San Jose Councilman Wants to Re-Cast Vote on Controversial Google Advisory Committee

Jennifer Wadsworth| San Jose Inside| Link to Article

San Jose Councilman Johnny Khamis wants to take back a vote to expand the scope of a hotly debated 38-member advisory board, which will provide community feedback to the city as it works on a proposal to bring a Google HQ to downtown.

The City Council voted unanimously last week to add three more members to the Station Area Advisory Group: People Acting in Community Together, the Minority Business Consortium and the Law Foundation of Silicon Valley. But Khamis said he meant to approve the original makeup of the 30-plus-member committee, even though it was criticized for excluding religious groups and people of color.

In a memo on the agenda for Tuesday’s council meeting, Khamis said he would like to correct the record, a position echoed by the Silicon Valley Organization (the region’s rebranded chamber of commerce).

“The ‘yes’ vote recorded on this item did not reflect my intent to oppose the expansion of the membership of the Station Area Advisory Commission and I would like the opportunity to register the intended ‘no’ vote on this item,” he wrote.

Having the item back on the agenda potentially opens it up again for others on the council to re-cast their vote, according to city staffers.

Councilman Sergio Jimenez was the one who proposed extending the group’s membership to a minority business association, a faith group and a nonprofit public-interest law firm.

“The City Manager’s Office has provided a strong list of respected organizations and key neighborhood stakeholders to participate in the Station Area Advisory Group,” Jimenez wrote in his memo last week. “It is not easy to balance the need for representation with the desire to keep the group small enough to be manageable, and the administration’s recommendation is commendable. However, there may be some opportunities for improvement.”

The city manager’s office entered into an exclusive negotiation agreement with Google last summer, kicking off a planning process expected to last several years. The first phase of the project involves selling 16 city-owned plots of land to the advertising giant, which plans to build up to 8 million square feet of office space around the Diridon Station. San Jose announced last week that it reached a tentative agreement on the land sales, which involves five former Redevelopment Agency properties on Park Avenue and Montgomery and San Fernando streets.

According to the terms of the compensation deal, the land would sell for $67 million—that is, an average of $237 per square foot. That’s two-and-a-half times what the city paid for the properties, Mayor Sam Liccardo noted in a press release last week.

Once the council, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors and a dozen other taxing entities sign off on the agreement, the properties will be transferred to the city to commence development. City officials said the agreement marks the first of many steps in the months and years ahead to make the Google development a reality.

The compensation deal comes up for consideration at Tuesday’s county Board of Supervisors meeting and at San Jose’s Feb. 13 council meeting. It will also go to the Successor Agency Oversight Board—a body tasked with selling off former redevelopment land—on Feb. 22.

The Station Area Advisory Group is expected to host its initial orientation on Feb. 28. After that, the plan is to have the committee meet every few weeks in hearings that will be open to the public.

More from the San Jose City Council agenda for February 6, 2018:

  • The city is trying to figure out what to do about the Los Lagos Golf Course, which saw a net operating loss of nearly $622,000 last year. It could convert the sprawling property to another kind of public recreation area, whether an open space or a destination for a more popular sport, such as soccer. Keeping it as a golf course means the city will have to continue to subsidize operational costs and cover up to $1.7 million in debt each year through 2031.
  • Despite San Jose’s relatively high incomes, an increasing number of residents say they experience economic distress, according to a year-end report by the City Auditor’s Office. About 17 percent of the city’s households earned less than $35,000 in 2017, and 11 percent of the population fell below the federal poverty line, the auditor’s report found. Meanwhile, more than 4,350 people are homeless as the cost of buying a house or renting a place continues to climb.

WHAT: City Council meets
WHEN: 1:30pm Tuesday
WHERE: City Hall, 200 E. Santa Clara St., San Jose
INFO: City Clerk, 408.535.1260