If you’re having trouble figuring out exactly what public hearing notices say or even where to find them whenever you see new construction, you’re not alone.
City law requires permits for certain building projects—anything from a small addition to a single-family home to a tall skyscraper. Generally, those permits require a community notice to be sent to all residents in a 300-foot radius (or more, depending on the scope of the project) 10 days before the public hearing to approve the petition.
Although the city’s audit found that the projects mainly comply to the city’s noticing standards, it found a few major shortfalls.
For many residential projects, the audit found that neighborhood organizations are often left out early in the noticing process, mainly because the city lacks a database of community leaders to contact. According to the city, involving neighborhood organizations (such as homeowners’ associations and community nonprofits) earlier in the process could east development of projects with “significant community interest.”
Owing to the city’s increasing language diversity, the audit also found that non-English speakers often have limited access to these notices. City law requires all official documents to be translated into at least Spanish and Vietnamese. A sample of notice letters was taken from the previous financial year, and it was found that none of the documents provided adequate translations—or even complete translations—in Spanish or Vietnamese. And when it came time for public hearings, the audit also found that in-person interpreters were often unavailable.
In San Jose, where almost a third of residents self-identify as “limited-English speakers,” the audit noted that the city needs to do more to translate building notices.
The report concluded that a more centralized system of public noticing is needed in the future to reach residents more effectively. Postcards and paper notices, the audit suggested, weren’t the best way to inform people.
Improvement suggestions include an updated, plain-language template for notices to help residents better understand a project. It also recommended easier online access to building notices—including a website forum—and a deeper study on the program’s radii to better target the notices. To read a copy of the report, click here.
More from the San Jose City Council agenda for April 23, 2019:
- The city manager will submit an application for grant funds from the San Francisco Bay Area Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) and the California Transportation Commission (CTC) for several urban street developments. The funds will improve Willow and Keyes streets and use a $9.9 million grant to improve the city’s Better Bikeway SJ program for the San Fernando Corridor. If awarded, the total grant money would be around $23 million.
- The council will discuss updates to its general plan for downtown, which includes, among other line items, a study to protect the wildlife in the downtown portion of the Guadalupe River.
- The council will consider awarding a contract for $8.7 million to MCK Services Inc. to resurface 16 miles of streets throughout the city.
- Councilors will receive an update on Project Hope, a “community-driven, city-led program focused on improving quality of life” in some of the most downtrodden neighborhoods of San Jose. The program, originally launched in District 1, was eventually expanded into districts 2 and 8 last year. The districts, part of San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo’s Gang Prevention Task Force “hot spots,” work with city departments to reduce problems related to high-density housing, crime, blight and language barriers that hinder engagement with supportive services. Related activities include litter pickups, neighborhood watch programs and crime prevention programs, among others.
- The city manager is poised to authorize the purchase of a Library Discovery Layer, an updated software for public libraries that simplifies searches for material in each branch. The current system is keyword-based, which doesn’t take into account more sophisticated search factors like probable intent. The updated software works much like today’s search engines, taking many more variables into account. The updated software will make it easier for staff and users to share information such as ratings, available media and materials. The proposed update would cost the city approximately $300,000 for all of the library’s 21 branches.
WHAT: City Council meets
WHEN: 1:30pm Tuesday
WHERE: City Hall, 200 E. Santa Clara St., San Jose
INFO: City Clerk, 408.535.1260