Storm before the Calm

Sometimes you get a moment of clarifying light in a public meeting. It is rare but not impossible. Such was the case in last week’s meeting between Police Chief Rob Davis and many residents and business owners.  There were three council members present: Cindy Chavez, Dave Cortese, and Chuck Reed.

Cindy Chavez had a fine idea, namely, to give to the chief the ability to close those obnoxious and dangerous clubs in the city that are the subject of shootings and assorted mayhem. It is a very good idea and, except for the addle-brained and bought-and-paid-for hacks, all seemed to agree. There must also be a moratorium on the quick-buck artists and absentee landlords who profit from such laissez-faire stupidity.

Yet, the most telling moment for all with functioning brains was when Chief Davis challenged the gathered group to imagine the downtown and the city that we all want. Our work so far, he calmly intoned, was piecemeal and unfocused.

How right he was and is.

It was relatively calm downtown last weekend—but not calm enough. There was a storm disguised in that outward calm. Now, be certain, that at a Shark game or a Rep play or at dinner or an art show before midnight, you will see little of this. It is as safe as a Saratoga PTA meeting.  The creatures of the night come into existence—and play—after that; it is not a pretty sight. There was a vicious assault at the Vault on that “calm” Saturday night and Sunday morning. 

When tens of thousands live and raise their families in central San Jose, and billions of dollars and great sweat and tears have been invested in commercial, artistic and residential efforts, can we consciously allow 6 or 8 nightclubs to put all of this—and the lives of police officers and citizens—at risk?  The answer is simple but has eluded the city as we have slipped closer to chaos and anarchy downtown after midnight.

At long last we must commit—and the council is poised to do just that—to a downtown where women can walk safely and families sleep in peace from midnight to the morning.  It can also be a place where entertainment is enjoyed and measured.  It is not too much to ask and it is essential for our continued progress as a fine city.

12 Comments

  1. At least the police chief sees the problem, now what are people going to do about it?

    bar owners/clubs open up and they are nice, respectable places that cater to the professional.  Then they panic and let in any thug from the street.  These people fool the city into thinking they are reputable and then change once the city turns the other way.

  2. So, once again, Cindy presides over the problem for the past few years and now rides to the rescue to fix it. Sounds like a day late and a dollar short.

  3. We as a community need to seriously look not only how to solve downtown’s public safety issues but also how to substantially increase our small and neighborhood business job creation and local sales taxes

    San Jose heavily depands on sales taxes and local jobs to pay for our underfunded city services and when we look at San Jose on a per resident basis
    – our sales taxes are low ( SJ $133 vs other large local cities $173 to Santa Clara’s $317 per resident ) and
    – number of jobs ( SJ .97 ( less than 1) vs other cities from 1.21 to Palo Alto 3.11 jobs per resident)

    We have the lowest sales and property taxes and jobs per large city residents in Santa Clara County Less tax money Less city services

    San Jose has one of the highest annual disposable income per household so where is the money being spent ? – not on downtown and unfortunately not in San Jose but in other Santa Clara County cities or in other areas

    We should quickly address the downtown public safety problems because it it is the right thing to do for what should be the regional center of San Jose and Santa Clara County as well as to increase our local sales taxes and local jobs that fund city services

    On Saturday, November 12 from 9an to 12 noon at the new San Jose City Hall we will have a free Neighborhood and Community Leader Public Policy Forum ( as part of United Neighborhood 12th Annual Neighborhood Conference) sponsored by League of Woman Voters, Latina Coation, NAACP and United Neighborhoods with leaders from academic/schools, business, community, labor, and neighborhoods groups discussing 3 import public policy questions

    1) Why can’t San Jose pay for basic city services like other local cities?
    2)What is the neighborhoods & communities role in public policy development?
    3) Can we have Open, Honest, Ethical Government without local Sunshine Laws ?

    You invites and we look forward to your participation, your questions and listening to the discussions

  4. The Neighborhood Forum sounds like a good idea, but how many times must we sit around and talk about these things? We’ve talked enough. Now it’s time to elect people to do the right things for the right reasons. We need to elect people who will tackle issues and not wait for a crisis before they work to solve the problem. People who believe in open government because it is the right way to govern. I could go on but it is probably a waste of time.

  5. As a married, professional Downtown San Jose home owner and resident, I agree with Dan’s assessment of the situation wholeheartedly.  The police department’s charades on Santa Clara Street every weekend night is what keeps us, our friends and our money away from the area.

  6. without the bars and nightclubs in downtown
    san jose, the city will lose ALOT of tax revenues and as sad as it may sound, our nightclubs and bars are the main reason that people from other cities and counties come and spend their money here week after week.
    people arent coming to san jose that frequently for anything else.

  7. Dan & Lisa,

    Refreshing to see that people are actually making sense on this blog. Others are quick to say we need more police, shut down clubs/ bars, ticket / fine everyone, close street, curfew, retrict hours of operation, change the music played in clubs, etc… its a message that says DONT COME HERE.

    We are shooting ourselves on the foot!

  8. A Bar Owner’s Perspective of Downtown Policing

    I’ve have been a bar owner in downtown San Jose for almost 12 years.  I have lived the police issue for most of that time.  About four years ago the leadership of our city fundamentally changed the way downtown’s entertainment district is policed.  The policy shifted from a “partnership” approach with the police, bars and clubs to a very aggressive, in your face “evacuation” of downtown at closing time by the police. 

    The main reason provided for the change was that both then Police Chief Lansdowne and the police auditor decided that “Pay Job” officers were posing a perception problem to downtown.  “Pay Job” officers were paid by the clubs (not by tax dollars!) to work at the front door of the establishment.  They were not to be involved with the security or operations of the club; just to be a police presence.  Our old “Pay Job” model was borrowed and continues to be used in cities such as Denver, Portland, and Seattle today. 

    The most important value the old system had was face to face interaction of police officers with both the club operators and patrons alike.  Many “mainstream” residents of the south bay could feel safe and appreciated as visitors to downtown.  Our overall customer counts four years ago ranged from about 15 – 20 thousand per weekend night (much higher than the customer counts we have now!).

    Many owners, at that time, voiced opinions that the new tactics were a real turnoff to our then bustling entertainment district.  Our collective problem was that the tactics, which now have been in effect for about 4 years, were “turning off” our more mainstream customers (i.e. the people who now spend their money at Santana Row!).  Our customer base of SJSU students, young professionals, arena event attendees and visitors in general basically started to erode. 

    Police Chief Lansdowne and Council Member Cindy Chaves convened a “Police and Safety” task force to study the issues.  I was one of three bar owners invited to the group.  For some reason no nightclub owners were invited.  The makeup of the task force was very “top heavy” with police officers and city department employees and basically supported the police tactics with 3 votes against the tactics (can you guess who voted against the tactics?).

    We, as bar and club owners, voiced our concerns that the make up of our customer base was changing for the worse and the “vacuum” needed to fill the gap in the market place would end up being filled by a very undesirable clientele.  Our main premise was that the only people who would want to come to the “new” downtown entertainment zone would be people who are used to squaring off with each other and or the police. 

    Steadily over the last four years our worst fears have come to fruition.  Most of the problems with the entertainment environment are caused by our current policing strategy coupled with a few club owners “cashing in” on a very undesirable segment of the market. 

    We need to make changes downtown; but the changes need to come out of cooperation between all of the stakeholders of downtown. 

    About Dan Doherty
    Owner of Mission Ale House
    Soon to be opening Smoke Tiki Lounge at the corner of Post St and San Pedro
    Board member of the both the San Jose Downtown Association and the San Jose Convention and Visitors Bureau
    Downtown San Jose home owner

  9. Tom,

    I respect this issue deeply and I do respect your views. 

    My previous post is to give some background experience of an actual business owner who is here for the long hall and has witnessed the evolution of this problem over the past few years.

  10. I agree downtown should be a great place where everyone wants to come and enjoy themselves.

    Many other cities have different district to seperate the different groups by interest level and age group snce what attracts single 20-30’s probably will not attact families with children

    Great cities have a community involved planning process to design their neighborhoods and downtowwn and well thought out consistent implementation so that they attract all age groups with appropriate activities / attractions / resturants etc in different locations.

    We can do it but it takes a focused positive can do attitude by the entire community and it’s leaders

  11. Ed #10:

    I have spoken of districts on several occasions in various sub-blogs here; mostly arguing with smurf about where he thinks “downtown SF is” when he says it’s much better than downtown San Hozay.  It’s a great idea. 

    We already have Japantown.  Then there’s Santana Row—Disneyland for the rich a wannabes.  We have two flea market districts.  There’s the Geezer District—The Villages.

    So, Ed, what do we call the thug district for the hip-hoppers with guns, and where do we place it?

  12. I think that bars & clubs have their respectful place in our downtown but we need to make sure that they are run on the up and up. If all owners and managers had a stake in the quality of life down here and not trying to make a buck at all costs, we would be okay. I am all for diversity of people and businesses – just not for people carrying guns and knives looking for fights.
    The police are not creating the problem, just responding to it. Maybe their and the city’s approach has not been a correct solution in the past but hopefully since this issue has reached a head, everyone can work together to make it work.