One Year-One Regret

City Hall Diary

The end of March marked my first anniversary as an elected official. As I reflect on my first year in public office, I am amazed at all the different topics I have been involved in as a councilmember. I am pleased that employees who work at companies like Cisco and Adobe are now allowed to volunteer in our parks and that the Rose Garden was adopted by volunteers. I am ecstatic that Coyote Valley has been shelved—for now. I am feeling positive about the evolution of residential towers downtown and saving our city money on technology.  The council is making progress with balancing the budget and I enjoyed being part of the efforts of updating the traffic calming policy.

With that said I still have one vote that causes me pain—literally. After reading my blog for a year, do you want to try to guess which one it was? 

I think we can all relate to experiencing a bit of trepidation when we start a new position at a company. When you start a new job you inherit what was there before. You might be asked to complete a project; the only problem is that you don’t agree with it.  It’s too late to stop it, promises have been made and people are depending on it to be finalized and it’s up to you to see it through.  Because you are new, and you don’t want to let people down, you do what’s expected.

A month into office there was a land use proposal before the council to convert industrial land to housing on Lincoln Avenue. I am against land conversion, as you may know. My gut said no. In fact, it screamed NO! It is not the right decision to convert light industrial land to housing! The loss of jobs! The strain on city resources! STOP! Time Out! Especially when there are large parcels right next to this one already zoned for residential.  This particular industrial land was in a much better location then the widely publicized Evergreen industrial land that the council voted down the same night.

As usual, the landowner whined that the land sat vacant for years and that no company wanted to locate there. The problem with that line is that a few months after the vote, a new company called Vocera Communications relocated to San Jose from Cupertino. Vocera, the leader in “instant voice” technology, brought 100 high-wage jobs and a business that produces sales tax. Just think if the land Vocera is now sitting on had been converted to housing. Who knows where Vocera would have ended up. Sunnyvale? Campbell? Santa Clara? Sometimes land needs to sit idle to allow for greater future opportunities.

This project was supported by my predecessor. In fact, District 6 had lots of commercial/industrial land converted to housing in recent years. For example, Fiesta Lanes and Lou’s Village on West San Carlos were both commercial properties. Also, K-Mart on Southwest Expressway/Fruitdale and Del Monte Cannery were on industrial land in the midtown specific plan that got converted to housing—tax revenue-generating land that was lost forever.

In this particular case, we had a savvy property owner and lobbyist that chose to work with the community over an extended period of time regarding design and height, and who was offering amenities like trees. Hold me back: trees, the carrot that gets the community every time. What would we have done without the developer including trees? Well, I recently spoke to the RDA Director and I could have provided the area with trees without having to convert land. 

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t blame anyone but myself.  Even if I voted “no,” some members of the community supported it. They even showed up and spoke in favor of the project. In reality, my “no” vote may not have made a difference on the council since it was a unanimous vote and the project would most likely have passed. 

This is my City Hall diary and I wanted to share with you that I do have regrets. In fact I have had retrospective conversations with other elected officials and they have regrets as well. My diary is open so you see the good and the bad. What I have learned is that I will listen to my gut as I move forward on votes that are best for the future of San Jose—and even promising me trees won’t change me.


  1. Pierluigi,
    I think you have done a great job. That is saying a lot since I supported Steve Tedesco for your seat. You have proven to me that you really do care about your community and do listen to the needs of your constituents. Many of your lone votes have turned out to be what was best for the city. A good leader has a big enough throat to swallow his/her pride, admit his/her mistakes and moves forward having learned valuable lessons. You are doing that Pier and I’m dam proud of you for it!
    Way to go, and keep up the good work!

  2. Wow . . . even if I don’t agree with you on land conversion, I can’t help but be amazed at the impact of seeing an elected official’s whole thought process on a blog.

    If only our congressman, senators, and president could do this without an army of PR and 3 months time from thought to word to deed.

  3. If companies such as Cisco and Adobe have employees doing volunteer work in the Rose Garden it seems like a waste of potential. Let the local residents take care of the Rose Garden. Use the volunteer employees from Cisco and Adobe to provide their computer expertise to the city.

    Enough about traffic calming ideas. Hire the traffic cops needed to write tickets. The police department has been gutted. Our homicides to date are double of that of last year when we had 40 murders (highest in 10 years). Our traffic fatalities are way up. I do not feel as safe as I once did in this city, and I know many neighbors and friends who feel the same. Our police department is working with the same staffing they had in 1994. I have never seen you address this in your blogs, but this is a very major concern to the future of our city, and the quality of our daily life here.

  4. #6
    You are a broken record.
    How do you expect to hire more police if we are not saving money in other ways by utilizing volunteers in parks? I will assume you don’t want volunteer policemen.
    How long did you serve on the police force?

  5. #8 Steve

    To your point about volunteers from our high tech industry…  I could not agree more.  The City Staff is a great resource of caring, hard working folks doing their best to cope with limited resources, public policies and processes.

    The housing-to-jobs ratio in San Jose may be the root cause of our structural deficit and resource problems.  Yet in these same neighborhoods may lie a wealth of untapped expertise and creative solutions.  Tapping the full potential of this resource may be the toughest thing we’ve done; and yet maybe the easiest.  The question is how.

    Pierluigi coming from a high tech background, a product of our neighborhood asking a couple of key questions and sharing his knowledge.  It saved the City a million dollars.  Everyone learns.  Everyone wins.

    How do we tap this wealth without unduly burdening those who might have a great question, a different view or a new idea?

  6. #7 Winchester,

    Please go back and read my post. I never said volunteers should not be used in the parks. What I did state was that volunteers from a high tech company should be used to do what they do best, i.e. do volunteer work for the city improving the use of technology, thus freeing up money for other things such as public safety.

    Also, you are quite wrong that I would not want volunteer police officers. Our city has a reserve police force of over 100 officers that volunteer their time and save our city hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. They do a great job and I absolutely support the use of volunteer police officers.

    Lsstly, I am not on the police force. I just really don’t want to see the city I grew up in and around turning into an Oakland or San Francisco, and if you look at the rise in violent crime in our city, you should also be concerned. If I am a broken record, I don’t mind that since it is in support of our public safety.

  7. Pierluigi,

      Have you been on Vacation? Everyone in your district has been asking about you.
      There are two developments in your district that residents of district six are very concerned about. San Carlos and Sunol and San Carlos and Meridian Ave.
      You have missed four important meetings regarding these developments. Three at VTA and one Willow Glen Neighborhood Association.
      Ken Yeager has attended all four, Denelle attended one but, no Pierluigi?
      where have you been ? Will you attend the May VTA meeting regarding these two developments ?

  8. #10
    Hi Richard,
    I attended one meeting for each development but did not see you.
    Otherwise as you know I serve on 12 committees and have a prior commitment to attend. My staff has attended the other meetings.  Thanks for attending meetings and providing your input. Only wish residents were more involved when the council converted so much of our employment land to housing. For example 2,000 units in District 6 alone: KB Homes-Del Monte Cannery, Fiesta Lanes, K-Mart, Lou’s Village, Meridian & Curci, Hudson on Fruitdale, Sobrato on Lincoln & Race.

  9. Thanks Pierluigi for your response.I hope you plan being at the May VTA meeting, I know all of the Neighborhoods in your district will have reps there and will have express their concerns, we are hedding into a traffic nightmare.
      To your developments mentioned, add BAREC that will have cars trying to get onto and off I-280 at Winchester Blvd.another 600 units.Add in all the High density developments aproved in downtown San Jose with residents trying to get on I-280 and Hwy 87. Add all the high density developments along hwy 87 with residents from these new units trying to get to I-280.
        I-280 is already grid-locked, try to imagine the problems with traffic on onramps to I-280 from,“bird,meridian,Bascom,and Winchester. Try to imagine the grid lock resulting on the Interchanges at I-280 & hwy 87,I-280 & I-880, I-280 & U.S.101.
        I know you and Sam sit along each other at Council meetings, do you and Sam talk about this nightmare? Do the two of you discuss this pending problem with Mayor Reed and the VTA people.
        You want to see someone out of touch? Read the April 9-15 issue of the Metro News, pages 15 and 16, titled “Private Business,Public Interest. SVLG Leaders Group leader says,”…the organization is already fdront-and -center on the proposal thats expected to surface as another tax measure for the November ballot.this would go toward paying for “BART” to Silicon Valley, a project SVLG has thrown its considerable weight behind”. Wow!!!!! Out of touch a little??? How is this BART project going to help our problems in San Jose and Santa Clara County with traffic trying to get north bound to the high paying jobs in Santa Clara,Sunnyvale, Mt View,Palo Alto and Oracle??? Someone needs to talk with these people!! How is BART going to help our North bound traffic on the pennisula every morning?

        Hopeless in San Jose.

  10. Richard #12 makes some great points. Where are all these new people going to go? How are they going to fit on the existing, overcrowded roadways? Where is the already limited electricity and water going to come from to serve their needs? How is our city, which has already tremendously dlluted its public safety resources, going to further dilute its limited resources to service to both new and existing residents without further compromising our safety? How about selling off our new city hall and leasing one of the vacant office towers in the downtown area?

  11. #13
    Steve,  You asked where are those new people going to go?
    Here’s a clue.  That tall gentleman, Mr. E. Hayden with Republic Urban that managed the presentation and Q&A at the WGNA meeting on Wednesday evening almost had a grin on his face when responding to that or a similar question. 

    I paraphrase…  ” They jump on light rail and go up the street to Google.  Do you know how many people they employ?”

    He said that almost as if he thought Google was in San Jose and we would appreciate that.

    Richard may have a point.  SVLG needs an affordable bedroom community for it’s workforce and wants San Jose to pay for it.

    SCC is in a tough bind.  SCC and San Jose want the same thing…. jobs and tax revenue.

    However, SVLG may be playing one against the other to get both. . .  a great places for their execs to live in the hill around here and HQs and a low cost bedroom for it’s workers.

    I may be all wet on this as I’m rather new to the finer points of how money works in the back room of local politics.

    It would be interesting to know what the neighborhoods think about all of this if they knew all there was to know about how the money and influence flows in this town.

    Just a thought.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *