The San Jose City Council met last week to discuss and prioritize certain ordinances the city should pursue in the coming year. Creating an ordinance requires staff time from the department that the ordinance will affect and, as always, time from the City Attorney’s office. In many cases, outreach for ordinances must be done to garner resident and stakeholder input which takes time and staff facilitating the public meetings.
The city is unable to move forward with every ordinance on the “wish list” much like any other organization public or private. Therefore, councilmembers are asked to prioritize by selecting their top choices and see which of those match their council colleagues’ preferences. An ordinance moves forward if it gets six votes, and those that don’t get selected remain on the list for next time, which is approximately one year. The council selected their top choices twice and was able to prioritize seven ordinances out of 30, which include:
● Converting Hotels & Motels to affordable housing.
● Closing Medical Cannabis Collectives that do not pay Measure U tax.
● Restricting Tattoo parlors near K-12 schools.
● Development Agreement Policy (Negotiate deals for Economic Development).
● Restrict burning of wood in residential fireplaces.
● Ban any construction within 100 feet of creeks.
● Survey vacant buildings to house the homeless and more to be discussed in detail at council study session on October 29.
Some of the other ordinances that did not make it include: limiting new Wal-mart stores; a healthy eating initiative; neighborhood preservation; liquor store conversions; downtown bars that provide music pay to fund police officers.
We could have had an extended discussion on each topic, however, the items selected will come back to the council for further discussion at least two more times.
Two items I voted for that did not make the list were liquor store conversion and distinctive neighborhoods. The liquor store conversion ordinance would have the potential to eliminate existing liquor stores. Liquor stores do not really add a lot of value in my view, and I would prefer to see alcohol sold at grocery stores, because grocery stores offer a variety of food. Over time this would allow for more grocery stores to open, which is seen by many as an essential component of a neighborhood.
Neighborhoods of distinction would allow private property owners to create their own zoning based on the majority of the property owners’ desires. So, rather than government mandating regulation, it is a tool that allows private property owners to make their own decisions. For example, an Eichler neighborhood may decide that it wants to maintain Eichler architecture (Post and
Beam) for any new construction within its neighborhood boundary.
One item that made the list was converting existing hotels and motels into low income housing. This seems like it would be an interesting discussion and would have a wide variety of viewpoints, depending on how it would be potentially implemented. More to come on this topic, for sure.
Prioritizing and ranking priorities is important for organizations. However, in the case of government, certain priorities may not always represent what constituents want. The only real way is through the election process, because we have a representative democracy where we choose to elect an individual to vote on behalf of a larger population. Maybe someday residents will vote by electronic devices from their homes to select priorities midstream. Until then, it is what it is.
This week the Council will again take up the proposed Habitat Conservation Plan. Personally, I have found it curious that most of the emails I have received advocating for the implementation of the HCP are from residents outside of San Jose.