Final Policy Report

Dear District 3 constituents,

As a Councilmember, the core responsibility that you have vested in me is to move forward policies that would shape the present and future of our City.  My approach to this sacred duty of policy making has been for the past eight years rooted in our Vision, that 

“San José is a safe and diverse city where everyone can afford to live, find dignified work, and engage in community.”  

This vision has been my office’s North Star as we have spent the past eight years fighting for a better San José. As the economic and cultural hub of our City, District 3 is without a doubt the busiest Council District with an assortment of policy issues that affect our diverse communities of various socioeconomic statuses. 

Since the beginning of my tenure, I have strived to be as inclusive and thoughtful on every subject and policy action that lands on my desk. Prior to taking a position on any council action, I always study and do my due diligence to thoroughly understand the subject matter and weigh it against how it would you all as my constituents.  I have also called for increased engagement on numerous occasions so that our community members are given ample opportunity to participate in our decision making. Most importantly, I would approach every topic with an open mind, listening to all sides and try to exercise fair jurisprudence in every decision.  

Ultimately, whether you have agreed or disagreed with my policymaking history, I have always voted with my conscience and in your best interest as you have trusted me to do so.

The following report is a digest of key policy highlights from the past eight years. 

Memorandums By The Numbers

The medium that San José City Councilmembers use to move policy in the City is through memorandums. In the past eight years, my office has authored or co-authored almost 400 policy memos.  

The three key policy priority areas that my office has focused on have been Housing & Homelessness / Land-use, Public Safety, and Transportation with COVID-19 being a recent priority. Based on the above chart, the ratio of memorandums authored by category has been reflective of those priorities. 

Throughout the years, the amount of policy management and resources has been largely contingent on my staff levels.  As seen in the adjacent chart, I am proud that even with limited staffing resources, we have been overall consistent in being proactive policy-wise.

01. Housing & Homelessness: Solutions in Compassion

It is no secret that the biggest issue facing our City and generation is our housing and homeless  crisis. The unprecedented levels of homelessness we have seen these past eight years is a stark symptom of the economic disparities that we continue to see in our City and region.  As a San José native, a renter, and now a homeowner, I have personally experienced the trials and tribulations that the majority of our population continue to face on a daily basis when it comes to housing. These personal experiences have grounded my approach in policy making from a place of compassion and creativity. 

To PREVENT further homelessness, my office

  • Led the charge in updating our Tenant Protection Ordinance – ultimately shifting to a Just Cause eviction to ensure families and individuals are not being displaced. (2015-2017)
  • Introduced and championed the updating of our Apartment Rental Ordinance, reducing the maximum rental increase for rent controlled apartments from 8% to 5% and providing relief for tenants.

To PRODUCE more housing, my office

  • Persisted in the adoption of a Commercial Linkage Fee that charged reasonable Affordable Housing fees on commercial/office development projects.
  • Championed the updating of our Affordable Housing Siting Policy to ensure that affordable housing is equitably dispersed throughout our city and not solely in District 3 only, which already has the following projects that I supported: 
    • Villas on the Park (Built)
    • Second Street Studios (Built)
    • The Kelsey’s Ayer Station (Under Construction)
    • Arya (Under Construction) 
    • Argalve (Entitled)
    • Roosevelt Park Apartments (Under Construction)
    • 427 Auzerais Apartments (Under Construction)
    • Tamien Station Transit Oriented Development (Entitled)
    • Old San José Hospital Site (Entitled)

To PRESERVE existing housing

  • Fought for the approval of the Ellis Act requiring that any redevelopment of rent control apartments, be rebuilt and included in future projects.
  • Preserved historic buildings such as the Pallensen Apartment Building for future rehabilitation and affordable housing units. 
  • Supported the conversion of hotels such as the Plaza Hotel, the Pavilion Inn and Pacific Motor Inn (pending Project Homekey)

02. Restoring & Re-Imagining Public Safety

Anyone that lives, works, or plays in San José has the right to feel safe in our City. As an active duty Police Officer prior to becoming a Councilmember and subsequently volunteered to be a  reserve officer, I understand fully well the challenges our City faced regarding public safety. In the early years of my tenure, we dealt with unprecedented low police staffing levels, an unfortunate consequence of past pension reforms. The George Floyd protests, Black Lives Matter movement and COVID-19 pandemic further daylighted the need to rethink and reimagine how we approach public safety.

In restoring public safety, my office

  • Fought for consensus and eventual agreement between our City’s bargaining units and City Administration that led to the voter-approved ballot Measure F (2016) to restore city employee benefits while preventing further fiscal impacts to our taxpayers. 
  • Successfully advocated for the restoration of the Downtown Foot Patrol and eventually shifting it to a permanent police unit.
  • Championed the creation of the Downtown Services Office in Fountain Alley, an internal facing police office that helped increase visibility and safety in one of the historically high crime corridors.

In re-imagining Public Safety, my office

  • In the wake of the George Floyd Protests, I initiated the Reimagining Public Safety process and committee that brought forward over 200 recommendations for public safety reformation.
  • Supported a balanced increase in powers and responsibilities to our Independent Police Auditor (IPA)
  • I successfully advocated for the County to adopt Assisted Outpatient Treatment (also know as Laura’s Law) that would require those suffering from ongoing behavioral health crises in our community to receive court-mandated treatment. 
  • Introduced the Community Violence Prevention Initiative, a multifaceted approach to our gun violence epidemic addressing workplace wellness and violence prevention and exploring ways to correlate firearm regulation with mental health causations. This was done in memory of the 10 victims of the May 26 VTA Mass Shooting, especially my dear friend Mike Rudometkin. 
  • Championed the adoption of the City’s first Suicide Prevention Policy, promoting mental health care services for our city employees and residents. 

03. Rooted in Equity

You may have heard the word “equity”, more specifically “racial equity”, come to prevalence in the past several years. The City Council-approved definition of racial equity is “As an outcome, racial equity is achieved when race can no longer be used to predict life outcomes, and everyone can prosper and thrive.” As a person of color growing up in San José, I have seen firsthand the inequities that so many in our community bear due to decisions made throughout our City’s history.  For the past several years, I along with many of my council colleagues, have worked to lay the foundation in righting those injustices and setting our City on a course for a future where “everyone can prosper and thrive.”  

In furthering RACIAL EQUITY in our city, my office

  • Championed the creation of the Office of Immigrant Affairs, who developed the Welcome San José strategy that ensured people of all statuses are welcomed.  
  • Forced through our 2019 budget process a revolutionary approach in how we approach racial equity in our city. This eventually led to the creation of the Office of Racial Equity.
  • Funded and championed the Pridefying of Post Street, a series of beautification and infrastructure improvements to celebrate our LGBTQIA+ community.
  • In the face of rising hate crimes against the Asian Pacific Islander communities, worked on creating a Combatting API Hate Crimes & Violence strategy adopted by the City Council.  One of the elements of the strategy was a momentous City Council resolution apologizing to the Chinese Community for historic acts of injustices.
  • Eliminated the prohibition on cruising, an ordinance that was antiquated and discriminatory in nature, and lifting an important piece of Chicano civil rights culture and slower streets.

04. Building Up & Growing Up

Council District 3 encompasses Downtown and its surrounding neighborhoods which has been core to an unprecedented land use development interest since the Downtown redevelopment boom in the 1980s. I have embraced the spirit of a dense, high rise Downtown as envisioned in our General Plan – often pushing the boundaries on urban design and maximized public amenities such as rooftop spaces and active ground floors. 

In terms of Downtown Developments, my office

  • Engaged and entitled 95% of all High Rise & Mid Rise Development projects proposed in Downtown and its surrounding neighborhoods
  • Championed the update to the 2002 Downtown Design Guidelines and supported policies to allow creative projects like Co-living Residential.  
  • Co-led on the approval of the major Downtown West / Google Project and the Diridon Station Area Plan (DSAP) update.  I also ensured that the community remained engaged through maintaining the Station Area Advisory Group, even following an initial Memorandum of Understanding was adopted.
  • Worked on the General Plan 4 Year Review twice (2016 and 2022) and supported the preservation of Coyote Valley and Calle Willow.
  • Adopted the East Santa Clara Urban Village and the North First Urban Village Plans, opening up development capacity and potential.
  • Updated the One-Engine Inoperable council policy to allow for increased development capacity in Downtown West and the DSAP.

Growing up means also taking on new creative urban initiatives such as reclaiming our public spaces. For decades, our public spaces have gone overlooked or dedicated to convenience rather than sustainability and activation. For the past eight years, I have worked to reclaim our public spaces – often engaging in the challenging but rewarding exercise of recalibrating how we approach our public spaces.

In reclaiming our public spaces, my office

  • Permanently or partially closed down both San Pedro Square and Post Street to vehicular traffic, opening it up to solely pedestrian and business activity.
  • Collaborated on the first Viva Calle San José open streets program, and has remained engaged on every subsequent program – including increasing funding.  
  • Co-lef on the development of the St. James Park Maintenance District and a park design competitive process for St. James Park that included Levitt Pavilion.
  • Supported new activations such as the Musical Swings, HaHa Installation, and the now iconic Sonic Runway.
  • Supported transforming our parks, plazas and streets for major festivals and events such as Super Bowl 50, College Football Playoffs and NHL Stanley Cup.

05. Goodbye Tan José

“Tan José” is a long running joke about the sheer volume of tan or beige colored building spaces around Downtown, a remnant of 1980s architecture.  While it may have been highly popular then, it later became a magnet for blight.  However, for the past eight years, there has been an explosion of murals and art activations throughout District 3. This has complemented the growing arts scene from neighborhoods like the SoFA Arts District to Japantown, District 3 continues to be enlivened by the arts year round. I am proud to have been a strong booster for our local art economy, uplifting the community from overlooked artisans to an industry that is invaluable to the vibrancy of our Greater Downtown economic development. 

In supporting our ARTS and CULTURAL COMMUNITIES, my office

  • Proposed and funded the installation of programmable colored lighting in the City Hall Tower and Rotunda for special occasions and events, which has led to iconic and celebratory uses. 
  • For years advocated for a Private Percent for the Arts, a policy initiative that was eventually prioritized by the City Council in 2019.
  • Called for
    • The Arya, an affordable housing project near the SoFA Arts District, to include artist housing. This was eventually integrated where the project is marketing its project to artists.
    • The Exhibit, a residential project replacing Japantown’s Empire 7 Studios, to include flex commercial space for future art use.  The developer voluntarily contracted with Empire 7 to curate massive mural projects on the project and brought the arts group back into the flex space following the project’s completion.
  • Led the creation of a grant program to assist large event organizers like San Jose Jazz offset high police security costs, especially during the years of low officer availability.
  • Advocated for repurposing of 27 First Street (old Ross Building) during its entitlement process for temporary arts activation in vacant buildings, leading to the birth of Local Color, an arts organization.
  • Collaborated in including an art consultant on the development of the three North San Pedro parks (Pellier Park, North San Pedro Park and Bassett Park).
  • Supported through funding and grants to large scale mural initiatives like Pow Wow San José which has expanded now from District 3 to citywide.
  • Called to identify funding for public art in BART Phase II stations.

06. The Next Great Transit Hub

San José is slated to become one of the biggest multimodal transportation hubs west of the Mississippi. I have had the privilege to represent our District and City’s interests on such as the Valley Transportation Authority Boards and Committees, CalTrain Board, and Capital Corridor Joint Powers Authority. It has been exciting to take part in the development of some of the country’s largest public works projects, setting San José on a path to further transform into a versatile destination. 

In moving MAJOR TRANSIT PROJECTS, my office

  • Co-led the adoption of the City Preferred Alternatives for BART Extension Phase II.  This included what will be the country’s first single bore tunnel, station entrance options and station names such as Little Portugal/28th Street Station. The city’s preferences were later adopted by the full VTA and BART board in 2016 in the project Environmental Impact Report. 
  • Supported Caltrain Electrification including advocating for critical funding from state and federal sources.
  • Engaged in the California High Speed Rail process, taking part in the Environmental Justice study and advocating for critical mitigations and protections such as barriers and grade separations.
  • Successfully proposed and funded the Warm Springs Quiet Zone following the unannounced operation of overnight Union Pacific Railroad freight trains.
  • Collaborated on the development of the Diridon Integrated Station Concept, including ensuring equitable consideration of all neighborhoods like the Tamien and Guadalupe Washington Neighborhoods in deciding on preferred rail alignments. 

07. Safe & Slow is the Way to Go

Since 2019, we have seen historic levels of Killed or Serious Injured (KSIs) incidents on our streets. During my entire tenure, I have worked on various initiatives to improve traffic safety conditions for everyone in San José, especially for those outside of a car. This has included difficult and challenging changes on the part of everyone to change how we use our streets.  

In IMPROVE TRAFFIC SAFETY AND CALMING, my office:

  • Collaborated on the 2020 Vision Zero Action Plan that is currently in effect, including a $20 million five year Capital Improvement Plan and creation of the Vision Zero Task Force that I have chaired for two years. I also advocated for a complete overhaul of our education and outreach program which is currently underway.
  • Proposed and funded traffic improvements 
    • on Almaden and Vine Streets, which had been historically overlooked.
    • a full traffic signal in Japantown at Sixth and Taylor following several tragic fatalities. 
    • in the Northside neighborhood from 19th to 21st streets including speed humps.
    • In the McKinley Bonita 
  • Supported the Better Bikeways Project, implementing over a dozen miles of protected bike lanes and street improvements to calm traffic in wide streets. 
  • Worked with our city staff on the East Side Multimodal Transportation Improvement Plan (En Movimiento) which proposes a robust strategy on several traffic improvements throughout the eastern side of District 3.

08. Resiliency in Crisis

It goes without saying that the past eight years, my office has faced a high number of crises out of our control. During each crisis, my team and I found ways to rise above it and to lead through policy and community engagement. I am grateful that after the number of crises, many of which have been traumatic, my office has remained resilient and resolute in our commitment to public service.

  • In the 2016 Coyote Creek Flood, we were on the ground and in the community providing support directly to the community through aid for several weeks.  We further called for a reevaluation and bolstering of our Office of Emergency Management and Emergency Operations Center to ensure that the City would be better equipped in the future. 
  • During the COVID-19 Pandemic, we led the convening of the Greater Downtown San José Economic Recovery Task Force. Composed of Downtown businesses and community groups, the ultimately delivering a comprehensive slate of recommendations to the City, County, and Governor, many of which have helped inform COVID-19 recovery efforts. Their work also spurred the creation of a citywide COVID-19 Recovery Task Force.  We also championed policies such as Rental Moratorium, Right to Work Ordinance and supported Hazard Pay for Grocery Workers.
  • In the aftermath of the 2021 VTA Guadalupe Railyard Mass Shooting that took the lives of 10 employees, my office introduced the Community Violence Prevention Initiative to reevaluate how we regulate firearms citywide as well as look into mental health causation and wellness needs.  I also co-led on initiating a VTA Workplace Culture and Environment reevaluation which is currently underway. 

09. The People’s City Hall

As someone who grew up not civically engaged, it was my interest to broaden the civic  participation in our community, specifically bringing City Hall to our communities who are often overlooked. For the past eight years, I have worked to make City Hall more accessible and transparent to all in District 3.

In creating a more INCLUSIVE AND ENGAGED local government, my office 

  • Successfully piloted and continued the City’s first Participatory Budget program (D3Decides) for four years. This resulted in $600,000 allocated to 27 completed community projects selected by a completely community driven process.
  • In light of a proposal to change the role of the Mayor, I championed creating a Charter Review Commission prior to any council action or any measure be placed on the ballot to increase transparency and public engagement in a course of action that would have citywide impact.
  • Funding minor infrastructure changes to our city facilities such as providing femine hygiene products in restrooms to create inclusiveness. 

Conclusion

In closing, I must extend my deepest gratitude to my District 3 policy team who have worked diligently and tirelessly for the betterment of our community, especially at times through adversity.  

In looking through the key policy achievements that my office has accomplished these past eight years, I feel that we have significantly moved closer to fulfilling our vision. Every policy victory humbled our team and every shortcoming was a lesson learned. While many of the policies we have implemented or proposed will not reveal its impacts for years to come, I am confident that we have set the foundation for a future District 3 council office to thrive upon. Thank you for your trust these past eight years. 

Sincerely,

Raul