Audit Directs SJ to Improve Outreach for New Development

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.

The San Jose City Council will discuss the effectiveness of its development noticing program Tuesday in light of a new audit that pointed at ways to improve public outreach.

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


  1. > And when it came time for public hearings, the audit also found that in-person interpreters were often unavailable.

    Well, if the number of languages is going up, and there already is a shortage of translators and interpreters, and government business needs to be explained to everyone in their own language before anything can proceed, it sounds to me like the holy grail of increased diversity is ultimately going to bring San Jose to complete paralysis.

  2. > Audit Directs SJ to Improve Outreach for New Development

    The time is rapidly approaching where I’m going to have to issue a ban on the word “outreach” in the same way I’ve banned the word “vibrant”.

    It’s one of this sickening, overly saccharine, touch-feely words beloved by the emotion-driven “political correctness” crowd.

    “Outreach”, I think, is one of those mind-thumbing, thought-suppressing neologisms that sprouted like a weed in the radical sixties and never had the sense to realize it is now tired, worn out, and no longer relevant.

    Their are numerous other perfectly serviceable words that convey the essential idea: “publicity”, “marketing”, “promotion”.

    Unfortunately, all those words convey a business-like sense of practicality, and are lacking in the emotive touchy-feeliness of “outreach”.

    But enough! NO MORE “OUTREACH”.

    Old, Outmoded. Insincere. Teeth grindingly fake emotiveness. Belongs in the dustbin with “groovy”.

  3. Quit blaming Mayor Liccardo for all of your woes. He doesn’t oversee “Notices.” He will respond by making the process better. Blame the “Professor.”

    The “Professor” is our great City Manager who allows incompetent women run a Capital Improvement Program into the ground at the Water Pollution Control Plant. (Actually, the CIP program at the WPCP is a on-going or perpetual train-wreck that has been occurring for several years.)

    David S. Wall

  4. Wow, wow, and wow! Someone is hurt; poor cry baby…I thought Liccardo is the Mayor of the city? Sorry baby (as in baby boy), when someone is the head everything that goes wrong is his mistake or lack of ability to supervise all under his title. Very typical male behavior, they want the big pay, fame, and glory of their title. If something goes wrong, then they blame even their mother for that. Women working for LICCARDO, you were just called incompetent for being women. ARE WE READY TO RECALL ROSEN, Liccardo, and google? I am sure we will even have google’s female employees support, sexual harrasment going on at google and women being retaliated for reporting it. SHAME ON GOOGLE!

  5. Hello people, some news here: corrupted Zoe Lofgren is having a TownHall meeting Saturday May 4, at 10:00 AM. The purpose of the event is to share with us about a bill to fight corruption in Washington. I would appreciate her fighting local corruption first. But, she was main supporter of the No Persky RECALL. She has also given deaf ears to reports of corruption at the DA’s office and local law enforcement agencies. They want us to focus our attention to the corruption in Washington to dristrac us from our own local public corruption problem. Sorry Zoe, we won’t. I hope the bill includes Reps, Dems, and the rest. The TownHall meeting is taking place at the 70 W. Heading…WE should go and ptrotest local corruption. RECALL ROSEN AND LICCARDO!

  6. If Google wants it then it gets built.

    If Google doesn’t want it then it doesn’t get built.

    Welcome to Googleville

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