”, or
- Connected to the concept of an entertainment district, we call it “The Teal Light District”
More “Districts” in San Jose: I’ll propose designating multiple distinct “Districts” to make these areas more inviting for residents, visitors, and new investors. This could mean we
- Create a place to celebrate Cannery Workers of the past by renaming the area around Del Monte “The Cannery District.”
- Revisit a business improvement district on The Alameda, a model we have in other parts of San Jose. This would include implementing parking meters along The Alameda for visitors from out of San Jose. The revenue can then be dedicated to business improvements along The Alameda.
Silicon Valley African American Cultural Center: I strongly support bringing the Silicon Valley African American Cultural Center to its proposed site on The Alameda in my District. This mixed-use development will include housing, health services, and a cultural center community center focused on serving the African American community. I will work with the neighbors to ensure this project is a win-win and pursue funding opportunities to ensure it gets built.
African American homeownership has plummed in SCC from 40% to 26% in last 21 years while San Jose has lost 17% of its black population in the last 30 years. We must build this project as part of sending a stronger, more welcoming message: black folks have been a key part of our community for generations and must remain for many more.
Revitalizing Existing Places: I am currently part of leading a collection of community members and organizations alongside the Preservation Action Council of San Jose in supporting the revitalization and restoration of the Burbank Theater. For places that could use revitalizing, I’ll bring together property owners and community members to envision solutions and build support for them.
Historic Recognition: Rich, great cities recognize their history. San Jose has a long and storied history, which we must preserve and celebrate. Let’s hire a city historian to identify places worthy of plaques recognizing historic sites or events. We have several historic sites in District 6 that are beloved by constituents. We should preserve these signs by incorporating them into the designs when new buildings are being proposed at the existing site.