Quality of Life Issues Dominate City Council’s New Priority List for San Jose

Helping homeless is a council priority.

Helping the homeless, cracking down on marijuana collectives and keeping tattoo parlors away from youth are among priorities set by the San Jose City Council at a special meeting on Tuesday, October 9.

The council designated nine new items from a list of 33, but will continue to work first on its Top 10 priorities chosen in February 2011.

“It’s a waiting list,” explained Mayor Chuck Reed, rather than a new priority list. As the original Top 10 ordinances are completed, others will move up the list.

The exercise tells the public what the council thinks is important and gives direction to staff members what to work on first.  Each item needed six council votes to be put on the list.

Quality of life issues dominate the work list, including several that relate to housing and homelessness.

A memo by Vice Mayor Madison Nguyen called for a survey and assessment of vacant buildings that could be used for housing.  And it asked for city support and expansion of the Housing 1000 care coordination efforts that bring together 10 agencies and programs to find homes and jobs for some of the 4,300 people who live on the streets and near creek sides in San Jose.

A proposal by Councilman Sam Liccardo directs the city to explore converting hotels and motels into residential apartments.  The item was paired with another that would to pave the way for more Single Room Occupancy units.

“This means so much to the clients we serve,” said Jenny Niklaus, CEO of EHC/LifeBuilders, the area’s largest shelter provider.

The council also supported two items that would help the city deal with enforcement of medical marijuana dispensaries and explore penalties for operators don’t pay taxes.

James Anthony, an attorney who specializes in medical cannabis collective land use law, told the council that a crackdown on businesses in Los Angeles would have an impact on San Jose.

“They’re going to start cropping up here in San Jose,” he said. “Let’s do something about it now. Now is the time to move forward.”

Another would amend the zoning code to keep adult bookstores, tattoo parlors and shops that sell smoking paraphernalia at least 1,000 feet away from schools or other places youth gather.

“This is a huge concern brought by families, schools and community leaders,” Nguyen said.  “Kids frequent these places. It’s long overdue for us to address this.”

Speakers also urged the council to support ordinances that would regulate wood burning to keep the air cleaner and protect the area around streams, creeks and rivers, which are called riparian corridors.

“We all believe should prioritize development of the riparian corridor,” said Alice Kaufman, legislative advocate for the Committee for Green Foothills. She was also speaking for Sierra Club, The Audubon Society and the Greenbelt Alliance. “It’s a logical and necessary next step after Vision 2040 (general plan). Riparian setbacks protect streams and nearby development.”

Council’s New Priorities

  • Hotel and Motel Conversions: Explore options to facilitate the conversion of hotels/motels to residential apartments and/or offices.
  • Modernize the Single Room Occupancy Ordinance: Amend the code to align the definition of Single Room Occupancy units to current market conditions to facilitate SRO construction.
  • Medical Marijuana Collectives: Develop enforcement options to address the proliferation of medical marijuana establishments.
  • Remedies for Nonpayment of City Fees and Taxes.
  • Tattoo and Other business Regulations: Amend the Zoning Code to prohibit adult book stores, tattoo parlors and businesses, retailers or shops selling paraphernalia that can be used to consume and/or smoke tobacco, from operating within 1,000 feet of an area which tends to be populated by youth.
  • Development Agreement Policy: Create City Council Policy to provide more specific guidance for the appropriate use of Development Agreements in San Jose, consistent with the recently adopted Development Agreement Ordinance.
  • Riparian Corridor Policy: Create City Council Policy and/or zoning ordinance based on Riparian Corridor Policy Study and Envision 2040 General Plan. Effort will involve collaboration with Parks Commission.
  • Wood Burning Appliances: Amend Title 9 of the Municipal Code to regulate wood burning in order to combat air pollution in San Jose.
  • Strategies to End Homelessness: Direct the Administration to conduct a survey of vacant buildings in the city and assess the feasibility of having them rehabilitated for some form of housing.
  • Direct the administration to include actions in its plans for responding to homelessness that support and expand the Housing 1000 Care Coordination efforts to increase permanent housing resources, case management services, and employment strategies. Current Housing 1000 partner organizations include Destination: Home, EHC LifeBuilders, Downtown Streets Team, Inn Vision Shelter Network, Abode Services, Catholic Charities, Momentum, New Directions, Goodwill, the Health Trust and Departments of Drug and Alcohol and Mental Health. Expand Housing 1000 partners to include employment organizations such as the Center for Training and Career’s Day Worker Center.

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