Rules to Look at Renting Space at City Hall, Nonprofit Health Care Investigation

Parts of City Hall, left a bit empty after layoffs and the Redevelopment Agency’s closure, may soon be open to anyone looking to lease a slice of the swanky 18-story downtown centerpiece. Proceeds from the market-rate rents will go right to the city’s general fund, according to a memo going before the Rules and Open Government Committee on Wednesday.

A selling point for the space is its physical closeness to local leaders, elected or otherwise, says Councilmember Sam Liccardo, who’s authored the memo.

“As we consider new job-creating opportunities for our city—such as the location of a U.S. Patent Office, or of an EB-5 [immigrant investor] program that can lure foreign investment for local development—we should consider marketing of space within City Hall,” Liccardo writes. “It is axiomatic that proximity to decision-makers and governmental authority is valued in the private and nonprofit sector; a brief survey of commercial lease rates new key federal buildgins in Washington D.C. can attest to that.”

Liccardo asks the city to examine the possibility of renting out City Hall space, including how to protect confidential information from newcomers and just whether it’s feasible in the long run. The motion would have to head to the City Council for final approval. Right now it’s just a discussion item.

Other items from the Rules and Open Government Committee agenda for March 27, 2013:

• The City Attorney’s office will report to the committee about an investigation, called for by councilmembers Johnny Khamis and Pete Constant, into whether some local healthcare nonprofits illegally gave public money to political campaigns. San Jose Inside reported earlier this month that the Valley Medical Center Foundation and the Santa Clara Family Health Foundation collectively donated more than $500,000 to the “Yes on A” campaign to pass a countywide eighth-of-a-cent sales tax increase, much of which then went to organized labor campaigns:

“In response to media inquiries, both organizations have refused to provide any information to verify whether or not public funds have been used to support political activities or who participated in decisions,” the Khamis-Constant memo reads. “This basic level of transparency should be a minimum expectation of these organizations, which have received over $6 million from the City of San Jose in just the past three years … As the guardians of the public’s money, the City Council has a responsibility to ensure that recipients of taxpayer funding do not use money for political purposes, either directly or indirectly through third parties.”

• Another casualty of downtown San Jose’s pedestrian-terrorizing sidewalk-cyclists wrote in support of Councilmember Sam Liccardo’s idea to post up no-bicycling-on-the-walkways signs. Martha O’Connell, chair of the city’s Senior Citizens Commission, says she’s been struck twice.

“Seniors are at a disproportionate risk from being struck by bikers riding on the sidewalk,” O’Connell writes. “A fall can be devastating for fragile seniors. In many, if not in most cases, it is also more difficult for seniors to maneuver out of the way to avoid being struck. Adult bicyclists continue to ride recklessly on the downtown sidewalks while the bike lanes remain largely empty. I can personally attest to this as I walk down Santa Clara Street and around San Jose State University at least 10 times a week.”

The seniors commission voted unanimously in favor of Liccardo’s motion to crack down on sidewalk-cyclers.

• Seniors also have a tough time affording mandatory garbage rates, O’Connell adds in another letter to the committee. Fixed-income elderly residents don’t throw out enough trash to merit the cost of some of those pick-up fees. She implores the Rules Committee and councilmembers to consider allowing at least some seniors to share trash bins and pick-up fees.

• In what reads like a buy-gold-to-get-rich-quick advertorial, former Mayor of Emeryville Ken Bukowski urges in a letter to the city to consider investing in the Public Banking Institute. 

• Aspiring pol and indefatigable gadfly David Wall decries the city’s hands-off approach to homelessness, a decided change of heart from past missives that likened the homeless to “vagrants” and “scum of the earth.”

He chastises Mayor Chuck Reed in a letter to the public record for “allowing these children of God to suffer extreme pain as they slowly decay by wondering [sic] on the streets or by force majeure to permit these unfortunate people to slowly rot to death in a previously city sponsored and politically manipulated outdoor gulag such as ‘Camp Chuck Sam!’ is wrong.”

Wall shames councilmembers for “warehousing” the mentally ill post-camp cleanup.

“When one considers your projection of San Jose’s political influence on any given political issue … why haven’t you ‘twisted some arms’ at the state and federal houses to come up with a solution that would permanently institutionalize the mentally ill with reputable medical and psychiatric care?”

The city did actually order a cleanup of the site, where more than 100 tents had cropped up on the embankment by the Guadalupe River, beneath the flight path for Mineta San Jose International Airport.

WHAT: Rules and Open Government Committee meets
WHEN: 2pm Wednesday
WHERE: City Hall, 200 E. Santa Clara St., San Jose
INFO: 408.535.1260

Jennifer Wadsworth is the former news editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.

One Comment

  1. So many ideas for using the vacant floors….Dance club/bar for the eastbay residents that usually flock downtown on fridays/saturdays; homeless shelter (just think of all the federal and county grants you could get and misappropriate); San Jose A’s team offices; or sell building to Apple to pay off huge RDA debt, and move city hall to the southern police substation, or a Rocketship School

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