San Jose’s $4.3 Billion Budget Focuses on Equity, Opportunity, ‘Missing Middle’ Housing

As San Jose’s elected leaders prepare to finalize the city’s $4.3 billion 2020-21 fiscal year budget, concerns about equity have taken center stage.

Earlier this spring, five Latino lawmakers on the City Council—Maya Esparza, Raul Peralez, Sergio Jimenez, Magdalena Carrasco and Sylvia Arenas—pitched an idea to allocate the city’s resources based on need instead of giving the same amount of money to poor and affluent neighborhoods alike.

Mayor Sam Liccardo responded with a memo saying the city could do that by creating a “equity screen”—relying on data instead of complaints—to figure out which parts of the city truly have the greatest need for services.

In his June spending plan, the mayor proposed putting $430,000 toward an “equity fund” toward that aim and giving more money to programs that offer tutoring, vocational guidance and gang-prevention in low-income communities.

“Allocating services to higher-need neighborhoods requires greater granularity than traditional district or even zip code analyses can provide,” Liccardo wrote.

As the 11-member council prepares to converge Tuesday for a final vote on the budget, those five officials who first broached the subject of equity as a priority in this budget cycle say the mayor’s idea is too limited and that they couldn’t, “in good conscience,” support it. If San Jose truly want to address inequity, they said it should should buckle down and study the matter instead of considering it solved by funding just a few select after-school or work-study programs for low-income youth.

“If we truly want to tackle the issue of equity in our city, then everything we do should be done through an equity lens,” Peralez, Jimenez, Carrasco, Arenas and Esparza wrote in a shared memo issued Friday. “We will not achieve systemic change without first truly understanding how inequity inherently makes its way into the systems, processes, and mechanisms that govern San Jose. One of the greatest challenges we face in this effort is that there are those who have yet to recognize or understand that there is a problem. Evaluation and analysis are not wasteful when they produce a clear understanding of the issues and are used to create a framework for outcomes and solutions.”

They concluded: “Equity cannot simply be a buzzword or check the box type, rather it must be ingrained in our budgetary and civic way of life. This cannot be done without the data. By equipping our staff with an equity fund to begin the analysis, we can start addressing quality-of-life issues more productively, instead of reactively, proving to our residents that San Jose is a city for everyone.v

The five councilors proposed an additional study session to look at the city’s continuing involvement in Government Alliance on Race and Equity and the Social Progress Index to evaluate the efficacy of the programs in bringing racial and economic equity to the city.

They also recommended investing even greater resources programs that the mayor name-dropped in his June budget report. Namely, San Jose Works, a youth education-to-employment nonprofit; SJ Bridge, which offers homeless people public services jobs; and programs that help low-income residents start their own businesses.

“These programs are heavily impacted, have waitlists, and are not sufficient in making systematic improvements,” Peralez, Arenas, Carrasco, Esparza and Jimenez wrote. “We need equity in basic city services for entire communities—such as housing, street pavement, neighborhood services—not just limited opportunities for a small percentage of individuals within our mayor’s selected programs.”

New Priorities

Beyond the mayor’s spending plan, the council proposed a combined 100 new ideas for the upcoming year. They include funding for a “quiet zone” for Union Pacific trains passing through the Warm Springs corridor, renovations for Alviso Park and a rebates to register home security cameras with the San Jose Police Department.

Despite the flap over how exactly to achieve equity, Liccardo and his colleagues struck an optimistic tone about working together to achieve the goal of a more just city.

“We have much more work to do,” Liccardo wrote in his latest budget memo, “but we should take a moment to acknowledge what we are collectively doing to lift the opportunities and aspirations for thousands of San Jose residents.”

To read the mayor’s full budget message, including other ideas he wants to fund, click here. The list of proposals from the rest of the council is available here.

More From the June 11 Agenda

  • College Voting. The council will consider whether to officially endorse AB 59, introduced by Assemblyman Ash Kalra (D-San Jose), which would require local elections to designate at least one location on the main campus of each California State University campus as a polling place. The bill would also encourage the University of California, private universities and community colleges to abide by the standard.
  • The Missing Middle. Officials will deliver an update on the city’s moderate-income housing strategy. The report includes a proposal about how to use a $10 million fund to help build 15,000 market-rate and 10,000 below-market-rate residential units by 2022. Moderate-income households are loosely defined by the city as those that earn incomes between 60 percent and 150 percent of the area median income (AMI). Households that fall within this range report annual incomes from about $60,000 to $150,000, according to numbers based on the U.S. Census. Councilwoman Pam Foley wants the city to help the so-called “missing middle” by funding a down-payment assistance program.
  • The General Plan. The council will decide how to prioritize its next review of the San Jose General Plan 2040—the city’s blueprint for future growth. Liccardo teamed up with Jimenez, Arenas and Peralez on a recommendation to explore the idea of replacing some single-family homes into denser developers, such as duplexes or four-unit complexes.

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. Any chance we can devote a few shekels to improve the roads in San Jose? Feels and looks like a third world city. Can we remove the faux veil of equity sanctimony for a moment to provide some basic city service?

  2. It is time Liccardo focuses on the regular people of San Jose not Google and it’s elites. Politicians, you can kiss goggle’s executives’ A$$ES, but we the voters are paying attention to every single step you take. We will call out your corruption! San Jose California for KAMALA HARRIS for the people!

      • One of these days we the people will figure out that voting for the same old corrupt politicians won’t change anything. In fact, the real life evidence we see every day shows us things are only getting worse the longer they are in office.
        Let’s try electing some outsiders instead of the same crooks to new and higher offices. Let’s demand they focus on us at the local and state level. Let’s demand they spend our money wisely instead of spending on political points for themselves.

  3. > ‘Missing Middle’ Housing

    Of course! Why didn’t I think of this before!

    The solution to the problem of . . . ‘Missing Middle’ Housing is to RAISE PRICES ON ‘MIDDLE HOUSING’!

    Under the iron laws of supply and demand, increasing prices REDUCES demand.

    Higher prices, less demand, PRESTO! Enough ‘Middle Housing” for those willing and able to pay for ‘Middle Housing’.

    AND . . . there is no need to build any additional ‘Middle Housing’.

    I should get a Nobel Prize.

  4. Your almost right Felix, lets find out where all the political contributions come from. Then send all the tax money to places that didn’t vote for them. That would be equity!

  5. “granularity’??
    a $4.3 BILLION budget and we have third world streets, parks that aren’t properly maintained; but we’ve thrown hundreds of millions into feel good social programs that produce nothing but statistics and failure.
    But the beat goes on because the bozos keep electing idiots.

  6. How about equity for the people that pay. As a brown person, I can say that caucasian politicians don’t inject race, but latino politicians trip over themselves to play the race card. Before you know it we will turn into a banana republic.

  7. The comments here give me a tiny bit of hope that SJ voters are waking up to the fraudsters in City Hall.

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