Housing, Homelessness & Affordable Housing

City Hall has subscribed to the ideology of housing first. This is a wonderful approach to stabilizing clients, so they are ready, able and receptive to support services. As a former mental health counselor in a triple locked facility for children with severe mental illness in downtown, I see gaps to an only housing first approach that leaves many folks without options. Some unhoused residents are ready to move from living in a tent to an apartment with rules and regulations. For others, this immediate transition may exacerbate PTSD or retraumatize residents. We can fill in housing gaps while we both wait for housing to be built and for clients to be ready and that means “meeting the client where they’re at”. As your next Councilwoman, I will implement my plan known as the Incremental Ladder of Housing Success (ILHS). Here’s how my plan would work:

  • Secure a government owned (or privately owned) land where unhoused residents can live at destination locations with basics they do not have living on creeks or in parks, such as security, PO Boxes, showers, garbage services, restrooms.
  •  Work with service providers, non-profits, and churches to provide counseling, employment training, education, to get our unhoused residents back on their feet.
  • Slowly acclimate residents to different types of housing, transitioning them from their tents/cars/etc. to tiny homes, rehab, mental health care, and various forms of permanent housing including permanent supportive housing.

This is a plan that addresses individual resident’s needs and is a solution in the interim making the lives of unhoused residents incrementally better while we wait for affordable housing units to be built. We can immediately stop some of the extreme suffering experienced by our unhoused neighbors living in tents. You can read more about the Incremental Ladder of Housing success on my Medium page here.

 

Keeping families housed

Section 8, otherwise known as a housing choice voucher program, is a wonderful program from the Federal Government. Vouchers financially assist families with rent and prevents homelessness and evictions. The largest problem with Section 8 is that families must wait years, most of the time well over a decade, to fully qualify for voucher. The city can do it better and faster by creating its own housing choice voucher program. I will work to fund and create the city’s own housing choice voucher program and will be in line with the city’s initiative to prevent homelessness. We need to keep families housed and should not tolerate a system that waits for years to deliver the needed help.

 

Consolidating and streamlining permits and fees

The city has only built 3,348 housing units, 506 which are below market rate since their last report in 2020. This is very short of the City and Mayor’s goal of building 25,000 housing units (10,000 of which would be affordable housing). The permitting process is in need of change and must change if we are to effectively build more housing.

As a small business owner of 33+ years in downtown, I understand the ups and downs of owning a small business. I outline my plans below on how to simplify our permitting process:

  • Developing and implementing a Master plan for the permit process
  • Consolidating multi-department permit review processes
  • Publishing fees in advance and coordinating multi-departmental fees
  • Reducing multi-inspection process (no more 6 inspections per bathroom wall)
  • Considering peer review certification of industry experts to avoid delays
  • Measuring our results to goals in the permit department

These changes will aid developers and business owners, dramatically reduce down time wasted shuffling between departments, and better calculate the costs of doing business in San José.

 

Blight elimination and management 

Downtown is inundated with trash. We can do so much better. I rolled up my sleeves and joined massive creek cleanups alongside many downtown neighbors. These cleanups hardly put a dent in our battle with garbage. Downtown should be the gem of San José and I will work from day one in office to make that happen by investing more into the BeautifySJ program. BeautifySJ has secured more illegal dumping clean ups, litter pickups, and other blight elimination services for neighborhoods and families. I have worked with the BeautifySJ program before and understand its needs. This is why I will invest in what’s most critical for BeautifySJ such as: 

  • Investing in capital equipment necessary for staff to do their jobs. Getting them proper protective equipment, necessary vehicles, and supplies (e.g. bags, litter pickup sticks, etc.)
  • Increasing funding for neighborhood dumpster days
  • Launching an educational program that discourages illegal dumping and littering
  • Exploring and commit to increasing penalties for illegal dumpers

We can eliminate and manage the blight problem in downtown by ensuring that the BeautifySJ program is properly staffed and equipped. 

 

Public Safety

Everyone deserves to feel safe in our city. San José has the lowest ratio of officers to population of any large city in the USA. I agree that we need to add more sworn officers and we can be strategic about our investment. The Street Crimes Unit spends about 60% of their time responding to calls about encampments. Many calls to encampments have a mental health component and arrests are not necessary. Street Crimes officers aren’t equipped to handling social service calls. We can fix this problem by investing in and building out the police department’s Mobile Crisis Assessment Team (MCAT). The MCAT unit is trained in de-escalation, negotiation, and crisis assessment. They are better equipped and trained to handle mental health and crisis calls for service. This frees up the Streets Crime Unit to respond to other calls that may warrant a more traditional law enforcement response. You can read more about my ride along with the MCAT unit on my Medium article here.

We can also reduce the number of calls to the police that deal with code enforcement, traffic, and vehicle abatement. These departments are off-loading their work onto the police. Revitalizing, reorganizing, and holding these departments accountable to their jobs will be critical to our safety success. This is why I will follow up with any open audit recommendations these departments may have or ask the City Auditor to perform an audit on those programs with the goal of improving their service delivery.

An aspect of public safety that is often overlooked is quality-of-life. In 2016, the city launched a pilot program called “Project Hope”. The program dedicated city staff and more resources to the Cadillac Winchester neighborhood in West San José, a traditionally underserved community in the city. The neighborhood received more illegal dumping sweeps, police foot patrols, and other services from City Hall brought directly to the neighborhood. The project was a success. Cadillac Winchester saw a decrease in amount of illegal dumping on their streets and families felt that the city was much more responsive to their problems. The program has since expanded to include even more neighborhoods, including Guadalupe Washington. I know firsthand how important quality-of-life is to a neighborhood. I commit to securing more funding and continuing the program to help downtown neighborhoods.

 

You can read more about my experiences and policy ideas for downtown on my Medium page here.

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