Small business revenue in the heart of San Jose has fallen by 40 percent since January, according to a Harvard University economic tracker called Opportunity Insights, while consumer spending dipped by just 4 percent.
Clearly, people are still spending their money—just not in the city’s core.
To address that disparity, the Greater Downtown San Jose Economic Recovery Task Force created this past summer by Councilman Raul Peralez has handed down a fresh slate of proposals. Among its ideas: waive parking fees, allow to-go alcohol sales and monitored open-container consumption and expand outdoor dining and event options.
A coalition of 55 small businesses and community organizations created in part to help address the ongoing economic concerns in the greater downtown area, the task force was subdivided into eight committees. Those subcommittees focused on arts and special events; faith based and community spaces; food and beverage; general retail and services; hotels and hospitality; large employers and property owners; performance and entertainment venues; and personal care.
The groups convened more than 40 meetings over the past two-and-a-half months generating possible solutions to support the economic recovery and safe reopening of local businesses and organizations. The result? Fifteen policy recommendations set to come up for consideration at next week’s City Council meeting.
“Our local business community continues to look for a place for our voices to be heard,” Peralez said during Wednesday’s Rules and Open Government Committee meeting, where he unveiled the plan. “That’s one of the biggest—and most positive—things we’ve heard consistently through this process.”
One suggestion of particular note is a 15 percent fee cap on third-party delivery services like Doordash and Grubhub, among others.
The city of Santa Clara recently approved a temporary ordinance that does just that, highlighting the need to help small mom-and-pop businesses to salvage what has already been an excruciatingly tough year in terms of lost revenue.
San Jose’s “Al Fresco” initiative—which allows restaurants and other local businesses to utilize sidewalks, paseos, parking and other outdoor space to accommodate patrons—has been a lifeline for businesses that have opted to operate outdoors. Because of that success, the task force has recommended a plan for long-term business outdoor operations in the greater downtown area—a necessity given the fact that most indoor operations are only allowed to fill their buildings to 10 percent of their normal capacity.
Restaurants and bars that serve food for delivery or takeout have been able to sell alcohol along with food orders after Gov. Gavin Newsom’s statewide declaration in March that suspended enforcement of certain regulations to help keep the restaurant industry afloat.
While only a salve to the food-service industry’s massive wound, the task force has recommended the city be prepared to be in alignment should a bill be passed in the California Senate that would make this relief permanent.
Wisa Uemara, director of San Jose Taiko and co-chair of the downtown task force, said the second-phase recommendations focused on helping service sectors that remain severely restricted by public health mandates by offering tax relief, streamlined permitting and guidance for socially distanced gatherings.
Those policies could help breathe life back int the city by sanctioning performing arts groups—such as New Ballet SJ—to resume events.
“I’m proud of the work done by the task force, and believe that what we did could make sure San Jose businesses and organizations from all sectors were heard,” New Ballet SJ Executive Director Dalia Rawson said.
Watch the Rules and Open Government discussion about the recommendations below.