Candidate Questionnaire Responses

SV@Home Action Fund Candidate Questionnaires, June 7, 2022 Primary

About Our Questionnaires

Housing is a top priority for voters. That’s why, in advance of the June 7, 2022 Primary Election, the SV@Home Action Fund circulated questionnaires to every candidate in several local races, and also hosted a series of candidate forums. Our aim is to educate voters about where candidates stand on housing issues. We appreciate each candidate who returned a questionnaire, participated in a forum, or both.

Each questionnaire began with a series of yes/no questions. We have arranged responses to these in tables to help you compare candidates from each race side by side. Following the yes/no questions, each questionnaire had a series of in-depth questions. Click on a question to read how candidates responded.

We hope you find this information helpful as a voter and member of the community.

Click on the links below to jump directly to a section or race


SV@Home Action Fund’s Housing Positions

● ⠀ The SV@Home Action Fund believes a variety of policy tools are necessary to respond to the complexity and severity of the housing crisis. We start with “The 3-Ps”:

⠀⠀⠀⚬ ⠀Production of abundant housing at a range of income levels from permanent supportive housing to market rate apartments and duplexes

⠀⠀⠀⚬ ⠀Preservation of existing affordable and rent-controlled homes

⠀⠀⠀⚬ ⠀Protection of renters from displacement or exploitation

● ⠀We believe cities have a critical role to play in identifying available land and resources for affordable housing development, including raising funds through commercial linkage fees, housing impact fees, and inclusionary housing requirements.

● ⠀The state also has an important role to play in identifying and funding additional affordable housing resources.

● ⠀We support housing opportunities, at all income levels, distributed throughout each city.

● ⠀We support integrating affordable homes into mixed-use growth areas like Specific Area Plans and Urban Villages.

● ⠀We support policies and programs to preserve existing affordable housing and protect vulnerable residents from displacement, such as Community Opportunity to Purchase Act (COPA) ordinances.

● ⠀Decades of inadequate development of housing has driven up costs; exacerbated rent-burden, displacement, and homelessness; and contributed to urban sprawl.

● ⠀Housing policy has been rooted in systemic racism at every level of government. We expect our leaders to commit to dismantling exclusionary zoning and equitably investing in our communities.

● ⠀Local control created our housing crisis by allowing cities to delay, downsize, discourage and deny new homes. We support legislation holding cities to a higher standard.

● ⠀We appreciate local elected officials who work within the framework of state standards, rather than try to overturn those regulations or misrepresent them as “one size fits all.”

● ⠀We think duplexes, triplexes, and fourplexes are great. Examples can be found here.

● ⠀We reject the myth that homelesness is primarily caused by mental illness or addiction.

● ⠀The solution to homelessness is permanent housing. 

● ⠀Interim shelter is a valuable pathway to permanent housing for those experiencing homelessness, but not an alternative to permanent homes.  

● ⠀The SV@Home Action Fund is a strong supporter of the Community Plan to End Homelessness, which lays out a comprehensive approach to helping our unhoused neighbors find permanent housing solutions.

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CA Senate District 10

Candidate responses

CA Senate District 10 Short Answer Questions

Click each question below to see candidates’ responses.

Q1. What will be your three top priorities during your term in office?

Jim Canova: Preserving & expanding Family Friendly affordable housing & increasing home security through home ownership. Expanding education & career technical education options. Finding long term solutions to homelessness.

Jamal Khan: Affordable housing, homelessness, and public safety

Aisha Wahab: Housing, Economic Development (Jobs & Businesses), Public Safety, Environmental Sustainability

Q2. Narrowing down to housing, if you could only tackle one piece of our housing crisis in the next legislative session, what bill would you author?

Jim Canova: Family Friendly Affordable housing is a critical infrastructure issue for California and our future. One piece of legislation won’t cover all we need to do. California needs to invest in preserving and expanding Family Friendly affordable housing options across the State.

Jamal Khan: I will introduce legislation that imposes tight restrictions on deep-pocketed companies such as Blackstone that outbid working families for hundreds of residential homes with all-cash payments and then rent them out at a fat profit, depriving hardworking Bay Area families of the dream of homeownership.

Aisha Wahab:  Affordability

Q3. The State has a big surplus this year, and it is projected to see budget surpluses through at least FY 2025-26. How would you divide these unanticipated funds among competing needs and priorities?

Jim Canova: California needs to invest in preserving and expanding Family Friendly affordable housing options across the State. We need to invest in making home ownership possible for all of our citizens. Your housing is never truly secure as long as you rent. Securing home ownership is a powerful step towards preventing homelessness.

Jamal Khan: California has a surplus this year that is in the tens of billions. That’s a lot of money, and it is imperative for some of it to be returned to taxpayers who are struggling with inflation, while the remainder is allocated wisely. Many debates about government center around whether it should be bigger or smaller. I think government should be smarter. Government should be lean and efficient. Government should accomplish more with less. My policy platform has a detailed overview of the priorities I would pursue: https://www.votekhan.com/priorities

Aisha Wahab: Education (traditional and accelerated job training), Housing & Homelessness, Climate Action (infrastructure), and healthcare

Q4. What, if anything, do you think the State should do to ensure that all local governments take proactive action to meet their Regional Housing Needs Allocation targets? Do recent State actions go far enough?

Jim Canova: State and local governments rarely work well together. That needs to change. We need to integrate our efforts. We need to get everyone on the same page. I’m known for getting people on the same page to work towards a worthy goal.

Jamal Khan: The state should continue to explore all measures to expedite the meeting of these targets. Some local governments have done a better job than others. For the latter, the state will need to take additional steps.

In economics, a collective action problem occurs when the incentives for individual actors don’t line up with what’s best for the collective as a whole. Cities are naturally biased toward having more land zoned as business rather than residential. Why? Business zoning brings in plenty of tax revenue for the city, without carrying the high costs for public services that residential land does, such as for schools, parks, libraries, and so on. And some of the cities that have benefited the most from this imbalance are precisely those cities that are, in some cases, digging in their heels and openly violating state law. I’ve made it very clear which side I’m on.

Aisha Wahab: I believe all development should have a mandatory component of affordability (both commercial for small and new entrepreneurs and residential for housing). I believe we need to stop the game of “who is responsible for creating affordable housing”. Cities are inherently interested in having more above market rate homes due to the increased property tax which in turn increases revenue to the city. This is a conflict of interest. I think other efforts have the good intention of fixing the problem but most are a bandaid solution and don’t address the core problem of creating more affordability. 

Q5. Governor Jerry Brown once said that CEQA reform was God’s work. Do you think reform is needed, and if so, what changes would you propose?

Jim Canova: CEQA like any good legislation needs to evolve to fit the current needs of our State. We need to review CEQA to make sure that it is not unintentionally preventing the production of Family Friendly Affordable Housing.

Jamal Khan: CEQA was passed with good intentions, but it has been hijacked by special interests and NIMBY groups to artificially suppress the supply of housing, contributing to the affordable housing crisis. It is possible to find a good balance between environmental protection and affordable housing for working families, and that is what I will pursue.

Aisha Wahab: CEQA needs to focus on the environmental impact and not be used to block projects the way it is currently being used. The timeframe for studies and determination must be expedited and fair. 

Q6. The State has four major housing agencies that distribute funds — the State Department of Housing and Community Development, the California Housing Finance Agency, the Tax Credit Allocation Committee, and the California Debt Limit Allocation Committee. Lack of coordination of these funds was highlighted by the Legislative Analyst’s Office. How do you think this is best addressed?

Jim Canova: I would push to rename the HCD. I would rename it the California Department of Affordable Housing – the other agencies & committees listed here would fall under the umbrella of the new California Department of Affordable Housing. This would help to coordinate the efforts of these agencies to better serve Californians to secure and own affordable family friendly housing.

Jamal Khan: We need to streamline and consolidate the fund distribution process for greater coordination and synergy, while avoiding the unnecessary duplication of efforts.

Aisha Wahab: As stated earlier, I think the core problem needs to be addressed and not diluted by more bureaucratic red tape and silos. The policy should simply be that all new developments have mixed income housing. This would reduce segregated communities, create consistent affordability, and allow for production. These buckets of funding create a great deal of delay, qualifications, and overall redtape. Expectations of cities and developers need to be made clear and funding should be available. Many cities cite the lack of redevelopment funds as a barrier, but it is beyond this. Some have also been utilizing funding models as reasons why they can’t do more or why they are avoiding a certain measure. 

Q7. The pandemic has contributed greatly to housing insecurity, with many residents facing eviction. What additional actions do you think the State could have taken, and what should be done now to reduce the potential for widespread tenant displacement?

Jim Canova: The best way to fire your landlord is to own your home … It’s time the State of California invests in our Families to expand home ownership across California.

Jamal Khan: California has extended eviction protections for a fourth time — but only for tenants with active applications in the state relief program. I support the overall effort to protect tenants from eviction: if we can do it for student loan repayments, we can also do it for something which is far more crucial like a roof over someone’s head. But that still leaves millions of other tenants who are not covered under the new bill to face potential eviction as state courts start transitioning toward hearing eviction suits for unpaid rent. So, we need legislation that addresses what we can do for these folks.

Aisha Wahab: Renters are often the lowest priority group when it comes to housing. If elected, I’d be the only renter in the Senate. Tenants have struggled with the increasing rents and inability to save for a down-payment, yet make rents every month. Eviction protections were priority during COVID. California could have also focused on ensuring property owners also were protected from foreclosures (still a looming concern), that banks were partners and all non-payments were moved to the end of their contracts, that unutilized hotels were bought or used for housing at-risk individuals, rampant development took place for low-income housing across the state and much more. In-fill development would have been ideal for any city with over 100,000 population size. These would have been smaller but impactful projects and the state and cities needs to potentially step into the housing arena to ensure action.

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California Assembly District 24

AD 24 candidate responses

*Kansen Chu: I realize that loosing up the zoning policies is necessary in many cities. The State should provide more incentives to reward cities that allow more affordable housing to be built and tax breaks to loosening up lending policies. However, I don’t believe a one size fit all approach.

Assembly District 24 Short Answer Questions

Click each question below to see candidates’ responses.

Q1. What will be your three top priorities during your term in office?

Kansen Chu: Public safety, mental health, housing/transportation

Lan Diep: Housing affordability, economic resilience, and getting state government to do fewer things but do them well rather than the status quo of doing many things poorly.

Alex Lee: Fixing the Housing & Homelessness Crisis, Reinvesting in our Schools, and Combating Climate Change (especially through land use and transportation). 

Q2. Narrowing down to housing, if you could only tackle one piece of our housing crisis in the next legislative session, what bill would you author?

Kansen Chu: Rapid rehousing and funding for below market rate housing.

Lan Diep: Reforming CEQA to make urban infill type development more streamlined and easier; creating a cause of action for project supporters to sue cities that are slow to review proposed projects in a timely manner.

Alex Lee: I’ve authored and co-authored many pieces of housing legislation already in my first term, but I want to highlight two current bills in the 2022 legislative year: AB 2050 (to Reform the Ellis Act) and AB 2053 (the Social Housing Act)

AB 2050 is a necessary defense against displacement against corporate property speculators who convert affordable housing units into market rate, evicting and taking off badly needed BMR homes. This speculative practice generates 0 new units but lots of potential new homelessness

AB 2053 will create a state development enterprise to directly build and own housing in CA. Much like successful European and Asian examples, we must provide for housing as a municipal good (like schools & roads) and house families for social good not for profit. Social Housing is a transformative new tool we must use in building more housing

Q3. The State has a big surplus this year, and it is projected to see budget surpluses through at least FY 2025-26. How would you divide these unanticipated funds among competing needs and priorities?

Kansen Chu: Surpluses should be used for one time programs that have long term impacts. Housing and public transportation fit into this category of spending. 

Lan Diep: The state’s needs are many and any surplus could be quickly spent attempting to fund everything over a short term. I would prioritize one-time expenditures that would have lasting impact on how the state operates in the long run.

I’d like to see some of the surplus put away in reserves, pay into our pension obligations now to reduce our future obligations, pay down other debt, and invest in updating the technology capabilities of agencies across the state, especially the ones that interface with the public, to make it easier to deal with the EDD, DMV, or apply for rent relief.

I would also happily invest more in Project Roomkey and consider incentive programs to help homeowners upgrade their homes to be more water/energy efficient and building owners of older residential buildings to make their buildings more resistant to earthquakes.

Alex Lee: I currently serve on the Assembly Budget Committee and had the honor of making historic investments in the 21-22 budget year towards climate change, homelessness, housing, and our schools. As we continue to see surpluses, we must be mindful of less predictable years on the horizon though. That’s why making smart investments into infrastructure NOW will pay off dividends later. 

To solve our affordability AND climate change goals, I am prioritizing investments in high speed rail, transit, clean energy, infill housing, and helping our unhoused. I am also pushing for much higher investments in our early education, childcare, universities, and educators so we prepare the workforce and socioeconomic opportunities for the next decade.

Q4. What, if anything, do you think the State should do to ensure that all local governments take proactive action to meet their Regional Housing Needs Allocation targets? Do recent State actions go far enough?

Kansen Chu: Carrots and sticks! The State should file lawsuits against more cities to make sure they comply.

Lan Diep: RHNA targets are not taken seriously and current sanctions are not enough to spur action on housing development. California must address two things: The laws that facilitate development in CA and the mechanisms by which cities and counties are funded.

The ability of localities to impose more rules than state standards is central to the idea of local control. But in the context of housing, this undermines the goal of building more housing. The state can prevent local rules from blocking density by thoughtfully preempting certain local powers with state laws.

Secondly, California should reexamine how taxes are distributed and collected. If we view ourselves as a single state, then we should be concerned with the welfare of all Californians. Yet when we identify as regions or cities, we ignore the wellbeing of those outside our area. This leads to disparities in school quality, housing availability, and public services.

Alex Lee: With HCD’s Housing Accountability Unit, this is a first major step in making sure locals fulfill their RHNA goals. This is the stick.

With Social Housing – that can be the carrot. I am pushing to pass AB 2053 to create a state developer so that locals can choose a public interest developer to fulfill their RHNA goals. This way we can combat market skeptics, have a much higher degree of control in the final outcome of new neighborhoods, create thousands of new union jobs, and keep all profits in the community circulation.

Q5. Governor Jerry Brown once said that CEQA reform was God’s work. Do you think reform is needed, and if so, what changes would you propose?

Kansen Chu: CEQA should not be used to slow down needed housing developments. It needs to be more balanced and flexible.

Lan Diep: CEQA’s original intent remains important. We must protect the environment as we develop and build. Too often however, CEQA is used as a tool to mask opposition to development in the language of environmental concerns. CEQA must be reformed to achieve its intended goal while allowing for common-sense growth to proceed. Everyone agrees there’s a lack of affordable housing in California, yet it’s so difficult and expensive to build, in large part because of CEQA.

I would prioritize making urban infill projects less susceptible to CEQA challenges and create a cause of action for project proponents to sue cities who intentionally take too long to review proposed projects. Cities should retain the ability to deny projects, but they must act in a timely manner and state their reasons for denial. They cannot leave proposed projects in perpetual limbo pending review. 

Alex Lee: I believe in CEQA. We need to of course factor in new development’s impact on the existing natural and built environment. It’s especially necessary to limit sprawl (which is also bad for climate goals), protect wildlands and endangered species, and protect indigenous sites. 

However, I believe CEQA ought to allow for more room for clearly big-picture climate-positive developments like mass transit, bike/ped infrastructure, and infill development. Land use IS climate change policy. We need to be creating cities of the future as quickly as possible, not preserving and pickling unsustainable suburban sprawl for centuries to come.

Q6. The State has four major housing agencies that distribute funds — the State Department of Housing and Community Development, the California Housing Finance Agency, the Tax Credit Allocation Committee, and the California Debt Limit Allocation Committee. Lack of coordination of these funds was highlighted by the Legislative Analyst’s Office. How do you think this is best addressed?

Kansen Chu: Consolidate them into Housing and Community Development. 

Lan Diep: I would support combining agencies to decrease redundant functions. To the extent each agency has a unique purpose, I would support having the directors of each agency meet regularly to coordinate their efforts and invest in each agency’s technological ability. Having the proper tools and tech to function at the speed expected in the private sector would go a long way in helping them coordinate and act nimbly. 

Alex Lee: Ideally they should be consolidated into one entity. Application and distribution of funding (in general) is difficult enough and there ought to be a streamlined and simplified approach. Just as there ought to be one centralized funding entity, there ought to be one overarching development entity (i.e. for Social Housing via my bill AB 2053).

Q7. The pandemic has contributed greatly to housing insecurity, with many residents facing eviction. What additional actions do you think the State could have taken, and what should be done now to reduce the potential for widespread tenant displacement?

Kansen Chu: The State should negotiate with tenants and landlords to provide direct payments to landlords.  

Lan Diep: The eviction moratorium is a worthwhile but unsustainable program. Tenants are still obligated to pay back-rent and that debt — accruing over years in some cases — will be impossible for the average tenant to pay back. This is where the government can step in to provide rent relief. 

California’s rent relief program is an example of one of many well-intentioned programs our state administers that is done poorly. The money is there but it is not getting where it needs to be fast enough. The obligation put on tenants to apply for relief sets a high bar, and even when they do apply, programs do not always respond quickly. It would be better to let landlords apply on behalf of their tenants, to collect the unpaid rent and wipe the debt directly off the books. This allows money intended for rent to go directly to that purpose.

Alex Lee: In my first term I was pivotal in the fight for the eviction moratorium AND rental relief. In hindsight we should’ve (as I called out early on) tied the moratorium to the state of emergency and given 100% debt repayment to landlords of qualified tenants. I think we’ve did a disservice to so many Californians with a convoluted, difficult process to receive help especially when so many lost their livelihoods so rapidly. I think we also should have gotten mortgage relief as well for working families but the banks killed that effort. 

In short:

  • rental relief for tenants and small landlords
  • eviction moratorium tied to the state of emergency (like in Alameda and LA county)
  • relief for mortgage holders
  • pass Ellis Act Reform (my bill AB2050)

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California Assembly District 28

AD 28 candidate responses

Assembly District 28 Short Answer Questions

Click each question below to see candidates’ responses.

Q1. What will be your three top priorities during your term in office?

Gail Pellerin: Tackling the Housing shortage and homelessness is one of my top priorities.  I am also committed to stimulating jobs, wages and our economy, investing in quality affordable education, addressing environmental impacts and climate change, strengthening public safety, and improving physical and mental healthcare.  I am also passionate about fighting for equality and protecting voting rights.

Rob Rennie: Affordable Housing and Homelessness, Transit in the bay area, Wildfire prevention/ Cal fire funding/ forest management/vegetation management/ Utility hardening

Joe Thompson: Affordable Housing

Addressing Inflation through price caps, including rent control

Medicare For All, Calcare

Q2. Narrowing down to housing, if you could only tackle one piece of our housing crisis in the next legislative session, what bill would you author?

Gail Pellerin: I would author a bill to consolidate the various state housing functions into one department. Currently debt, equity, subsidy and asset management are managed by multiple agencies. I believe a consolidated office would improve efficiency, enhance the customer experience, and result in more affordable housing.

Rob Rennie: We need to provide some carrots and enablers to affordable housing and missing middle housing.  Creating and adequately funding a financing fund would lower the cost of building housing by reducing or eliminating the cost of capital.  Much of the opposition to housing projects that local officials face is around effects on city infrastructure.  I believe the state should reward local municipalities by granting $ per housing unit to be used for infrastructure upgrades and transit funds.

Joe Thompson: I’m fighting for SB 886, The Student Housing Crisis Act, this bill would directly alleviate pressure for students seeking housing during this housing crisis. Additionally I’m hoping to pass rent control, increased state funding for affordable housing projects and many other policies to address homelessness.

Q3. The State has a big surplus this year, and it is projected to see budget surpluses through at least FY 2025-26. How would you divide these unanticipated funds among competing needs and priorities?

Gail Pellerin: Because of the Gann limit, much will have to go to infrastructure and public education – if it is not returned to the taxpayers in some form. In addition to education and infrastructure, I would like to see more investment in affordable housing and transportation, especially where they intersect. 

Rob Rennie: Education has been under funded since prop 13 went into effect.  Education has to be the 1st place to receive surplus funds!  I would fund my housing proposals in question 2 and other proposals to fund affordable housing.  In order to fight climate change, transit planning is supposed to be paired with housing planning.  Transit funding needs significant increases to keep up with the housing units being planned and built.  When must stop housing units from burning down by getting control of our wildfire risks through forest management and vegetation management.

Joe Thompson: We need to fund Affordable Housing, Medicare For All, and reinvest in infrastructure for all Californians to rebuild our great state. 

Q4. What, if anything, do you think the State should do to ensure that all local governments take proactive action to meet their Regional Housing Needs Allocation targets? Do recent State actions go far enough?

Gail Pellerin: RHNA obligations only require zoning for housing, there should also be incentives to get housing built. There is not a problem with market rate housing – there is a problem penciling out projects for affordable housing, and I would want to use some of the surplus for that purpose. 

Rob Rennie: Targets of 50% of RHNA number as below market will not be achieved with out a much greater supply of financing.  Using Los Gatos as an example, our below market housing target is 1100 units out of total RHNA of 1993 and town with about 15,000 existing housing units.  There is very little bare land making housing more expensive.  A small town with limited bare land is not going to be competitive to get tax credit or other affordable housing dollars to build that many units.  The dollars will go to bigger cities that can create larger more efficient projects.  The pot of available money most grow significantly for it to filter down to the smaller communities.  Last I heard, Eden housing still has not been able to obtain tax credit dollars to pay back Summerhill for our 50 affordable units built on our N40.

Joe Thompson: I believe in the Empty Home Tax initiative which taxes empty homes to create affordable housing, along with supporting this initiative the state must take an active role in assessing housing needs and build affordable housing including 100% deed restricted affordable housing.

Q5. Governor Jerry Brown once said that CEQA reform was God’s work. Do you think reform is needed, and if so, what changes would you propose?

Gail Pellerin: CEQA reform has been difficult, because environmental review is very important in California – and it is difficult to balance that environmental protection with the problems in the CEQA process of timeliness and providing incentives for investment. That is why even Jerry Brown could not accomplish it.  If we could ensure a more timely resolution of CEQA challenges, while still having broad public review, I would support that.

Rob Rennie: Yes.  My Stepfather wrote the National Environmental Protection Act Laws and has been participating in discussion of reform on the national level.  He believes that the answer is not exemptions but instead time requirements.  The discussion should still occur but lawsuits should be required to be resolved with in 2 months rather than 4 years.  CEQA is a tool used to stop projects that are not related to the environment.  Time limits will remove it as an effective tool to stop projects while still allowing the conversation about the environment.

Joe Thompson: I absolutely support CEQA reform, currently the Student Housing Crisis Act, SB 886, would exempt UC and Cal State colleges from the environmental review. I think that we need to address the root causes of CEQA and exempt areas experiencing massive housing shortages.

Q6. The State has four major housing agencies that distribute funds — the State Department of Housing and Community Development, the California Housing Finance Agency, the Tax Credit Allocation Committee, and the California Debt Limit Allocation Committee. Lack of coordination of these funds was highlighted by the Legislative Analyst’s Office. How do you think this is best addressed?

Gail Pellerin: That would be my legislative proposal! Consolidate these functions into one department. 

Rob Rennie: Inefficient government is a continuous problem.  I would have to study this much further and discuss with all departments to figure out the best solution.  Usually combining departments helps coordination but sometimes allows some programs to lose focus.  As long as the goal of 2 or more programs are aligned combining programs and funds can sometimes better achieve the goal.

Joe Thompson: The State Department of Housing and Community Development should either create a role to coordinate funds or set up meetings to coordinate statewide housing resources to make sure we have a fair and equitable process.

Q7. The pandemic has contributed greatly to housing insecurity, with many residents facing eviction. What additional actions do you think the State could have taken, and what should be done now to reduce the potential for widespread tenant displacement?

Gail Pellerin: I support more protections for renters. In the current legislative session, over forty legislators are co-authoring a proposal to double the renters tax credit.  I would support this if I were in the State Assembly this year.

I’m happy to see that AB 2179 to extend the Housing is Key program to June 30 was signed into law. I think the State, County and Cities should work together to create an emergency rental assistance program. In addition, I think we need to work with landlords and tenants to find solutions where tenants are protected and landlords are directly compensated and included in the solution.

Rob Rennie: The best answer is more affordable housing!  I am particularly a fan of inexpensive transitional housing so that a lot of it can be built and as many people as need it can find at least temporary housing so they can continue to function and hold down jobs while more permanent affordable housing is built.

Joe Thompson: I would fully support a freeze of all evictions due to the pandemic, economic crisis, along with other global threats. California should adopt social-housing in low-income communities and manage housing for the people who need it. Constructing green, energy efficient, and levels of affordable housing that range from free to affordable.

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Santa Clara County Supervisorial District 1

D1 candidate responses

*Denelle Fedor:  #1: I will not commit to supporting higher taxes via a Bond at this time. #2: I support Measure A – will need to eval if it should be extended. #3: Q is presumptuous. #5: Mental Health is the main contributor of homelessness. I support Gov. Newsom CARE Court to help chronic mentally ill homeless receive the mental health care they deserve. Permanent housing is important and should be built.

**Johnny Khamis explicitly refused to complete the questionnaire. Though he had committed to participating in our forum over a month earlier, Khamis withdrew from the forum the day before the event.

Supervisorial District 1 Short Answer Questions

Click each question below to see candidates’ responses.

Q1. What will be your three top priorities during your term in office?

Sylvia Arenas:

1) Children & Families: Improving County social safety net systems to ensure that our most vulnerable have the support that they need. We must act quickly to develop our local workforce to be ready for universal Pre-K programs, develop a system of care for at-risk children, expand mental health partnerships, and more.

2) Compassionate Housing Solutions: Expanding compassionate housing policies and solutions for our housing crisis. We must advocate for more affordable housing and compassionate and housing-focused solutions by investing into our safety net public health system, as well as expanding mental health and health equity programs.

3) Economic development & recovery for working families: Ensuring the County’s response and recovery efforts to the pandemic equitably support families most impacted. I will advocate for small businesses support, expand job training programs, expand partnerships between the County’s Office of Labor Standards and Enforcement and local cities, and more

Rich Constantine: Workforce and economy, Access to Social Services, Housing 

Denelle Fedor: Fiscal Health, Mental Health Care/Homelessness, Agriculture (land/business), the County needs to refocus its efforts and attention to Protect the health and welfare of all residents – especially in South County – Gilroy, San Martin and Morgan Hill.

Claudia Rossi: Homelessness, mental health/healthcare, preserving D1 farming/open spaces

Q2. The potential redevelopment of the County Fairgrounds to include significant affordable housing has been a contentious issue. What are your thoughts about the Fairgrounds, and do you think housing should be a component?

Sylvia Arenas: As we address the housing crisis, it’s vital that we do so in a way that reduces segregation in Santa Clara County. That is why I’ve helped advance anti-segregationary policies – including policies to encourage the development of affordable housing in high resource neighborhoods, and not only under-resourced areas, like the neighborhoods surrounding the Fairgrounds.

As I review proposals for the County Fairgrounds, I would look to see if those proposals would concentrate poverty and further segregate our community. I would balance that against the desperate need that we have for more housing across the County – both affordable and market rate. When the County brings forward a plan for the Fairgrounds, it must address and mitigate these concerns if it includes housing. It should also move forward only as part of a much broader effort to build affordable housing in high resource areas and reduce segregation in our community.

Rich Constantine: The fairgrounds have been an underutilized facility for quite some time. I think a much better use would be for housing. With the need for housing growing more and more dire, it is incumbent on all of us to do everything we can to eliminate the dearth of housing.

Denelle Fedor: I can remember when the County Fairgrounds were home to the County Fair.  The Fair ran for two weeks – and was so well attended that sometimes parking was hard to come by.  It’s interesting to be old enough to remember those days and be a candidate discussing what the next use(s) will be.  

The 160-acres can be used for a plethora of uses, including housing. 

We need to assess what buildings can be saved and reused. There is rich history on this site – there needs to be some historic preservation, rehabilitation and reuse.   

We need to ensure we have jobs – housing balance with all properties -especially with the Fairgrounds.  I support building housing however, not to the detriment of jobs.  

Healthcare – include healthcare facility/facilities.

Recreational uses – we need to include recreational options- open space and trails

Continue with Santa Clara County Fair at a smaller scale.

Claudia Rossi: I believe we can maintain spaces that serve to gather community to celebrate cultural events, resource fairs, arts fairs, etc. while allotting space to address our homelessness crisis. All municipalities must contribute to the solution as this is truly a public health crisis. I will carefully consider proposals with a focus on plans that bring a continuum of care to address homelessness. Serving our unhoused residents must include supportive services.

Q3. Following up on that question, the County has significant surplus property that has been the subject of discussion for many years. What would you advocate for with respect to the Civic Center, Reid Hillview, and other sites like the Pleasant Hills Golf Course?

Sylvia Arenas: I strongly support investing in affordable housing on county owned surplus land – including the Civic Center, and especially Reid Hillview. 

For generations, the leaded fuel from the Reid Hillview Airport has poisoned the families that live in the neighborhoods surrounding the airport. Those most affected by Reid Hillview Airport are hard-working families living near the Capitol Expressway, who deserve clean and safe air where their children live and play.

That’s why I intend to continue my leadership on the fight to close the Reid Hillview County Airport. Once Reid Hillview Airport closes and 170 acres of land can be put to a better purpose, I will fight for affordable housing, a walkable community that encourages pedestrian activity and the usage of our upcoming Eastridge to BART light rail, and other community benefits like a much-needed community center. All things that our East San Jose and Evergreen families deserve.”

Rich Constantine: Every potential opportunity and site that comes to minds need to be explored as possible housing sites. As I stated before, with the need for housing growing more and more dire, it is incumbent on all of us, to do everything we can to make sure everyone has access to housing. 

Denelle Fedor: I support historic preservation and do not support the destruction of historic buildings for any development – including housing.  I do not support destroying the 1934 Civic Center.  Although personally, I am sorry to see the future dismantling of Reid Hillview Airport, I recognize that the direction is to use this land differently in the future.   I think it’s important that we include a helicopter pad(s) and other emergency services at this site and ensure there is open space and recreational uses.  I support looking at each surplus property case by case ensuring that private property owners and the surrounding community are part of the discussion. I support mixed use developments and building high density- build to the moon- when able.

Claudia Rossi: I believe we should support housing developments that run along transportation corridors, expand urban villages, and build within city limits to fight sprawl. I passionately support advocacy to switch to unleaded fuels in order to protect our community from the irreversible harms these toxins cause our residents. Airports serve a public benefit, especially during natural disasters , as they are staging areas for first responders/emergency response units so there is a need to thoughtfully address the airport issues. I believe we need to engage with school districts to identify opportunities brought about by declining enrollment/school closures to explore whether these sites can create housing opportunities.

Q4. Despite the vision of Santa Clara County as a bustling tech center, more than 8,000 people work in the area’s many farms. These farmworkers struggle to find appropriate and affordable housing. What would you do as Supervisor to support their needs?

Sylvia Arenas: As the child of a farm worker and as someone who grew up low-income, I will never forget where I came from, my values, and the great need that our community-members face.

If elected Supervisor, I will ensure that we honor the Santa Clara Valley Agriculture Plan by working with farmers and farm workers to support the long-term viability of local farming. This must also include a major shift to focus on making sure that farm workers’ housing needs are met. Projects that benefit farm workers need to be supported in their applications for funding – including projects in accessible locations and project types that are helpful to farm workers.

One critical step is ensuring that funding that local governments make available for affordable housing are written in a way that is favorable to applications to build farm worker housing. We must also closely track this problem, and our progress.”

Rich Constantine: In August, the County approved investing $9.9 million from the 2016 affordable housing bond Measure A to develop Royal Oak Village in Morgan Hill. I urged supervisors to support the project, and the Morgan Hill City Council unanimously voted to put $400,000 toward it. This will be housing for farmworkers. I will continue this effort as a Supervisor. 

Denelle Fedor: If elected as Supervisor, I would have community meetings with South County farmworkers to gain their input on what they want and/or think would be helpful in providing farmworker housing for themselves and their families. It is important that farmworkers have safe and healthy places to live. Reviewing how developer fees can be waived to incentivize housing would be something I would support. Investigate possible grants that could be provided.  

Claudia Rossi: Open Space Authority, County  and numerous partners have, over the last two years, developed an excellent Ag Plan which calls for farmworker housing. As supervisor, I will support the implementation of the Ag Plan. 

Q5. The pandemic has contributed greatly to housing insecurity, with many residents facing eviction. What actions can the County take to reduce the potential for widespread tenant displacement?

Sylvia Arenas: On the San Jose City Council, I have moved forward solutions that protect families from eviction, preserve our existing affordable housing supply, and add to our housing production. I’ve passed rent control and tenant protection ordinances – including just cause provisions and Ellis Act controls. I’ve also led the charge to adopt anti-racist, equity based policies that dismantle segregation.

Families that are at the edge of eviction often face multiple inter-related crises. We must invest in our families through social programs, especially as the County embraces a wrap-around services model (CAST) and utilizes CalAIM to expand services funded through Medi-Cal.

If elected, I will continue to fight for anti-displacement measures. I will advocate for more affordable housing production, efforts to desegregate housing, COPA programs, eviction moratorium extensions, federal funding to intervene in court to prevent evictions, and investments for our nonprofits — the experts leading our homelessness prevention system.

Rich Constantine: Access to services and help is a start and making sure people can stay in their homes and not face eviction should be the top priority. 

Denelle Fedor: Governor Newsom provided a halt to evictions during the pandemic.  All people who were not able to work received unemployment and, in some cases, made more money on unemployment than going back to work. The “Mom & Pop” property owners struggled during the pandemic too.   The pandemic took a toll on our community as a whole especially for our young adults and high school students. 

Claudia Rossi: By some estimates, 600 families become homeless every year in our county. We know the mental health of unhoused individuals plummets significantly and creates more challenges. Preventing homelessness is the most effective strategy. BOS voted to provide funds to keep families from losing the roof over their heads. Some reports indicate over 92 percent of families that receive this assistance remain in their homes. Partnering with nonprofits to identify and support families in crisis is key. I will support continued investments in these programs.

Q6. Despite significant efforts, homelessness continues to grow. As a County Supervisor, how would you use the County’s authority and resources to address this crisis? What do you see as the role of the County versus the role of cities?

Sylvia Arenas: Santa Clara County is behind in its affordable housing production. Too often, counties and cities have failed to work collaboratively. This cannot be our approach. We must each have an “all of the above” approach and broad collaboration.

It’s vital that cities tighten tenant protections and preserve existing affordable housing. It’s vital that the County expand its role in affordable housing construction by passing new funding measures, utilize its housing authority to place families into affordable housing, expand city partnerships to prevent Section 8 discrimination, and aggressively implement the County’s Housing Element to meet RHNA goals. 

If elected, I will extend County Measure A to build more housing. I will invest in behavioral health services – especially programs that can be reimbursable by Medi-CAL. CalAIM’s expansion of reimbursement for these programs is a rare opportunity that we must embrace. We must make strategic investments to expand mental health services!”

Rich Constantine: I see it as a collaborative effort between the cities and the County. We need to tackle the housing crisis by addressing housing affordability, including investments in permanent housing, transitional housing, farmworker housing, rental assistance and first-time homebuyer loans.

Denelle Fedor: As the only Republican candidate, I support Governor Newsom’s CARE Court providing direction to all counties to mandate a 12-month personalized plan for the chronically mentally ill unhoused population. This is important as I feel the direction for homeless and to help the mentally ill needs to come from the state to ensure all CA counties are working in unison when it comes to the mental health and homeless problems we face.  I support repurposing the old City Hall on North First Street in San Jose for more mental health services. The cities can build housing for all people, but they are not responsible for the homeless or mental healthcare.

Claudia Rossi: Cities can definitely address zoning issues that can support the creation of inventory. County can provide safety net services, convene across city boundaries, leverage philanthropic, state and federal funding to address this crisis. As a Registered Nurse who works closely with residents living in crisis, I will do all I can to aggressively seek federal funding to address housing issues.

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San José Mayor

San Jose Mayor candidate responses

*Cindy Chavez: #4: While I am not opposed to an increase in the City’s current Commercial Linkage Fee and supported the adoption of one of the highest such fees in Santa Clara County, much more study and analysis would be needed before considering an increase to this very new assessment in San Jose. #5: I did not support SB 9, the state-mandated density increase for single family neighborhoods, and will advocate for legislation to modify it. However, I support adoption of local rules that prioritize feasibility, accessibility and affordability in implementing this legislation.

**Matt Mahan: #3: Unsure about the specific policies applicable here. I support building out our urban villages but I don’t believe in one-size-fits-all, state-mandated up-zoning for a city like San Jose. #4: It would have to be based on a study that the market can bear it. We have not seen evidence for this in San Jose yet and we face a significant jobs deficit which impairs our ability to deliver basic services our residents expect and deserve. #5: Would like to learn more about the specific policies being proposed here and consider the Tradeoffs. #6: It’s not sufficient on its own, though. At a cost of $850,000/door and 5 years to build, it’s not scalable nor timely enough. We’ll also need to be investing in many other solutions like quick-build apartments, in-patient facilities for addiction and mental illness, job training, family reunification, etc. #7: Likely yes, but it would depend on the details and the level of public support. Regional and statewide mechanisms for funding affordable housing are critical, of course. It’s best when we have comprehensive strategies as a state and pool our resources, fully including wealthier communities in the solutions we need.

***Jim Spence: I don’t believe in agreeing to blanket statements with regard to social issues which need plenty of study. Many of your statements are good ideas and are challenges for the future.

San José Mayor Short Answer Questions

Click each question below to see candidates’ responses.

Q1. In 2021, San José removed 224 homeless encampments, more than 75% of which were in Districts 3 and 7. How do you view homeless encampment sweeps, and what is your vision for ending homelessness?

Cindy Chavez: Housing ends homelessness — encampments are a manifestation of the crisis our community is facing. Encampment abatements on their own won’t solve anything if people don’t have access to safe/stable homes. Folks will move around just to repeat the cycle. We need to ensure strong coordination across all our government and non-profit partners to ensure the needs of the unhoused are met. That will prevent encampments now and in the future. I created a partnership between government and non-profits that moved 14,000 homeless residents into long-term, stable housing. I convened the County’s Unhoused Task Force and during the pandemic, my colleagues and I placed thousands of households into congregate and non-congregate shelter, distributed more than 50,000 pieces of personal protective equipment, and provided mobile shower/sanitation services for individuals in encampments. I also raised money to make sure people could pay rent/mortgages so that they wouldn’t be behind or become homeless.

Matt Mahan: We have the money to end street homelessness, but the City and County need to adopt newer, more scalable approaches. Our City and County are building new apartments at a cost of $850,000/door, when we can, at a tenth of that cost, build modular units — safe, dignified, individual dwelling units — sited on government-owned land. We also need to do better on severe mental illness and addiction; experts estimate that we need 50 public psychiatric treatment beds per 100,000 people; our county only has 13. 

Endless encampment sweeps do not address homelessness on a systemic level. In one of my first actions as Councilmember, I led the way on establishing a more pragmatic encampment management strategy which establishes clear guidelines around where camping is allowed (within a couple hundred feet of schools, sensitive public spaces like parks, etc) and then to ramp up service delivery to other encampments.

Raul Peralez: Sweeps are not the answer. They temporarily help to clean up a blighted site but most locations are re-encamped within days. I would create sectioned encampments in order to avoid the perils of abatements and ensure we have a bare minimum option for our homeless. I would create a homelessness task force to allow for better collaboration and accountability. There are so many siloed efforts towards ending homelessness and more resources being added we must work better together. I would address the impacts of mental health. Even at PSH developments we see most complaints amongst fellow residents who are struggling with mental health challenges. In order to make any of our solutions successful we need to ensure we are providing adequate mental health services at every step. Lastly, we know the best solution is housing, and we simply need a lot more. I have developed more affordable housing options than any other councilmember and I will take that success and translate it citywide.

Jim Spence: Homelessness is a problem that is been part of San Jose and life in general for a very long time. I support the cleaning up of homeless camps to stop the blight and disease. I would encourage nonprofits to instead of being independent entities, join in one organization where their money is pooled to accomplish the goals for housing homeless people. I do not support the use of public tax dollars to buy and build more housing. As Mayor, I would encourage the ending of any COVID restrictions so businesses can open and hire people. This would change the reason why many people claim they are homeless. I believe it’s time to end the free handouts, free sanitation stations and free food to these individuals. Once people learn that free has stopped, they will figure out how to survive. That survival is to become a productive citizen of the community

Q2. People of color have been denied the opportunity to build a better life for themselves and their families as a result of historic racist housing policies. What actions can the City take to create more opportunity for families who have been subject to these discriminatory policies?

Cindy ChavezWe’re currently taking meaningful action and aren’t waiting to uplift our communities of color. As Supervisor, I launched the office of Immigrant Affairs and funded legal services to support efforts to live with pride citywide. I provided health care insurance to all of Santa Clara County’s children. In March 2019, I rolled out county-wide participation in the GARE efforts to bring systemic analysis and an innovative approach to complex race issues to help people take effective action toward racial equity. Supervisor Cortese and I provided a resolution to affirm Black Lives Matter and gave direction for steps regarding the County’s internal/external efforts. I worked with San Jose councilmembers to launch the Hate Crime Prevention Task Force to track hate incidents, develop school programs, and use existing laws to protect against gender-based and race-based hate crimes. I’ll institutionalize working with community members to implement new strategies that reduce hate crimes.

Matt Mahan: The most powerful action we can take to undo years of racist housing policies is to build a lot more housing. Our severe housing shortage disproportionately affects BIPOC communities and exacerbates the existing racial wealth gap. We must significantly build up in urban villages, downtown, and in other areas well-connected to transit, retail, and infrastructure. 

Other policies specifically targeting marginalized communities can be effective. The City recently approved an affordable housing siting policy which ensures new units will be equitably distributed across the city, enabling more racially and socioeconomically diverse communities. Our inclusionary housing ordinance, tenant protection ordinance, and rental assistance programs, all of which I support, similarly work towards this goal. 

We also have to expand economic opportunity for historically marginalized communities by investing in underserved, majority-minority public schools, community centers, and libraries. We must empower students of color to participate in our region’s rapidly-expanding economy of high-paying jobs.

Raul Peralez: The issue of racist housing policies is also very personal to me. I grew up in a rent controlled 4-plex alongside a large subsidized housing development in west San Jose. If it wasn’t for that stable affordable housing I would not have had the same success throughout my K-12 education. Just a couple years ago my wife, our son and I were displaced from the home we had rented for nearly a decade and we struggled to find affordable housing within my district. I am aware of racist policies like red-lining and the present day inequitable budget and complaint based system we utilize for city services. I led to strengthen our rent control and renter protection policies. I led on creating a new siting policy to ensure we were not concentrating affordable housing in low income minority neighborhoods. I helped champion our commercial linkage fee and initiated the effort to create the Office of Racial Equity. I will continue to work to undo the racist injustices from our past and towards a more equitable future. 

Jim Spence: We can make sure discriminatory behavior is not tolerated within our city workforce. We need to investigate all complaints of discriminatory activity. Housing opportunities need to be based on an equal application process and available resources to assist people through the process.

Q3. General Plan 2040 envisions Urban Villages throughout the City planned in horizons to focus new growth. State law no longer allows phased development through these kinds of horizons. How would you support housing development in these newly opened Urban Village plan areas?

Cindy Chavez: San Jose’s General Plan and its core strategic growth strategies, including the urban village horizons policy, have been ineffective at creating new housing and need to be updated.  As mayor, I will initiate a comprehensive update to the City’s General Plan to address this and other critical housing development issues.  I am supportive of significantly easing, and possibly eliminating, the commercial development to facilitate quicker housing production. In the meantime, I will advance critical new and existing Signature Projects that are in the development pipeline to facilitate new housing starts as they are not limited to phases in the Urban Village framework.

Matt Mahan: I was an early and vocal advocate for eliminating horizons — one-size-fits-all restrictions are harmful and overly constrain housing development. I’ve also argued that we should be more flexible with commercial requirements in urban villages.

In December, I submitted a memo to the City Council asking to allocate dedicated resources towards streamlining Urban Village implementation and prioritizing the planning of Villages which have potential to unlock near-term housing opportunities. We should be jumping at the opportunity to build housing where we want it, and I made this point strongly to city staff during the meeting.

In general, we should view planning and building as our principal investment-generator, where we should invest in staffing because it brings in much-needed housing and jobs to the City. As I’ll get into in the following response, full and consistent staffing of PBCE must be a high priority for our next Mayor.

Raul Peralez: I think we need to be more supportive of development proposals in our Urban Villages and that the State law has actually helped us as we know many developers have been interested in these future horizons. I think we need to offer support to our planning staff in order to prepare for growth in these villages. 

Jim Spence: The idea of build-by-right developments along transit corridors to me makes sense only if there is a dependable transit system. In San Jose, our transit system is not dependable. The City of San Jose has but a small say in how the delivery of transportation services occur. Our transportation services are dirty, unsafe and don’t go anywhere that people want to go. We’ve already seen the Valley Transportation Agency on its own shut down service leaving hundreds of thousands of people stranded. These are the people, who bought into transit/high rise living and were depending on that agency to move them to and from locations. To me, it doesn’t make sense to base housing projections on a system that is undependable and to which the City of San Jose has no control.

Q4. Getting entitlement approvals and permits takes a significant amount of time, and Planning and Building and Code Department staffing is often mentioned as a constraint. Is there any direction you would give the City Manager to make it easier and faster to develop new housing?

Cindy Chavez: San Jose’s development review process takes longer than many communities for projects of all sizes, and much longer than it has in past eras, especially those that require CEQA review.  San Jose can dramatically improve processing times for applications by requiring departments to implement a pre-determined timelines for each type of project, with the council prioritizing housing for expedited review.  The City Manager must ensure departments coordinate to resolve conflicting positions in the very first project review rather than waiting months until much later in the process.  For large and potentially controversial projects, establishing an early community engagement requirement to resolve issues and generate better consensus will dramatically improve overall project timelines.    

Matt Mahan: Hiring more planners is key — it will be a priority in my budget as Mayor, even if it means reallocating funding from other departments. I worked with the Mayor to include direction in the last budget for more planners, and will continue to advocate for staffing up PBCE.

Beyond staffing, we need to focus on technology and digitization. When the pandemic initially hit, there were stories of PBCE staff hauling boxes full of documents home because of the dearth of online infrastructure. As the Chair of the Smart Cities Committee, I’ve been working with the department on their digitization roadmap to transition operations to online customer-facing and internal systems.

Lastly, and most importantly, is accountability. I believe that PBCE should establish customer service goals for timeliness on each step in the permitting process, and if the Department is late, the applicant should have their fees reduced or waived.

Raul Peralez: We know we have one low hanging issue and that is with staff vacancies, but beyond that we also currently rely on a cost recovery model and I think if we really want to improve planning we will need to invest general fund dollars to bolster their staffing numbers. 

Jim Spence: The Planning and Building and Code Department have historically been a problem area for ease of service. Complaints have come from the less than professional attitude employees have when dealing with developers, builders and the public. A top down audit of personnel and how the work flow moves needs to be completed.

Q5. How would you work with the community to balance neighborhood concerns with the need for new housing development?

Cindy Chavez: As a councilmember in the downtown district for 8 years, I regularly managed challenges of advocating for more dense development which often drives resident concerns and the need for new housing.   Early and active engagement with both neighbors and developers to set clear parameters for development, resolve issues and generate better consensus was a very successful strategy.  As mayor, I will work with council members and the administration to implement a community engagement strategy on a project-by-project (and city-wide) basis, that results in plans that work from a community perspective, creates more certainty and reduces conflict and risk for everyone, and speeds up the approval process so housing can get built faster as a result.  

Matt Mahan: We had hundreds of important conversations with neighbors while crafting the original General Plan. It embodies a compromise between existing San Jose residents (and their deep concerns about greater traffic, air pollution, and other quality of life issues) and the need for San Jose to be the regional leader in housing production. I support the General Plan vision for greater residential density where we have the transit infrastructure and retail options, and I’ve been vocal in explaining its benefits to our community.

Second, I’ve had extensive experience working proactively with neighbors to build support for affordable and transitional housing developments in my district, facilitating countless community meetings, 1-on-1 coffee chats, backyard meet-and-greets, discussions with developers and city staff, flyering before meetings, and more to educate neighbors and hear their concerns. The best way to build new housing is by being overly communicative and engaged in the neighborhoods.

Raul Peralez: I have had a lot of experience in learning that most community opposition stems from misinformation and I have been successful in approving more affordable housing than any other councilmember because I have helped combat false narratives by engaging with our community early and often. I have often had affordable housing projects that started with a lot of opposition but then were ultimately presented to the council without any opposition. 

Jim Spence: Existing neighborhood occupants would be given a priority voice on how their neighborhood is impacted by any development. The character of each neighborhood will be respected when initiating any plan for development.

Q6. What policies would you support to counteract the displacement of low-income residents and communities of color from San José?

Cindy Chavez: To create a sustainable housing market we must acknowledge that the existing system is preventing access for the poorest people and displacing many. With tens-of-thousands extremely low income households struggling to make it paycheck-to-paycheck — the vast majority of those families coming from communities of color — we know that we’ll need to rebuild a housing system from the ground up. This starts with supporting the creation of local community development corporations that focus on specific job creation and affordable housing needs for neighborhoods. Using vehicles like limited equity housing cooperatives to create ownership opportunities that could never exist is another critical step. It continues with direct investment in groups looking to dive into the housing conversation and figure out other innovative approaches. Without these type of targeted interventions, the current system will continue to deny access to those who need it most and continue displacing those.

Matt Mahan: As the cost of living continues to rise, we have a responsibility to protect marginalized communities from displacement. If a San Jose family has a sudden loss of income, we should provide short term cash assistance to keep them housed in San Jose. I am also open to exploring a ‘local preference’ for new affordable housing which would offer new units to San Joseans first. 

On a broader level, we need to build significantly more housing to address our supply crisis. We need more of everything — market-rate and all levels of affordability — to dig ourselves out of this hole and lower housing costs. Our next Mayor also must also be vocal in state and regional housing advocacy. San Jose will continue to have inadequate housing supply and worsening displacement if the cities to our North and West continue to add tens of thousands of jobs without building any housing.

Raul Peralez: Gentrification of our most vulnerable communities is a personal issue to me as my own friends and family experience it regularly. This is why I have been steadfast in my support of strengthening rent control, renter protections, COPA, local preferences, commercial linkage fees, and much more. As Mayor I will be proud to continue to champion these policies and others that help to counteract this displacement.  

Jim Spence: The need for affordable housing, that stays affordable housing for many years, is the key to including all residents into the fabric of San Jose. 

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San José City Council District 1

San Jose district 1 candidate responses

* Rosemary Kamei: #4: Commercial Linkage Fee was just adopted in the fall of 2020 and time is needed to assess its effects first. #5: Local control can best determine what is needed through the general plan. #7: I would be supportive of a bond measure if it was targeted for affordable housing.

City Council District 1 Short Answer Questions

Click each question below to see candidates’ responses.

People of color have been denied the opportunity to build a better life for themselves and their families as a result of historic racist housing policies. How do you think San José can create more opportunity for families who have been impacted by these discriminatory policies?

Rosemary Kamei: As a member of the San Jose City Council, I would work to create more opportunities for residents of color by incorporating public policies that: 1) increase and preserve the supply of affordable housing, 2) Increase access to credit through down payment assistance programs, and 3) rental assistance to ensure residents can stay housed.

Q2. General Plan 2040 envisions Urban Villages throughout the City planned in horizons to focus new growth. State law no longer allows phased development through these kinds of horizons. How would you support housing development in these newly opened Urban Village plan areas?

Rosemary Kamei: I would support housing in these newly opened Urban Villages by working to increase City staffing and a comprehensive and robust community engagement to ensure input and transparency.

Q3. In 2021, San José removed 224 homeless encampments. How do you view homeless encampment sweeps, and what is your vision for ending homelessness?

Rosemary Kamei: I believe in aiding and assisting the most vulnerable in our community.  The County of Santa Clara has created a good road map for the City to participate in through the Community Plan to End Homelessness 2020-2015. Combining our resources to create innovative solutions, we can expand interim housing communities and look to potential opportunities of programs such as Project Homekey and more Measure A projects.

Q4. Some council members have questioned the location of affordable housing in the City with concerns that some parts of the City are shouldering the burden of providing affordable housing for the City. Do you see affordable housing as an asset to our communities? What would you do to ensure affordable housing opportunities are created in all parts of the City?

Rosemary Kamei: I support affordable housing and integrating a mix of various types of housing throughout the City creates a more vibrant community. Since it is the development guiding document for the City, an update to the current general plan could be a good way to review locations of affordable housing and what has worked or not worked.

Q5. District 1 has one of the lowest levels of affordable housing in the City, with just over 1,000 units set aside for lower- and moderate-income families. What would you do to change this dynamic?

Rosemary Kamei: I hope to foster greater partnerships with affordable housing developers about the prospects within District 1. There are several large developments pending in the district which I believe could be fruitful collaborations. I would also welcome collaboration with SV@Home in the district to share the potential options and positive impacts of affordable housing for all residents.

Q6. District 1 has a number of areas that are planned for future development. What would you do to ensure that affordable housing is integrated into these growth areas?

Rosemary Kamei: Providing developer incentives to ensure the inclusion and integration of affordable housing in these growth areas is important as development projects move forward. I also would explore further tax credit programs and state legislation which could bring much needed affordable housing funding.

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San José City Council District 3

San Jose district 3 candidate responses

*Joanna Rauh: #4: Measure E is more impactful than commercial linkage fees. #5 & #7: I would need to know the details regarding the referenced laws and bond measures

City Council District 3 Short Answer Questions

Click each question below to see candidates’ responses.

Q1. People of color have been denied the opportunity to build a better life for themselves and their families as a result of historic racist housing policies. How do you think San José can create more opportunity for families who have been impacted by these discriminatory policies?

Elizabeth Chien-Hale: The rise in the value of houses has become a way to build wealth among Americans who own their  homes.  We should work on more building more affordable housing (especially in racially segregated communities),  eradicate unfair lending policies, and make sure people of all colors will have a fair chance of owning their own homes.

Joanna Rauh: The first priority is to invest in housing at all income levels throughout San Jose, including affordable and deeply affordable housing. The housing crisis is driven by a lack of supply of affordable housing. In addition, we need to use all available options to make sure people can afford to live in San Jose, and our sons and daughters can move back home. One such way is through Community Land Trusts, which preserve residential land to keep it affordable. I fully support the work of South Bay Community Land Trust.

Ivan Torres: Great employment opportunities lead to housing opportunities. We need to create affordable dense housing for all. As well as create rent control policies and enforce tenants rights

Omar Torres: Communities of color have been seriously impacted and we know that much of this has been intentional. Through redlining and other exclusionary policies communities of color have not had as many opportunities be readily accessible. Each of the 3 P’s plays a valuable part in creating opportunity and offsetting impacts for residents. Preservation opportunities creates potential ownership opportunities for renters, protections such as the Apartment Rent Ordinance ensure that residents that rent property are not displaced through unjust rent increases, and production of new affordable homes throughout San Jose allows for residents of all income levels to be able to have a home. In addition more needs to be done to promote first time homeownership opportunities. 

Q2. General Plan 2040 envisions Urban Villages throughout the City planned in horizons to focus new growth. State law no longer allows phased development through these kinds of horizons. How would you support housing development in these newly opened Urban Village plan areas?

Elizabeth Chien-Hale: We have a housing crisis and therefore we need to build.  However, we also have an environmental crisis at hand so we need to build only sustainable housing communities.  I would support building housing in these urban village plan areas  and (1) the development engages local residents, (2) creates mixed residential and employment activities to reduce traffic, (3) encourages high density at locations with good transit options.  For development projects that satisfy these criteria, the city should remove or fast-track permitting regulations and processes.   

Joanna RauhUrban Village designs are paid for through grant funds, and there is nobody at City Hall who’s specifically tasked with writing these grants. This needs to change. Funding these plans must be a budget priority, because lack of movement on these initiatives doesn’t just affect housing, but also equity, the environment, and job growth. Further, the City could be saving money on development by processing quicker response times. We could also hasten building through streamlining processes – For example, by having a universal fee instead of requiring a separate fee for every department (and again, there’s nobody in each department whose job is to calculate the applicable fee). We can also save time and controversy by proactively establishing strict design guidelines informed by community input on the front-end.

Ivan Torres: By ensuring we make affordable dense housing a priority. 

Omar Torres: Urban Villages being planned growth areas for jobs and housing to be developed through corridors is an important initiative. With the horizon process being done away through state legislation, we now are able to pursue opportunities for housing production at any Urban Village. For the Urban Village process, and along with any part the development process, community engagement will be paramount. Education and engagement are going to be essential in getting broader community support for affordable housing throughout San Jose.

Q3. In 2021, San José removed 224 homeless encampments. How do you view homeless encampment sweeps, and what is your vision for ending homelessness?

Elizabeth Chien-HaleThe homelessness issue was one of the topics in the last contested D3 race in 2014. The last major abatement project taken by the City, the Jungle on Story Road, also took place in 214.  Unfortunately, the homelessness issue is still with us, and it has only grown in size and become more visible.  The only real solution to ending homelessness is housing; however, before we can house every unhoused we need to use short-term and intermediate solutions.  In the Jungle abatement, the city actually housed 208 people

  • 65 adults in permanent supportive housing
  • 78 adults in Rapid Rehousing (plus 25 children)
  • 65 other housing programs/housing on their own (many with limited financial assistance)   

If abatement is necessitated by public health concerns or federal requirements, the abatement should be conducted with care, planning, and housing options for the camp residents.

Joanna Rauh: Homelessness is complicated, and the solutions are complicated. ALL viable options need to be on the table. The goal is to return our parks to the entire community, ensure that unhoused people have dignified shelter and, when necessary, care. We must:

  • Coordinate all of the city’s resources to keep our streets, sidewalks, and parks clean. It should be as easy to book a shelter bed as it is to book an Airbnb.
  • Invest in rapid build modular homes and secure intermediate and long-term housing throughout San Jose
  • Demand action from the county to get mental health and addiction services at shelter sites
  • Work together with public, private, and community organizations
  • Measure our successes and failures regularly and publicly

Ivan Torres: Homeless sweeps are inhumane and cruel. We need to have a plan in motion before anything like that happens. Providing no real housing options while we do a homeless sweep is not the way to approach the situation.

Omar TorresSweeps are extremely harmful and ineffective, this is not a solution that I support. Long term we must look for permanent housing solutions, we need to continue to push for permanent supportive housing throughout our city. Temporary solutions while PSH projects get built are also important. Safe park programs and faith-based institutions stepping up to provide support are two big pieces of ideal temporary housing solutions.

Q4. Some council members have questioned the location of affordable housing in the City with concerns that some parts of the City are shouldering the burden of providing affordable housing for the City. Do you see affordable housing as an asset to our communities? What would you do to ensure affordable housing opportunities are created in all parts of the City?

Elizabeth Chien-Hale: Affordable housing is absolutely necessary, and the placements  of such housing should be allocated as equally as much as possible not only among the 10 districts of the City, but also among the neighboring municipalities.  As your Council Member, I would immediately convene  a task force to gather all related governments (county and cities, and state and federal if possible), and all agencies who have open and available land for housing to reduce the costs of building.

Joanna Rauh: There was an initiative in another major California city leveraging a team of undergrad interns in urban planning on architecture, who did a complete analysis and index all available State, County, and City land. They then created a matrix of existing amenities and based on that, selected the three 3 best sites in each city district for new developments. They were then tasked with custom designing a shelter solution tailored to each site based on the surrounding amenities and community. We can do this here – leveraging the resources we have in our incredible Urban Planning Department at San Jose State and through our existing CommuniverCity program. 

Ivan Torres: Definitely a complex issue, location. We need to engage more of our communities to ensure that the locations of affordable housing are equitable across SJ. Communication and understanding that the more affordable housing that gets built and more equitably the better for the city as a whole.

Omar Torres: To the first part of the question my answer is yes, we need to embrace mixed income communities and truly come together regardless of background. Affordable Housing provides residents of all income levels to live in various communities and that is extremely important.  As far as ensuring adequate affordable housing distribution, there is currently an affordable housing siting policy that is moving through the city process. Through the AHS policy we can have a city process to ensure that we are making strides in affordable housing production throughout San Jose.

Q5. A significant amount of housing is proposed in Downtown San José, much of it only affordable to those earning six figures. Do you support policies that create more affordable housing in Downtown?

Elizabeth Chien-Hale: Yes. I live in downtown core, and I have lived in condo buildings which have dedicated a percentage of the units to affordable housing. Downtown is a place where residents and businesses are here because they LIKE high density living; we also have the transportation and other infrastructures to support high density living. Furthermore, downtown by definition is a diverse environment, and affordable housing should continue to be a part of downtown.

Joanna Rauh: Yes.

Ivan Torres: 100% yes. Downtown San Jose is incredibly expensive. I’m a believer in being able to afford to live near where you work. 

Omar Torres: Yes, I am extremely supportive of creating housing for all opportunities in Downtown. With so many jobs in the service industry and other working class jobs in downtown, residents that work in this area should have the right and ability to access housing here as well. I absolutely support policies to create more affordable housing in downtown and it would be a high priority for me if elected.

Q6. There has been a significant amount of neighborhood concern and resistance to City plans to increase housing density Downtown and along key transit corridors. How would you address these challenges?

Elizabeth Chien-Hale: As I mentioned in the previous question, most people and businesses move to downtown because we like high-density living.  From my neighborhood association meetings, I understand parking is a real concern.  However, this may only be a transitional problem as more public transportation options become available.  Increase in population density may also lead to psychological problems: level of stress, fatigue increases, infectious diseases may spread quicker.  To overcome these concerns, we need good city planning to revive our urban parks and trails, and to provide good public places such as museums and plazas to enhance the quality of urban life.

Joanna Rauh: We’re not just building housing – We’re building communities. We must initiate communication with our neighbors and neighborhood leaders early to:

  • understand what type of opportunities new housing might bring to the existing communities – more public space? a new park? fixing traffic problems? increasing walkability?
  • make sure we understand the community’s concerns – Traffic, parking, privacy?

At the center of the affordability crisis is a lack of housing generally, and lack of affordable housing specifically. Lack of affordability has caused a spike in homelessness, pushed out working families, essential service workers, and made it too hard for our kids to move back to their hometown. Recent stats show that we’ll be growing by 320,000 people in the next 30 years. The only way we can address these problems is to build more housing – throughout the City and at every income level.

Ivan Torres: Anything that is new to a community is going to be met with some resistance. We always have to keep in mind that the real goal is to eliminate homelessness by providing housing opportunities that are attainable to our working communities. In the end, when we end homelessness we all win. 

Omar Torres: As I stated in the Urban Village question, education and engagement are going to be essential in getting broader community support for affordable housing throughout San Jose. We need to be deeply involved with grassroots groups and neighborhood associations to dive into the importance of affordable housing in our communities. Narrative shifting, robust engagement, and building an “early and often” dialogue when projects move through the process. I have personally organized my community in the past to support housing opportunities so I have firsthand experience in how to get the community behind the importance so we can work to alleviate neighborhood pushback or concerns.

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San José City Council District 5

San Jose district 5 candidate responses

*Rolando Bonilla did not complete the questionnaire. Though he had committed to participating in our forum over a month earlier, Rolando Bonilla withdrew from the forum the day before the event. The evening of the event, he posted a video to Twitter mocking his fellow candidates for participating in the forum.

City Council District 5 Short Answer Questions

Click each question below to see candidates’ responses.

Q1. People of color have been denied the opportunity to build a better life for themselves and their families as a result of historic racist housing policies. How do you think San José can create more opportunity for families who have been impacted by these discriminatory policies?

Nora Campos: Owning a first home for families of color is a step to creating generational wealth for their families.  With that said, the biggest impediment to housing and the generational opportunities owning a home in San Jose can provide for families has been “NIMBYism”.  Opponents of creating housing opportunities in San Jose have used CEQA as a tool to stop new housing developments which include affordable units.  This practice has been even more frequent in San Jose communities west of highway 87.  I will work with the City Attorney’s office to combat frivolous CEQA lawsuits meant to stop affordable housing.  

Peter Ortiz: As a City Councilmember, I will make a commitment to advocate for our city government to center racial equity across agencies and systems. This will include public safety, employment, and access to housing.

Communities of color have been impacted by the intentional discriminatory policies of the past. Redlining and exclusionary policies have resulted in less opportunities for communities of color. 

I will advocate for our city to prioritize implementation of the 3 P’s to mitigate the displacement of residents and create opportunities for families to thrive in our city. Prioritizing preservation will create pathways to ownership for renters, increasing protections such as the ARO will ensure that renters are not displaced, and the production of new affordable homes throughout our city will enable people from all income levels to be able to have a home.

Q2. General Plan 2040 envisions Urban Villages throughout the City planned in horizons to focus new growth. State law no longer allows phased development through these kinds of horizons. How would you support housing development in these newly opened Urban Village plan areas?

Nora Campos: Large developments including transit villages create opportunities to house our growing workforce in San Jose.  Transit villages by design, create dramatic changes to neighborhoods that have existed for generations and if not designed with public input, will have resistance from the communities that will live with the final product.  I will require the housing and planning departments to work with my office to include the community as part of visioning and input with the developers.  I did this with Tierra Encantada on Alum Rock Avenue and will continue to make this a step in the development process a requirement.  

Peter Ortiz: I support Urban Villages as frameworks to facilitate the planned growth of jobs and housing along our vibrant corridors in District 5. Now that the horizon process, which delayed production, has been eliminated through SB 330, cities are able to pursue projects for housing production at any Urban Village. As our city moves forward with the Urban Village process, it is important that our staff and council office prioritizes community engagement of the public. Education and engagement efforts are going to be imperative to building a wide coalition of support for affordable housing across the city.

Q3. In 2021, San José removed 224 homeless encampments. How do you view homeless encampment sweeps, and what is your vision for ending homelessness?

Nora Campos: When I was in the State Assembly, I passed AB 2176 the “Tiny Homes” bill.  This bill provided The City of San Jose the tools to streamline the entitlement process to develop communities to support our un-housed population.  I will push to expedite the development of tiny home communities so that we are not sweeping homeless communities, but we are responding to providing our un-housed community with dignified housing and services.

Peter Ortiz: It is no secret that homelessness is a growing issue especially as we are seeing encampments on the rise.  Encampment sweeps may seem necessary – cleaning the surrounding area and addressing concerns of neighbors – but unfortunately that doesn’t resolve the root issue.

Sweeps are extremely harmful and ineffective, this is not a solution that I support.  Long term we must look for permanent housing solutions, and supportive housing throughout our city that also provides necessary resources to our unhoused population – mental/behavioral and medical services. Increase funding on programs addressing homelessness like Rapid Rehousing programs and homelessness preventative services to start diverting individuals or families from entering a shelter or experience unsheltered homelessness. I also support temporary solutions while PSH projects get built, including safe park programs.

Q4. Some council members have questioned the location of affordable housing in the City with concerns that some parts of the City are shouldering the burden of providing affordable housing for the City. Do you see affordable housing as an asset to our communities? What would you do to ensure affordable housing opportunities are created in all parts of the City?

Nora Campos: Affordable housing is not only an asset, but it is a must if we want to build healthy neighborhoods.  

CEQA has been used by NIMBY groups to stop affordable housing in all parts of the City.  I will work with the City attorney’s office to combat CEQA lawsuits filed to stop affordable housing.  I will also work with the City Manager to take inventory of underutilized City properties in all parts of the City to determine if they could be potential sites that could support affordable housing.

Peter Ortiz: Affordable housing is an asset to our communities because it is a way to ensure our working families stay housed. We need to embrace mixed income communities and truly come together regardless of background. Affordable Housing provides residents of all income levels the opportunity to  live in various communities and that is extremely important.  

In regards to ensuring affordable housing distribution, there is currently an affordable housing siting policy that is moving through the city process. Through the AHS policy we can have a city process to ensure that strides are being made in housing production throughout our city.

Q5. There has been a lot of news recently about future plans for the Reid Hillview County Airport. What is your vision for that 180-acre property?

Nora Campos: The first step I would require would be to assemble a community process that includes all stakeholder groups in our community.  It is important that we have a visioning of what would be best for our community before we would entertain any proposals from developers.  

Peter Ortiz: Our first priority is to ensure we are implementing an effective strategy that eliminates the sources of lead exposure that are severely hurting our children. Lead levels could determine how the land gets used, but ideally the land would be a great location for affordable housing, workforce housing for Alum Rock School District and ESUHSD staff, open spaces, and community resources. 

As the county and city moves forward with how we utilize this land, it’s important that the needs of the surrounding community are front and center. I will advocate for a formation of a joint county /city task force made up of neighborhood leaders that will develop a framework and process to design how we will utilize this enormous plot of land moving forward. The decisions that will dictate the future of the Reid-Hillview airport must be community led with the support of local elected officials.

Q6. District 5 includes communities with some of the greatest needs for stable and affordable housing. How would you approach the affordable housing needs of these communities, and what development strategies and models do you think are most appropriate?

Nora Campos: Affordable housing needs to be planned as part of a sustainable housing strategy that would support the needs to reduce greenhouse emissions while responding to the needs of building more affordable units on transit corridors.  We can achieve this by planning affordable housing in  transit villages where they make sense in district 5.  

Peter Ortiz: We need to get more innovative with how we are addressing the housing crisis in District 5. For example, I am supportive of SB 9, which allows property owners to split their property to create up to four apartments. However, it is one of many policies that need to be implemented to resolve the housing crisis.

We need to increase our production to fulfill the housing needs of our residents. One of the ways we can do that is by increasing the Commercial Linkage Fee that could lead to more investment in affordable housing developments and preservation.

Also, by supporting preservation policies such as COPA / TOPA / Land Trusts and identifying funding for capacity building with nonprofits to work on these solutions. It is important that we identify ways to preserve our homes and neighborhoods by finding ways to remove housing out of the speculative market.

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At SV@Home Action Fund, we believe that civic engagement is vital to a healthy democracy! We work to help register everyone eligible to vote, and host events and education to help voters understand some of the most critical issues in the South Bay. This includes candidate forums, where we help you learn which candidates value safe, stable, affordable homes for everyone in Santa Clara County. We also lead and support important ballot measure campaigns, such as Measure A (2016) and Measure E (2020), which provide vital funding for affordable housing.