June 17, 2021. Families & Homes San José (FHSJ) recently sent an inquiry to each of the 10 city council members as well as Mayor Liccardo. We were interested in two key issues; how they plan to vote this fall on the Envision San José 2040 Task Force recommendation to study the abolition of single-family zoning citywide, and how they feel about subjecting any proposed ordinance that eliminates single family-zoning to voter approval.
Council members (CM) Davis, Foley, and Mahan oppose the Task Force recommendation. Mayor Liccardo and the other council members declined to answer.
CMs Davis and Mahan support a voter referendum, CM Foley opposes it, and Mayor Liccardo and the other council members declined to answer.
Below are the questions we posed, and our perspectives on the responses.
General Plan Task Force Recommendation
“If a Council vote were held today to implement the Envision 2040 General Plan Task Force recommendation that was approved on 8/20/2020, would you vote FOR or AGAINST it?”
When the 40-member Task Force was appointed, its directive was to make recommendations regarding a proposal to implement “Opportunity Housing” (elimination of single-family zoning) in urban villages within a half mile of transit corridors. Instead of adhering to its charter, in August of 2020 the Task Force responded with a recommendation for city staff to study eliminating single-family zoning everywhere in the city. Although the Task Force recommendation has not yet come before the council, city staff has already initiated its research and has been actively promoting the concept in public meetings, podcasts, and other forums.
D6 CM Davis and D9 CM Foley both served on the Task Force and voted against the recommendation so their responses to our survey came as no surprise. Davis’ response reflects the position of four neighborhood associations in her district, including the Willow Glen Neighborhood Association which launched an online petition in opposition to Opportunity Housing. It is concerning to note however, that shortly after receiving our inquiry, CM Foley launched an online survey seeking input on several ideas that effectively eliminate single-family zoning. The survey questions suggests that CM Foley could be receptive to abolishing single-family zoning under certain conditions, or within certain parts of the city.
D10 CM Mahan’s response in opposition to the Task Force recommendation was welcome news to FHSJ, and reflective of the prevailing sentiment of D10 residents. The District 10 Leadership Coalition and the Santa Teresa Foothills Neighborhood Association, which partially falls within D10, both oppose Opportunity Housing.
D8 CM Arenas also served on the Task Force and voted in favor of the recommendation. Her position is at odds with the District 8 Community Roundtable (D8CRT) which advocates for neighborhoods in her district. The D8CRT has submitted a formal letter to Mayor Liccardo and members of council in opposition to citywide Opportunity Housing.
FHSJ is disappointed that Mayor Liccardo and CMs Jones, Jimenez, Peralez, Cohen, Carrasco, Esparza, and Arenas are evading this important issue.
Would you support subjecting a proposed citywide change to single family house zoning to final approval by San José voters via a ballot referendum or initiative? (assume this would coincide with the 2022 citywide elections and not necessitate a costly special election)
Given the magnitude of this issue, the FHSJ coalition has asked the council to place the final decision on any proposed ordinance change that would affect neighborhoods currently zoned for single-family detached homes in the hands of voters via a ballot referendum.
This practice is not uncommon. As recently as 2018, the council placed a citywide measure on the ballot asking voters to reject a small housing development in the Evergreen district. The council successfully sought to counter an initiative placed on the ballot by a developer seeking voter approval of the project. Given the mayor and council were willing to ask all voters in San José to decide the fate of a zoning proposal that would affect only a small sliver of city land, FHSJ finds it unconscionable that they would object to giving voters a voice in an irreversible zoning proposal that would permanently change every neighborhood in the city.
FHSJ applauds CMs Davis and Mahan for their support and is disappointed that CM Foley opposes it. We are equally disappointed by willingness of Mayor Liccardo and CMs Jones, Jimenez, Peralez, Cohen, Carrasco, Esparza, and Arenas to suppress a direct vote on what could become the most important decision in city history.
How to Influence Your Elected Representatives
FHSJ is encouraging residents to contact Mayor Licarrdo and all members of the city council urging them to reject the Envision San José 2040 Task Force recommendation and demand a voter referendum on any proposed ordinance that would allow multi-unit development in neighborhoods presently zoned for single-family homes. We are also asking residents to speak at future council meetings when this matter is placed on the council agenda. Sign up for the FHSJ Newsletter to keep apprised of upcoming council meeting dates, times, and instructions for public comments.
Chappie Jones, District 1 - firstname.lastname@example.org
Sergio Jimenez, District 2 - email@example.com
Raul Peralez, District 3 - firstname.lastname@example.org
David Cohen, District 4 - email@example.com
Magdalena Carrasco, District 5 - firstname.lastname@example.org
Devora "Dev" Davis, District 6 - email@example.com
Maya Esparza, District 7 - firstname.lastname@example.org
Sylvia Arenas, District 8 - email@example.com
Pam Foley, District 9 - firstname.lastname@example.org
Matt Mahan, District 10 - email@example.com