Over the past couple years, given the reality of budget shortfalls and understaffing, city leaders have had to come up with a list of the top 10 priorities for policies and ordinances. The current-year list is as follows:
• Streamline off-sale of alcohol at grocery stores, making it simpler to apply for and obtain a permit.
• Come up with plug-in requirements for parking garages.
• Develop urban village zoning districts, which encourage mixed-use retail-residential development, to fit in with the city’s General Plan.
• Modify zoning ordinances on a quarterly basis, at least for changes that don’t require major analysis, raise public concern or can’t be found exempt from CEQA.
• Rezone private lot along Alum Rock Avenue to spur economic development and reinvestment along this corridor.
• Streamline real estate transactions to make it easier to buy and sell in San Jose. Make it easier to provide easements, right-of-ways and to enter into below-market-rate leases with nonprofits.
• Create a special events permitting process that establishes timelines for application submittals, permit decisions and new conditional permits. This applies to any events on city streets, in parks, plazas and paseos and in downtown.
• Make more specific guidelines for development agreements, to establish consistency.
• Encourage developers to convert hotels and motels to residential apartments or offices.
• Regulate marijuana businesses more strictly, especially in regards to land-use policy.
The city should also look to renovate vacant buildings to house the homeless, suggests Councilwoman and 2014 mayoral candidate Madison Nguyen.
“Homelessness in our city is growing at an alarming rate,” Nguyen writes in a memo. “It has been surveyed that San Jose is one of eight metropolitan areas with the highest rate of homelessness … Due to the urgency of this issue, we need to develop a more comprehensive plan to eliminate homelessness in our city.”
San Jose’s rivers and streams should be in the top 10 list, Councilman Johnny Khamis says in his own recommendation. The city should develop an ordinance that would enhance the city’s relationship with the Santa Clara Valley Water District by protecting the city’s waterways, he states.
Councilman Don Rocha cautioned staff and his colleagues from using the priority setting session as a chance to rally for pet projects. He didn’t make a recommendation of his own, perhaps to avoid the appearance of pet project-pushing.
“Of course, many of us have our own pet projects,” Rocha writes in an accompanying memo. “This exercise can turn into something of a popularity contest, with council members scrambling to get their personal priorities over the line (myself included). This scramble sometimes crowds out a broader and more thoughtful discussion about the proposals’ policy merits and strategic usefulness in achieving city goals.”
More from the San Jose City Council agenda for September 10, 2013:
• The city reviews its investment policies annually to see if it needs any updates or revisions. No changes were recommended, but here is the entire policy document for your perusing pleasure.
• The city wants a public park and a 12,500-square-foot parking structure in exchange for approving development of a 166-unit residential housing complex at 825 N. 10th St. in Japantown.
• The council will vote on whether to support the League of California Cities in its push to lobby for an $11.14 billion water bond ballot measure and a meeting with Gov. Jerry Brown to figure out how to better handle low-level offenders released from jail in this year under public safety realignment legislation, AB 109.
• It looks like the city will put $1.4 million toward a $6 million children’s garden and playground at Guadalupe River Park. The 4.5-acre park will be built in honor of the Rotary Club of San Jose’s 100-year anniversary. The club raised the rest of the money for the project, which it plans to finish within about a year.
• The city should better monitor the consultants it hires, according to a report from City Auditor Sharon Erickson. A review found that there were some breaches of local and state ethics laws regarding conflicts of interest in some consulting agreements. In one case, a for-profit company got money meant for a nonprofit. There also needs to be an active effort to hire competitively, so the city doesn’t rely too much on the same consultants. And the finance department in some cases overpaid some contracts. Get that money back, Erickson advises. Read the entire audit.
• The Wastewater Facility master agreements need better contract management, too, another Erickson audit notes. The facility has five agreements that total $18 million. But the paperwork isn’t all in order and some of the bids aren’t issued competitively, so the city doesn’t always award contracts to the most qualified firm, the audit says.
WHAT: City Council meets
WHEN: 1:30pm Tuesday
WHERE: City Hall, 200 E. Santa Clara St., San Jose
INFO: City Clerk, 408.535.1260