City officials will consider reducing local speed limits and ramping up enforcement to curb traffic fatalities, which rival the annual number of homicides in San Jose.
The Vision Zero plan proposed by District 6 Councilman Pierluigi Oliverio calls for cameras at busy intersections, slowing speed limits by schools to 15 mph and summoning enforcement help from the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office and the California Highway Patrol.
The Swedish government introduced Vision Zero in 1997 in an effort to reduce the number of annual traffic deaths to zero by 2020. The country has since revised that benchmark to halve the number of yearly traffic fatalities by that same deadline. Several European nations adopted the guideline and reportedly saw sizable drops in pedestrian-traffic fatalities, including a 39-percent dip in Sweden, 48 percent in France and 53 percent in Spain.
San Jose claims an injury crash rate about half the national average, according to a report submitted to the City Council's Tuesday agenda. Still, about 40 people die every year from traffic crashes within city limits—a figure rivaling the annual homicide rate. Another 150 are seriously hurt each year.
In 2014, 42 people died in traffic crashes while walking, bicycling, riding a motorcycle or driving in San Jose. Most of those happened on multi-lane thoroughfares.
"There is a need and urgency to do more," San Jose's Director of Transportation Hans Larsen and police Chief Larry Esquivel write in a joint report.
The city found that 93 percent of those fatalities happen on major streets, 73 percent after dark and half by walking along or across roads. Fourteen major roadways—just 3 percent of the city's streets, including Almaden and Capitol avenues—accounted for half of the city's fatal crashes.
Because of existing traffic safety programs, San Jose has already seen a decline in traffic injuries and deaths. In 2014, the city saw zero traffic deaths in school zones and for kids younger than 15. The number of injury crashes for kids aged 5 to 14 has steadily dropped over the decade from 122 in 2004 to 55 last year, according to transportation officials. In 2014, there was one traffic death on a neighborhood street. Also last year, there were two bicycle fatalities—down from six the year prior.
"San Jose has 2,400 miles of roads with essentially no traffic enforcement, which leaves pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers at risk of serious injury or fatality," Oliverio writes in a memo supporting the plan. "Therefore, it is my belief that the council should address this issue by adopting road safety alternatives modeled after the Vision Zero approach. "
More from the San Jose City Council agenda for May 12, 2015:
- A new audit found that the city of San Jose's employee vacancy rates are unacceptably high, partly because the recruitment process takes too long. Some of the backlog in hiring may owe to San Jose's controversial pension reforms, which knocked new hires down to a lower tier of retirement benefits. But in a report going before the City Council on Tuesday, city auditor Sharon Erickson points to several improvements that can be made to fill some of the 600 vacant full-time positions.
- Low-income housing tax credits are the main source of capital to build affordable housing. Developers have to find private equity investments for affordable housing projects on their own. Under existing law, however, investors have to become owners of the property to claim those credits against state liabilities. Because state taxes are deductible from federal taxes, reducing state liability conversely increases federal liability for investors. Given the current federal corporate tax rate, investors typically put in nothing more than 65 cents to each dollar of state credit. The city has recommended endorsing a bill by Sen. Jim Beall (D-San Jose) that would allow developers to sell state tax credits without requiring the investor to assume ownership, which makes it more valuable and, according to proponents, boost the amount of private equity available for affordable housing at no cost to the state.
- City officials plan to support another state bill that would bolster the state's low-income housing tax credit program. AB 35, authored by Assemblymembers David Chiu (D-San Francisco) and Toni Atkins (D-San Diego), would raise the cap of available state tax credits from $100 million to $400 million a year. It would also increase the allowable state match for development and encourage investment in hard-to-develop neighborhoods. Over the last 25 years, San Jose has leveraged these state tax credits to build 130 developments with 13,900 affordable housing units.
- CalWORKS, a public assistance program for needy children and families, now offers up to 16 consecutive days of temporary housing vouchers for the homeless. Assemblyman Brian Maienschein (R-San Diego) has proposed changing that to 16 days as needed. The city suggests endorsing Maienschein's AB 702 , which would also change the 32-day housing vouchers for domestic violence victims from consecutive days to a lifetime limit.
- Among the council's top priorities for the coming year are discussions of: a mobile home conversion ordinance, rules about handing out food and clothing to the homeless at St. James Park and a high-rise incentive program.
- Transportation officials want to lower the speed limit on certain streets by schools and bike lanes.
- From 1990 to 2007, the city converted 1,400 acres of industrial land to residential—the equivalent of 21 Valley Fair shopping malls. By contrast, San Jose allowed only 86 acres to be converted from industrial to residential from 2007 to 2014. The council will hear a report about San Jose's history of land-use conversion, which has led to a jobs-housing imbalance where there are more residents than available jobs, unlike every other city in Silicon Valley. Under San Jose's general plan, the city's blueprint for future growth, planned growth calls for 120,000 new homes and 470,000 new jobs to reach a balance of 1.3 jobs per eligible worker.
WHAT: City Council meets
WHERE: City Hall, 200 E. Santa Clara St., San Jose
WHEN: 1:30pm Tuesday
INFO: City Clerk, 408.535.1260