Tag Archives: San Jose

Residents of San Jose affected by Google’s plans to expand

By Polina Runova

Staff Editor

The company Plotter Pros resides in a building that doesn’t look like much from the outside. Its walls are a simple white, periodically coated in murals by graffiti artists. The whole building is located in a small alley off of the main street, Alameda, in downtown San Jose.

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The building home to Plotter Pros looks plain and ordinary from the outside. PHOTO CREDIT: Polina Runova

Despite its plain appearance, it turns out the building has more to it than meets the eye. Peter Inshaw, president of Plotter Pros explained that the building “was actually a community center. It was built in the 30s as a roller rink. It’s been a bunch of things that involve the city.”

Plotter Pros, a commercial printing company, is only one of the downtown businesses that might be affected by Google’s expansion in the area. Concerns include rent increases, displacement, and possible loss of valuable buildings.

Today, the building in question is not only home to the company Plotter Pros but also a studio that Mr. Inshaw rents out to artists. He believes the building has done enough for the community to be considered of historical value.

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Peter Inshaw, president of Plotter Pros PHOTO CREDIT: Polina Runova

At first Mr. Inshaw had thought that it would be preserved, as “it’s a historical building.” Now he believes this is not the case. “Other historical buildings are being levelled,” he said, mentioning another building that has been around since the 1800s. Today it is a “big hole in the ground.”

Despite his concerns, Mr. Inshaw believes that Google’s expansion might bring benefits as well. “The good part is that it’s revitalizing downtown, which has been stagnant with no plan,” he said. “Actually connecting all the transit has been something a long time coming.”

Referring to both unprotected historical buildings and rent increases, Mr Inshaw said he remains unsure about whether the benefits of the downtown remodel will outweigh the negatives.“I just don’t know the long-term cost of it.”

Although not many people besides Mr. Inshaw expressed a concern for historical buildings, many share a worry about rent. “Those are probably the two biggest concerns,” Mr. Inshaw said. “We lose the building, or can’t afford to be here.”

Google plans to move into downtown San Jose

Nanci Klein is San Jose’s Director of Real Estate and Assistant Director of Economic Development. She explained that Google’s plans for San Jose include “up to 6.5 million square feet of office development,” as well as “a range of housing units.” She added that Google intends to provide amenities, not just office space, in order to make downtown San Jose an area where people can work, live and engage in recreational activities.

Ms. Klein said that “San Jose wants both jobs and housing” and that Google is willing to help provide both. “Many cities have 2.5 to 3 jobs to employed residents. San Jose is approximately 0.76 jobs to employed ratio,” Ms. Klein said. That is an issue that the city hopes to fix through their collaboration with Google.

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The need to commute in order to go to work puts more cars on the road. PHOTO CREDIT: Polina Runova

Ms. Klein explained that there are several negatives that come with San Jose’s lack of jobs. People need to commute in order to go to work, which “puts a lot of people on the roads, and creates more greenhouse gasses.” Giving people work near the place they live would benefit the environment.

Additionally, Ms. Klein said, “There’s a lot of benefit and quality of life for people working closer to where they live.” She explained, “If you just have office [space] and everyone leaves at 6 or 7 in the evening, it’s pretty quiet. But if you have a mix of uses, which incorporate jobs and residential, it can be very, very lively.”

There are still several things that need to happen before Google can start breaking ground. “There is an entitlement process, which we hope will be completed by the end of 2020. Then there will be the process of design and building permits,” Ms. Klein said. She added that this estimate could change, depending on the economic state of the country. “Things can be approved, but if the community, the United States, or the world is in a down trend, that will potentially limit what time frame is needed for beginning construction.”

Ms. Klein said that, for the past years, it has been difficult for the city to “provide fundamental services to our residents and our businesses.” The city of San Jose is hoping that working with Google will help to “provide as much equitable development and quality mobility, to have the array of jobs, to make them available to San Jose residents,” Ms. Klein explained, adding that, “It’s a really important part of our economy and community.”

People of downtown react to Google’s plans to expand

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Denise Luna, manager of Babe’s Mufflers and Brakes PHOTO CREDIT: Polina Runova

Denise Luna is a manager of an auto repair business called Babe’s Muffler and Brakes. Ms. Luna is new to the area, and has heard “little” about Google’s plans to expand. “I just heard the rents might go up,” Ms. Luna said. “Around here, they are already expensive as it is.” Although not terribly worried about her business’ displacement, Ms. Luna has noticed that some people were “already moving out.” She added “that right there, could affect our business, because we get a lot of people who live around here to do business with us. They move out – there goes our business.”

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Eric Johnson, owner of Recycle Bookstore PHOTO CREDIT: Polina Runova

Others are hoping that, on the contrary, Google’s expansion will bring about more jobs and opportunities for business. Eric Johnson is the owner of a bookshop called Recycle Bookstore. Mr. Johnson is expecting that the expansion will bring more activity to downtown San Jose. “The more density you have, the more activity you have,” Mr. Johnson said. “And that tends to be, on the whole, a good thing.”

Mr. Johnson has also noticed the increase in rents, but he hopes Google will also bring an increase in business, which will allow him and others to cover the increasing rents. “Sometimes a small business can pay a little more rent, it depends on whether or not the area increases the business at all.”

Google’s expansion has already affected other cities

Google first came to Mountain View when it leased office space from SGI’s campus, back in 2003. The campus was purchased a couple years later, and then transformed into Google’s corporate headquarters, Googleplex. When the plans for Google’s expansion in Mountain View were first suggested, people had mixed feelings about this development. Some were hoping for more business, while other feared rising housing prices and displacement. Now, roughly fifteen years later, local businesses confirm that Googleplex came as a mixed package.

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Mountain View is home to Google’s corporate headquarters. PHOTO CREDIT: Polina Runova

The Google campus is pristine. The trees are aligned; the hedges are trimmed; and the sidewalks are clean. Everything appears to be taken care of. Nearby, a construction site is fenced off where Google is working on another building. However, just a few streets down, everything looks different.

Smaller businesses, while agreeing that Google has brought some benefits, admit that many people are now struggling to keep up with rising rent prices. Some businesses have trouble finding new employees, as many people have been forced to move because of the rising rent prices.

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Joy McCarthy, manager of The Maids PHOTO CREDIT: Polina Runova

“Finding employees is very difficult,” Joy McCarthy said. “They can’t find housing in the area.” Joy McCarthy runs a cleaning service called The Maids. It is a family business, currently owned by her mother. Ms. McCarthy, in addition to running The Maids, is also a renter. As a result of Google’s expansion, Ms. McCarthy notices that “rents have definitely climbed significantly.”

Concerns with housing seems to exist all around town. A local business owner, who asked to remain anonymous, said that small companies like his family business are less and less likely to be able to “afford to work our family business in the area”. These are people who have been in Mountain View for ages. “I’m born and raised here, so I’ve been here almost 40 years, and I’ve absolutely seen a major change. My father’s been here 65 years, and he can obviously tell you times have changed.”

Although the family business has been in the area for what can seem like forever, it is possible they might have to leave the area because of the rise in rent pricing. “Major developers see more value in retail office space, or commercial office space, vs warehouse space,” the family business owner said. “Small companies like myself, we rely on being able to operate in a warehouse capacity.” This is why the owner foresees that they “will likely be forced to move within the next three or four years.”

Not everything people say about Google is negative, however. “As a matter of fact, we do work for Google. When Google buys some of these buildings here and in the peninsula area, we are hoping that we get contracted to go do some of that flooring work,” the family business owner said. “So there is benefit in providing when they’re building new homes, when they’re building new office space. It is bringing more job opportunities to those local businesses.”

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Omega Printing is a commercial printing company in Mountain View. PHOTO CREDIT: Polina Runova

Another local business says they got more good out of Google’s expansion than bad. Omega Printing is a commercial printing company, located nearby Googleplex. Jesselyn Hernandez, a graphic designer at Omega Printing said “for us, we’re printers, so it’s actually a positive, because the new starter companies, we start printing for them.” She added that once these startup companies, “start growing bigger and bigger, they go somewhere else because we’re this small little business”.

Google’s expansion in Mountain View has indeed been attracting many beginning companies to the area, and in this way provides business for the local companies. Ms. McCarthy agreed that every now and then there’d be “a little more business from people moving in and out.”

“It depends on who you ask,” Ms. Hernandez said. She explained that, overall, there are both benefits and negatives to Google’s expansion. “For us, like I said, the pros are overcoming the cons. For new people, that are coming into the city, I would gauge more negatives.” 

Google’s plans to expand in San Jose affecting Willow Glen

Although Google’s expansion is going to take place in downtown San Jose, the indirect impact could be felt all the way in Willow Glen.

Mark Larson, a film history teacher at Santa Clara University, lives a 15-minute walk from downtown Willow Glen. He brought up the idea that Google’s expansion will bring about a change in the community’s mindset.

Willow Glen hasn’t been affected by “anything that they’ve done concretely, of course, because no one’s broken any ground or anything,” Mr. Larson said. However, Mr. Larson added, “I think it’s the psychological effect, where this giant company comes into your town and sort of starts taking it over. I think that affects how you think, and the space that you live in, and the idea of community.”

Mr. Larson suggests that whenever a big company such as Google comes to a community, many things change. “You lose the character; you lose the history; you lose the small businesses that can’t keep up; or you lose the employees for your restaurant or for your little shop that you’re trying to run because they can’t afford to live in the community.”

Mr. Larson explained that, once Google moves in, whenever he goes to the Diridon train station in downtown San Jose, he’ll “have to walk through their whole campus, their whole corporate headquarters, just to go to the train.” Mr. Larson feels downtown San Jose will become a completely different place. “I won’t be in San Jose; I’ll be in Google Land.”

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A sign with the words ‘Google Glen’ was put up in Willow Glen. PHOTO CREDIT: Mark Larson

It appears downtown San Jose isn’t the only place where Google is making its presence known. “Here in Willow Glen, where we live, we’re famous for our nice little downtown, Lincoln Avenue, where all the shops are,” Mr. Larson said. Recently, however, there’s been a change.“We saw this sign that went up, put up by Google, saying ‘Google Glen’,” Mr. Larson said. He feels that Google is “putting their imprint on our little community here, our little neighborhood. And that’s upsetting because you want to have your own identity, whatever we decided we wanted to be.”

Mr. Larson added that although the mental effect is the most prominent one, there are other concerns in the Willow Glen area as well. “We do rent our home, and we’re absolutely scared out of our wits that our landlords will sell the house because of the Google effect,” Mr. Larson said. If that were to happen, he fears he and his family would “ have to move somewhere.” Mr. Larson explained, “That’s happened to so many people that we know; you hear about it on the news. We’re very scared of that, and we’ve never had to worry about that before.”

Local news stories support Mr. Larson’s story. For example, the Mercury News reported that about a year ago, Decron Properties, a real estate investment firm, bought an apartment complex in Willow Glen. Mercury News wrote, that because of increasing prices in the housing market, “apartments are becoming increasingly attractive alternatives.”

The apartment complex is only “a short rail ride from Google’s proposed transit village in the downtown area.” Mercury News reported that David Nagel, president of Decron Properties, said “The proposed Google campus was a compelling reason for us and our investors to acquire this well-located property.” It appears Google’s expansion is affecting the decisions of other large companies, even those located away from downtown San Jose.

“I really don’t have a solution to it,” Mr. Larson admitted. However, he did say, “I think one thing that would help, though, is if people had more of an awareness for their community, about the impact it might have, for their own sense of identity.” Mr. Larson believes it’s important to keep the people informed. Sometimes communities “get very excited about stuff like this,” Mr. Larson said. “I think they rush too quickly into accepting it.”

Changes await Downtown San Jose

“There are going to be so many changes that come,” Ms. Klein said. She anticipates new amenities and resources to come into the area “in terms of retail, in terms of BART, in terms of additional streetscape, additional places for people to gather,” as well as “jobs, housing, and affordable housing.”

“It might pretty much upscale the area,” Mr. Johnson, owner of the Recycle Bookstore said. “The fear would be that smaller businesses that survive on slightly lower rents might be priced out of the area.”

Mr. Johnson also said, ”You have development and it tends to uplift America sometimes as well.” He can imagine both positive and negative outcomes from Google’s expansions. “It’s kind of up to the city to kind of balance and see what the effect on the community is going to be,” he said.

Ms. Klein agrees, that the city has “the opportunity and the responsibility to do it in a way that is positive for the community.” She added that the city hopes “to mitigate and minimize any potential negative impacts from the project.”

For example, Ms. Klein brought up that “there is very much a concern that bringing 20 to 25 thousand additional people down to San Jose can cause pressure.” Many people are expected to come into the area Google plans to move into. “It’s an interesting statistic that was shared with me recently, “Ms. Klein said. “The number of people that are projected to go through Diridon [in one day] by, say, 2040 will be the same number that go to the San Francisco Airport in a day.”

The general increase of activity in San Jose means there are going to be “more people who want to be in the area, who are willing to pay more for houses and/or rental apartments in the area,” Klein said. “City of San Jose is paying a lot of attention to issues relating to any potential displacement.”

Ms. Klein adds that there is a big difference between Google’s Mountain View expansion and Google’s San Jose expansion. “In Mountain View they are very much a campus,” Klein said. “In San Jose we are working with them to be integrated into the city and that will make a tremendous amount of difference into what is created.”

Ms. Klein explains that the city is trying to protect both the people, and the culture of the city. This includes buildings in the area. “In San Jose, like many other places, there are buildings which are landmarks which will absolutely be retained,” she said.

She also added that some buildings, might be “adapted” into the developing area. For example, “there are buildings where only what is retained are the facades, so that the building can be redone to make it much more efficient,” while “in some instances there is development over those buildings, so you have what’s referred to as air rights,” Ms. Klein said.

Ms. Klein explained that this is “not because of the Google project, but just part of regular development considerations,” and that similar remodeling is happening “in many, many cities throughout the country”.

There might be many changes coming to San Jose, but Ms. Klein believes the city will keep it’s own cultural personality throughout the development. “San Jose is blessed with a wide ranging diversity, and that’s the kind of city that we want to continue to be,” she said.

“I am personally not terribly worried about this.” Mr. Johnson said. “Cautiously optimistic, let’s put it that way.”

“People will adjust and figure it out,” Mr. Inshaw, president of Plotter Pros, added. The community of downtown San Jose is “just kind of waiting to see,” he said. “It’s years away, but it’s already having an effect.”

Feature Image (at the top of this post): A street going through the Google Campus in Mountain View is labeled Google. PHOTO CREDIT: Polina Runova

San Jose city councilmember visits Rainier student journalists

EDITOR’S NOTE: On Sept. 25, San Jose City Councilmember Johnny Khamis came to Summit Public School: Rainier for a press conference to share his story of becoming a councilmember and talk about his goals for the city of San Jose. 

 

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San Jose City Councilman Johnny Khamis uses his passion to help the environment

By McKayla Castigador, Vu Nguyen and Van Tran 

Staff Writers

Johnny Khamis is a San Jose councilman for District 10 who uses his financial and business background to assist the city of San Jose. He was an immigrant from Lebanon who arrived here in 1976, needing to learn English, and he struggled to make a living. However, his hard work allowed him to use his skills in finance and business to help San Jose.

He advocates for people to be educated on conserving gas and electricity. Because of this, he is driven to implement strategies to combat climate change. 

“It’s important for us to make sure we get people educated about conserving,” Councilmember Khamis said on Sept. 25, at a student-led press conference at Summit Rainier.

San Jose leaders have been doing what they can to improve the city’s environmental condition by buying clean energy for the city, increasing regulations for construction and recycling. However, Councilmember Khamis still believes that more things could be done. Therefore, he has come up with other ideas to combat climate change.

Councilman Khamis would like to try and find a way to reuse methane gasses. He references the idea of putting a tarp on cow manure to extract the methane gas for electricity.

One of the biggest projects that the committees worked on was building the Zero Waste Energy Development partnership, where they take garbage and efficiently remove methane from it. They then recycle the methane to make gasoline to fuel the garbage trucks.

Councilmember Khamis’ personal feelings toward the city show his care for the environment. “I planted more trees in the city than any other council members,” Councilman Khamis explained, acknowledging that he has planted 50-60 trees with his family. He also spoke about investing money into planting trees in the community. 

In San Jose, the cost of living is very high. Councilman Khamis explained that the reason why it is so expensive is that San Jose takes the environment into account. San Jose reserves land for environmental purposes and has regulations for the energy used in construction.

Councilman Khamis is very passionate about what he does. He acknowledged that his job isn’t the easiest and that politicians need to have the heart to help people.

Councilman Khamis explained, “Don’t do it for the money — You got to have the heart to be a councilmember.” 

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Councilmember Johnny Khamis seeks to help the community

By Marion Delos, Jess Lara Jose Rodriguez and Andres Ruelas 

Staff Writers

San Jose City Councilmember Johnny Khamis focuses on helping the San Jose community, helping out with the homeless, after school programs and community colleges. 

“I’ve been really proud to represent our city,“ Councilmember Khamis said, before speaking on how he is one of the only councilmembers who has actively made moves to better his community by planting more trees than anyone else on the council, as well as planting some personally with his family. He is proud of having an increasing amount of trees in the city of San Jose. 

Additionally, with taxes, the city council has been spending millions of dollars on protecting our city. Councilmember Khamis said, “The city has been spending millions of dollars every year on different things like addressing homelessness.” Since he came into office, the city has spent up to $2 million dedicated to the homeless. 

San Jose is currently spending nearly $30 million from their general fund for the homeless and to finance after-school programs, according to Councilmember Khamis. The city is also putting out further spendings of $1.5 million per year to support the school systems, and more than $500,000, annually, is spent on support for children and  families who are on the food stamp program. 

Addressing climate change, San Jose is now buying clean energy such as GHG free energy and energy from solar-energy companies, according to Councilmember Khamis. They are also no longer spending much money on natural gas and coal-fired power, which now allows a cleaner mix of energy, compared to PG&E, and selling it to residents for 1% less. 

Councilmember Khamis is one of the people who brought out the “straw ban” where residents are no longer allowed to get straws at restaurants unless asked for, and has also increased requirements for all new construction so they now have to use electronic instead of using natural gas. With all the recycled items, the councilmember is thinking of ways to turn those recycled items into energy, like they do in countries such as Sweden and Denmark. 

Councilmember Khamis also makes sure he is involved with his community even if it means missing out on family events. On weekends, he attends community events; goes to marathons and community gatherings; and even has office hours where people can come in and ask questions, give complaints, or just converse with him in general. 

“Not every councilmember does as much as I do, to reach out to the public, but I like it; I like talking to people; I like solving problems, ’cause that’s what a council member is supposed to do,” Councilmember Khamis said. 

When Councilmember Khamis was running for office, the runner-ups were well-known competitors. To win, Councilmember Khamis out-worked everyone and spent his time walking to nearly 16,000 doors to talk to people to get where he is today. 

Councilmember Khamis explained, “That was a big obstacle — not having help — and so, what I would say is that I don’t take no for an answer, and I will fight. I am a fighter.”

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District city councilmember Johnny Khamis discusses parks and recreations

By Sean Moser, Adrian Pescatore, Sol Perez and Carlos Villarreal 

Staff Writers

San Jose City Councilmember of District 10 Johnny Khamis is concerned over recreation in San Jose. Councilmember Khamis, being someone who is very active environmentally, stresses the importance of a healthy environment. 

Councilmember Khamis explained that one of his parks used to only open three days a week, so he used his city fund to have it open for four days a week. “I used my own city funds to open it a day more,” he said.

On Sept. 25, Councilmember Khamis came to Summit Public School: Rainier for a press conference with student journalists. During the press conference, he addressed issues and answered the questions that the students brought up.

Councilmember Khamis stressed that parks in San Jose are dilapidated and not very well taken care of. He then gave an example of his success in adding two acres of land to Almaden Lake Park, showing his dedication in bettering his district’s parks.  

Councilmember Khamis is a big supporter of parks and recreation: he shows this by participating in park cleanups, advocating for longer open park hours and taking care of the park overall. He said that he wants to “make sure the grass is taken care of and make sure it’s not overrun by squirrels.”

Councilmember Khamis shows his passion for keeping the community healthy by planting trees personally and with others in order to connect with his community. “I have planted over one hundred trees into my community,” he said. 

Councilmember Khamis planted the most trees out of every councilmember in San Jose and also pushed his peers to be environmentally active with him. The councilman also sees this as an opportunity to connect with his community more. 

By adding more trails in his parks, he would like to encourage people to exercise and really embrace the parks that he and his team work very hard to maintain.

Councilmember Khamis said that he is committed to making the community better as a whole in order to make it a place that people can be proud of for generations upon generations.

He plans to create a space where everyone can be comfortable and feel safe in a clean, healthy environment. With that, he says he will make the community better, planting one tree at a time.

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San Jose city councilmember emphasizes building tiny homes for the homeless

By Jasmine Chinn and Ismael Navarrete 

Staff Writers

On a quiet morning on Sept. 25, Councilmember Johnny Khamis visited Summit Public School: Rainier in San Jose to talk to student journalists. Councilmember Khamis is currently running for State Senator for 2020. Councilmember Khamis is focused on bettering his community by helping the homeless who are living in poverty. 

Immigrating to the United States as a child in 1976 from a war-torn Lebanon, Councilmember Khamis struggled with school and learning English. His determination toward pushing past the barriers that he experienced in his life has led him to where he is today, as a councilmember.

Councilmember Khamis puts his heart into helping his community as a representative for District 10 of San Jose and prides himself in using his financial skills to help the city of San Jose, making sure it is spending money wisely. 

When asked what is a memorable story or experience that defined his career, Councilmember Khamis talked about his idea to build tiny homes on two sites sometime back. He said, “Each one of these units were going cost $87,000 to build, and Oakland, at the same time, was building Tuff sheds for $3000. So I said no to this program, not because I’m against tiny homes, but I thought we could help a lot more people with the same amount of money.” 

Councilmember Khamis wants to change and improve the homeless situation by helping the city spend their money wisely to help people who are living in poverty. 

On his website, Councilmember Khamis talks about homelessness issues in California, where many people who are homeless are also suffering through mental illness and poor living situations. He wants to have a low-income housing project to build tiny houses for the homeless.

One of the motivations that Councilmember Khamis has, regarding the housing crisis, is also providing housing for people who are both homeless and mentally ill. He pointed out certain propositions, such as Proposition 63, that have not followed through with their promises.

Councilmember Khamis elaborated on the proposition, “Back in 2004, we started collecting millions of dollars from the rich. And we were supposed to use that to create mental health services. And I have not seen a single mental health service facility.” 

These ideas are further expressed in a Mercury News article highlighting his argument that the Bay Area must do its part in helping mentally ill homeless people get their own housing.

It is clear that Councilmember Khamis is trying to help the community by helping the city to find a cheaper way to build these tiny houses. To Councilmember Khamis, it is clearly important for his community to come first: “Not every councilmember does as much as I do,” he said. 

 

 

San Jose Unified proposal highlights need for affordable housing

By Jacob Kahn-Samuelson

Tahoma City Editor

All across California affordable housing is a major issue, especially for teachers. To address this problem, Santa Clara Unified has built 90 affordable housing units for teachers. A similar idea has been proposed in San Jose Unified that has met strong opposition from local residents.

Housing is a major issue in San Jose. According to the U.S. Census, the median value of a house in San Jose from 2013-17 was $714,200, while the national median value of a house from 2013-17 was $193,500. The median income in San Jose is $96,662; the national median income is $57,652. Figures from the National Center for Education Statistics state that the national average teacher pay is $58,950. San Jose pays their teachers more than the average, according to Glassdoor.com, which estimates that San Jose pays their teachers on average $71,009. San Jose teachers cannot afford houses in San Jose based on those statistics.

San Jose and national statistics about housing and income

San Jose Unified has proposed to build affordable housing for teachers on some of the land that San Jose Unified owns. One of the proposed sites for the building of affordable housing is the campus Leland and Bret Harte; San Jose Unified would then build a new school at a different but nearby location. This has sparked outrage from residents of the area. Many fear that the proposed plan will lower property values in the area, and they don’t want their children to change schools. This has resulted in a petition from Almaden residents to “Save Leland and Bret Harte,” which has received over 5,000 signatures.

In San Jose Unified’s Master Plan for San Jose Unified Properties, the document talks about the issues the proposal is addressing: 

“Among the most pressing challenges resulting from today’s changes is our area’s cost of living. Silicon Valley is becoming more unaffordable for more and more people in our community. San Jose Unified is feeling this acutely. Bus driver, teacher, administrator–San Jose Unified has vacant positions throughout the district”

Kimberly Meek Photo.Jacob Kahn-Samuelson

Kimberly Meek, San Jose Unified Board Vice President

Kimberly Meek, a trustee on the Board of Education who represents several schools, including Leland, talked about the motivations of the proposal: “Looking at our properties to see if we are using them the best way for our students and families in the area. We need to be looking ahead at the decisions we make and how they will affect our future generations.”

Ms. Meek clarified that the proposal is only in the early stages and that the estimated cost is unknown: “We only wish to investigate the schools as possible locations. This was a public announcement that we are looking at using the sites differently.”

Ms. Meek said the amount of units that would be built has not yet been determined: “Right now we are trying to figure out how many we could build. We are looking at school faculty as well as teachers because it is very difficult to live in the Bay Area on their salaries.”

According to Ms. Meek, the schools were chosen based on “where we have the best ability to serve our community. Leland and Bret Harte were chosen because they are at capacity and students are put on wait lists. On the other end, at schools like Gardner Elementary, who has just under 400 students, you still have to pay for things like electricity. Location and enrollment are major factors in the consideration for the proposal. We are trying to look at all these schools and examine how realistic they are.”

Ms. Meek said that a similar proposal in Santa Clara Unified “served as a model of someone who has done it and done it successfully; all across California there is a recognition that our workforce needs housing. Look at universities – they build housing for professors to attract professors, so we are applying that model to elementary school, middle school and high school.”

Ms. Meek talked about the reaction to the proposal from the Leland and Bret Harte areas compared to other areas in the proposal, saying, “I have not received similar backlash to the Leland and Bret Harte areas.”

Deputy Superintendent of San Jose Unified Steven McMahon discussed over email the difficulty of recruiting and retaining teachers: “San Jose was recently rated as having the least affordable housing in the United States, with the median price for a home set at $1.3 million. We are losing dozens of employees due to the cost of living here in the Silicon Valley (approximately 200 teachers this year alone), especially when the staff member wants to start a family. Many of our best and brightest teachers, when they want to start a family of their own, are relocating because they can’t afford to buy a house near where they work. We have some employees who commute up to four hours a day to and from their schools just so they can live in a more affordable area.”

San Jose Unified Deputy Super Intendant, Stephen McMahon

Mr. Mcmahon said housing is an issue for everyone in the Bay Area, not just teachers: “Although home prices have begun to soften ever so slightly in the San Jose metropolitan area, by and large buying a home in Santa Clara County has become vastly more expensive. Home prices in the area have steadily risen over the past decade. This isn’t a teacher issue. Being able to afford housing, both for those renting and for those purchasing, is a challenge for many hard-working people.”

Mr. McMahon talked about how the schools were selected: “Sites listed as potential locations were identified if they met the following criteria: (1) properties that have the potential to better serve students, (2) properties that have the potential to positively address enrollment imbalances across schools, and (3) properties that have the potential to support employee housing projects.”

Mr. McMahon said the plan is still in the early stages: “Some communities, when they first heard of the plan, felt the plan was further along than it really was. In reality, we are a public entity, operating with the utmost transparency. When we released information about the plan to look for ways to create affordable employee housing, that’s all it was – and still is – a plan.  Nothing, other than the initial thoughts of possible sites, has been put on paper. Everything we have said and done has been discussed in a public forum, and we invite everyone to join us for the twice a month Board of Education meetings held at the District Office.  The agenda is posted online and available for viewing on the main website before each meeting.  The public has the opportunity to comment on or listen to what is discussed at the meetings. For those who follow the agenda items, they were not surprised when San Jose Unified announced the plan to develop potential staff housing.”

He went on to talk about the motivations behind the proposal: “The goal of this plan has always been to explore how to best meet the needs of students and staff throughout the entire district. We see it as an exciting opportunity to find an innovative way to address a very real need while providing the best services to all of our 30,000 plus students. Sometimes reaching for goals means thinking outside of the box and asking ‘What If?’. ‘What if’ we provide employee housing for some of our 3,000 strong workforce?  Hopefully, this enables us to continue to recruit and retain the best and the brightest of teachers and staff as we continue to provide excellence in education to our students. Looking toward the future, we see the cost of housing continue to rise in San Jose, one of the most expensive places to live in the country and a major factor when recruiting and maintaining exemplary employees. By opening up this conversation, it allows us a chance to look at options across the district. Options that could help us reach our goal of better serving our students, improve imbalances across schools and provide needed employee housing.  Bret Harte and Leland were never discussed as sites to close, instead these two schools would receive new state-of-the-art campuses.”

Mr. McMahon talked about the reaction he has received to the plan: “Each of our school communities is unique and respond in different ways. We believe we need to look district wide for a solution to the housing crisis faced by our employees. We are proud of our schools, our students and our staff and want to continue to be able to provide the very best in educational opportunities to the communities we serve.”

When asked for comment on the proposal, Leland principal Peter Park said over email, “After the initial announcement from our district office that we were one of the nine sites identified for this possibility, we haven’t received any more information. At the site level, we are focused on the day-to-day instruction, thus have left the details of housing to the district.”

When asked about the feasibility of living in the Bay Area on a teacher’s salary, Elizabeth Rodriguez, a physics teacher at Summit Tahoma, said, “I think it is unrealistic, especially because students are graduating college with degrees like engineering and have starting salaries of $70,000 or more. It is unrealistic to live in a tech-based area when you are a teacher and the rent keeps on increasing.”

Ms. Rodriguez said that housing costs played no role in her decision to teach in the Bay Area “because when I moved from New York to San Jose I was looking at job/school where I am closer to my family. So I didn’t really think about the costs of moving to the Bay Area. I was paying more for a two-bedroom apartment in Japan Town than a four-bedroom apartment in East Harlem; it was a shift in how much rent I needed to pay each month.”

Tahoma physics teacher Elizabeth Rodriguez

When asked if she would support a proposal for the school she teaches at, Ms. Rodriguez said, “This is a really tough decision; while it seems like an answer to a big problem, it is ignoring the biggest problem in the area. We need to evaluate the amount we are paying teachers. In the short-term, it will work for some teachers; but in the long-term, it is not feasible. In the long-term, our education department in California should reevaluate the amount we are paying teachers.

Ms. Rodriguez said, depending on the situation, she would utilize affordable housing: “I think it depends on what the affordable housing looks like and my short and long-term plans to evaluate if I would move into the school-sponsored affordable housing.”

“No. It does not impact my decision of where to teach,” said Ms. Rodriguez on whether affordable housing would affect her likelihood to teach at a school.

Kevin Franey, a history teacher at Summit Tahoma, said, “The current rate that teachers are paid in public schools is not a sustainable way to live.”

Mr. Franey talked about the role housing costs played in his decision to teach in the Bay Area: “I can’t say that it played a major role. My wife and I were moving out here, and I knew I wanted to teach. Had I come out here by myself it would not have been possible, because we are a dual-income household it was possible.”

Tahoma history teacher Kevin Franey

Mr. Franey supports the proposal for affordable housing: “I think the Bay Area needs more affordable housing, especially for teachers. If those sites are not needed for schools anymore, it makes sense to use them for housing.”

When asked about utilizing affordable housing if given an opportunity, Mr. Franey said, “I would certainly consider it. Generally, housing programs like this come with a lot of restrictions. It would depend on if the restrictions interfered with my life outside of school.”

Downtown anticipates major changes from proposed Google campus

By C.M. Bateman

Tahoma Editor-in-Chief

In December, the San Jose City Council agreed to sell over 10 acres of the downtown region to build a new Google campus. The proposed campus aims to positively renovate the infrastructure and strengthen the core of the city; however, the Google village has also sparked fear and anger from San Jose residents and business owners, specifically from those located in or around the land parcels sold to the organization during the negotiations.

The proposed project would stretch from the south tip of the San Jose Market Center to W San Carlos Street, curving along the railways leading to the Diridon Station and Autumn Street on the parallel side. The campus includes plans to open up space to the neighboring communities with cultural walking areas, various entertainment and dining establishments, as well as residential and office space for up to 20,000 Google employees.

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Google’s vision for the downtown San Jose village. PHOTO CREDIT: The Mercury News

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Diridon Station serves as a transit hub for Silicon Valley.

One of the main focuses for the campus is the development of Diridon Station- a central public transportation depot in San Jose connected by ACE, Amtrak, Caltrain and VTA light rail, along with local and regional bus services. BART and the California High-Speed Rail system also plan on adding Diridon to their map. These numerous platforms and public transportation connections define Diridon Station as the gateway to San Jose.

Rick Jensen, communications director for the San Jose Downtown Association, details the long-term effects anticipated for the city as a result of the Google campus: “San Jose is the only big city in the U.S. where there are fewer jobs than homes, which means transit-wise there are more people leaving San Jose to work than coming into the city. That has to be reversed … The Google project and the west side of downtown will become a worldwide model for how to grow an urban center correctly.”

An article from San Jose’s Office of Economic Development stresses the importance of urban villages to increase housing and jobs in the city, which simultaneously would help combat the urban sprawl Jensen mentioned. The Google campus will provide more jobs and housing units for local residents as well as increase ridership to the city itself.

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Infographic on the anticipated changes and affected area as a result of the Google campus. GRAPHIC CREDIT: Maxwell Taniguchi-King

However, many individuals are furious and concerned about the effects of the proposed campus.

The San Jose City Council voted unanimously to sell over 10 acres of land to Google for the project after 10 hours of discussion, testimonies and protests.

According to the Silicon Valley Business Journal, advocates against the campus voiced their worries about rising housing costs, which would push gentrification and displacement as a result of the campus being built. Some protesters held signs condemning the decision to sell the land parcels. A group of activists chained themselves to chairs in the meeting hall while chanting in protest of the sale. Several people were arrested.

The effect of the campus on low-income homeowners, the elderly and homeless has been a key concern throughout the almost two-year negotiations with Google. In May 2018, a public meeting to discuss Google’s proposed campus features at San Jose City Hall faced similar setbacks regarding protesters; after San Jose police officers “briefly discussed the situation with the demonstrators,” they left peacefully.

Many are distressed that the Google campus would only drive up the cost of living in the city, even with the idea of building more housing units as a part of the project.

Angela Nicole Walker, a local teacher at Rocketship Public Schools, lives near the SAP Center and Diridon Station. She began renting an apartment in late 2017 and first heard about the proposal shortly after moving in. Walker emphasized that she felt “upset” upon hearing the news: “I finally moved downtown, and then I felt like my rent was gonna go up.” Walker noted, “People already can’t afford it … and people aren’t gonna be able to live downtown.”

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Rent Trends in San Jose. PHOTO CREDIT: RentCafé

Affordable housing has remained an issue in San Jose over the past several years. According to a survey from Zillow, the median home value has soared up to over 15 percent in the past year (October 2017 – November 2018) and is expected to rise by 15 percent by October 2019. The average price of homes listed in the San Jose area falls under $950,000; specifically in the downtown area, the price is $728,000. Renting in the downtown area varies based on apartment structure, but averages around $2,731, making it the second most expensive area in the city.

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Bay Area housing goals for San Jose are still out of reach. PHOTO CREDIT: The Mercury News

The median household income, taken from a 2017 United States Census, is $96,662. In 2017, the annual salary for a low-income family in Santa Clara County resides at $84,750. This makes it difficult to find affordable housing, which has also become sparse in San Jose. Only 20 percent of the city’s targeted number of building permits for affordable units was reached, while 2,622 homes were built at the market rate, surpassing its target number by 162 percent.

The Google campus risks soaring housing costs and displaced residents; however, the rising housing market in San Jose remains at the forefront of the company’s review. Jensen stated that the parties involved in the negotiations “are all in favor of providing at minimum 25 percent affordable housing, attempts to minimize displacement, [and] offer access to training and local hiring practices.”

While homeowners and other residents face concerns for housing, business and property owners face various challenges from Google’s expansion in the downtown area. Those around the sold land parcels expect more attention and business because of the expected balance of daytime and nighttime traffic.

The SJDA has been working closely with Google management to ensure fair compensation for business owners. Jensen states, “Those being bought out are getting very good prices for their property … Property owners are already benefiting from increased property values.”

Despite fair compensation, local business owners (who are all within the land bought by Google) have mixed responses to the proposed campus.

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Taiko performs in Downtown San Jose.

Wisa Uemura, executive director of Taiko, an arts center focused on the Japanese art form of ensemble drumming, said, “Our interactions with Google have been straightforward, and they seem sincerely interested in listening to the needs of the community and figuring out creative ways to connect their plans to mutual benefit. However, with any development of this magnitude, there are legitimate public concerns that warrant discussion and action.”

The previous owner of Borch’s Iron Works and Welding, declining to state his name, commented on how “the campus should bring in a lot of good changes for this area; I’m looking forward to the way they’re going to clean this place up.”

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Puccio Machine & Welding Works has been located in downtown San Jose for almost eighty years. PHOTO CREDIT: Maxwell Taniguchi-King

Kerry Puccio, the owner of Puccio Machine & Welding Works, is the third-generation owner of the store; the business has been in the family since 1941. Puccio was bought out by Google several months ago in one of the land parcels: “Now I gotta figure out what to do.” Puccio said, “There’s a lot of people who aren’t happy. They’re trying to find places and can’t find places. It’s too much and there’s no property available.” Puccio is among the owners who must relocate their businesses: “Google’s not going to hire me.”

The proposed Google campus remains an exciting prospect for the growth of the industrial downtown area, but it falls short on providing support to local residents and owners. The community of San Jose must prepare itself to take on the upcoming changes once the campus begins major construction as early as 2025.

See below for a video of the community’s response to the Google campus:

Featured Image (at the top of this post): San Jose street art welcomes visitors in the downtown area. PHOTO CREDIT: Maxwell Taniguchi-King

Tahoma Sports Editor Will Butler contributed to this article.

Rainier journalists speak to San Jose City Council member Tâm Nguyen in press conference

EDITOR’S NOTE: On Sept. 12, student journalists from Summit Public School: Rainier held a press conference to meet San Jose City Councilman Tâm Nguyen. The council member talked about his story, how he became a politician and what makes up his campaign for the Nov. 6 election. Mayor Liccardo and council members Jones, Jimenez, Peralez, Diep, Carrasco, Davis, Arenas, Rocha and Khamis graciously declined an invitation to join the event.

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Staff Photographers Juan Ambrosio, Sabrina Guzman Nava, Brayan Lozano, Khanh Nguyen and Abel Rangel contributed photos to this slideshow.

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City Council Member Tâm Nguyen aims to improve the community one step at a time

By Christian Frias, Abel Rangel, Alisha Redmond and Jasmine Villegas

Staff Writers

City Councilman Tâm Nguyen aims to improve community one step at a time using small and attainable goals. He said he didn’t have big names advocating for him or lots of money, but he had the support of the community by his side.

Mr. Nguyen said it’s impossible to win a race “if you don’t have community support.” At a press conference at Summit Public School: Rainier on Sept. 12, he explained that before you can accomplish anything as a politician, “You got to be one of them; you got to be part of them first.”

When he first began running for City Council, he made big plans. Later he realized he needed to set smaller and simpler goals to ensure that real progress would be made, rather than making big promises that couldn’t all be kept.Mr. Nguyen talked about how he planned to make small changes in the community that little by little would make a world of difference for everyone.

Mr. Nguyen said that on Saturdays he makes time to help clean around the neighborhood in the community to make things better for the people who live there. Although it is not a big project, it is something that slowly but surely improves the community.

He later added that he would like to increase law enforcement by getting more police officers on the street to keep crime rates down and ensure the people’s safety.  

Mr. Nguyen said that when he first started running his campaign he “heard bad things about politicians,” such as the Little Saigon fight in San Jose that occured because the community disliked how the person in office was deciding to handle certain situations.

On Nov. 15, 2007, the Mercury News reported that council member Madison Nguyen was trying to stop the community from turning on her because of the Little Saigon conflict. People were upset because even though mostly everyone who lived there expressed that they wanted the neighborhood to be named Little Saigon, Ms. Nguyen ignored them and instead went ahead with her own name for the area – one that she felt would attract non-Vietnamese people as well.  Because of her refusal to name it Little Saigon, many people became infuriated with her choices, held many protest against her and called her a traitor.

The Mercury News later explained that the conflict got so heated that Ms. Nguyen faced “threats of a recall from Little Saigon supporters who say she is siding with her business associates instead of the people who voted her into office.” Because of these reasons the community went to Mr. Nguyen to hopefully drive the council into a better direction.

“When her time was up in 2014, people in the community said, ‘Tâm, we want you to be a city council member.’ And because people kept pushing the idea on him, he later agreed and decided that he did in fact want to run for City Council. Ever since, he’s been making sure to always listen to the community and to put the people first in all situations to become stronger and better together.

Mr. Nguyen has shown himself to be a good councilman; rather than making large plans that might be difficult to accomplish, he instead makes smaller, simpler, easier to reach goals that better the community. This, along with his general concern for the people’s well-being and his willingness to listen to the opinions and feedback of his supporters, has made him a well-liked and trusted council member.

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Councilman Tâm Nguyen’s responsibility with the Immigrant Community

By Brayan Lozano, Inderpal Sivia and Christina Velez

Staff Writers

As an immigrant, San Jose Councilman Tâm Nguyen feels he is responsible for supporting the immigrant community in his district. He told his story to reporters at Summit Public School: Rainier on Sept. 12.

If he had not been allowed into this country as a young refugee, he asked, “Where would I be?” Mr. Nguyen is an immigrant himself; he said he came here a very broken and broke college student, as a refugee from Vietnam. He was rescued by the Korean Embassy on the boat he left Vietnam on; after he was rescued, he came to America with nothing.

After arriving in America, he got his first job as a dishwasher 43 years ago and has never stopped working a day since. After taking a year to work and gain stability, he started attending college in Missouri. As a college student, he said he “didn’t know anything.” Then he began studying music because he could play the guitar.

Later on, in 1980, electronics were on the rise. He became an engineer at Tandem Computing. They let him continue attending college, where he studied law. He said he studied law because they needed more Vietnamese-American lawyers.

Mr. Nguyen said it was extremely challenging to go from music to law, but he was ready for it. He said he had already risked everything by leaving Vietnam. At first he started with one class, which he said was difficult but rewarding. He said at the time he thought, “If I don’t become [an] attorney, this will still be good for me.”

From 1992 until recently he was an attorney. In 2014 a seat was open on the San Jose City Council. Originally, he did not want to become a politician. “I didn’t like it,” he said. “I heard about how politicians operate.”

He discussed how he won the election for City Council against his three other experienced opponents. First he had to identify real issues in the community. He said a way to do that was to volunteer so “they don’t feel threatened by you, by your weaknesses or even your strengths.”

Later on in the press conference he was asked about the issue of the gun control legislation. He said that it is “absolutely incomprehensible” and that the “NRA, National Rifle Association, has a chokehold on Washington, DC.” He expressed that teachers are there so students can learn – that they are teachers, “not soldiers.”

He also spoke about the issue of sanctuary laws and immigration. He said the police force will not be questioning who you are as a person or as an immigrant. His personal belief is that they should not act as an immigration law enforcement. Instead after interacting with the police force he thinks they should be making people feel safe, not making the public think of the police as a deportation threat. He told them, “Don’t use our police force.”

He said only America has an immigration problem, because coming to America is a dream. He said in his opinion “America is still magic” – that even with the recent immigration problems and debates, “You are the luckiest people in the whole wide world.”

Staff Editor Charlie Stattion contributed to this report.

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San Jose Councilman Tâm Nguyen’s base priority is community

By Amanda Flores, Kaila Hill, Deandra Han and Khanh Nguyen

Staff Writers

San Jose Councilman Tâm Nguyen’s base priority is community. Mr. Nguyen, a councilman from District 7 who is currently running for re-election on the November ballot, visited Summit Public School: Rainier on Sept. 12.

He recalled one of two words he kept in mind before running for District 7: safety. “Safety in your home, safety in your school, safety when you’re in the park, safety when you work, and safety on the street – transportation, and personal safety” are all important priorities, he explained.

Mr. Nguyen emphasized multiple times that communities are the base of his support. He mentioned that starting with the community and gaining their support  will create a strong base for one’s election campaign.

Health is another subject he believes should be prioritized within our community. “I mean cleanliness; I mean clean neighborhoods, clean parks, clean roads and a healthy environment.”

To gain and maintain the support of the community, he continues to give back by visiting multiple neighborhoods to help with cleanup. He even went as far as to leave his phone number on the whiteboard, letting students know they can send him a text and he will show up at our neighborhoods and help pick up trash.

For the council member, small steps like cleaning up trash in parks and neighborhoods and keeping those in the community safe build toward his overall more strenuous goal. Mr. Nguyen explained that as an attorney his slogan had always been “advocating for the disadvantaged families.” That is exactly what he continues to work toward by participating in community events and spending a generous amount of time working with the community.

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Councilman Nguyen is on a journey to positively impact his community

By Gaby Garcia, Sabrina Guzman, Cathy Ly, Jennifer Rico, and Justin San Giovanni

Staff Writers

San Jose Councilman Tâm Nguyen has been on a journey to become an important and impactful member of the community. Through his many years of volunteering and helping other people, Mr. Nguyen has developed a strong connection with the community and its people, which has helped him in reaching the position of a council member.

From his early rough childhood in Vietnam, Mr. Nguyen came to the United States 43 years ago due to the dangerous warfare in his home country. He has worked his way up from being a dishwasher in Michigan, to getting a B.A, then later receiving an M.B.A  and becoming an attorney, to now being one of San Jose’s councilmen and representing District 7.

At a press conference that took place on Sept. 12, Mr. Nguyen explained to reporters at Summit Public School: Rainier the importance of wanting “to do good for the people in the community” and “advocating for [the] disadvantaged.” Mr. Nguyen’s relationship with the community has only become stronger since his election in 2014; he said “we are [the] best diverse community.”

However, Mr. Nguyen did not plan to be a councilman in the first place; he said he had “heard bad things about politicians,” but the people of the community had said otherwise and so he said, “I’ll take on the challenge,” which led him to be elected as a San Jose councilman.

Mr. Nguyen said, ”If you don’t have the community’s support, forget it,” adding onto why community is so important to him. He stated previously that community means a lot to him because community is what has gotten him so far.

When he came to the United States, he had no money, no clothes, no recognition, no nothing. Slowly he started working his way up the ladder and bettering his situation. Mr. Nguyen, coming from a tough situation while growing up, is able to empathize with the disadvantaged and the minorities within our community. He said that there’s “always a struggle between the rich and the poor” and that “minorities are in need of legal services.”

Mr. Nguyen, if re-elected as councilman, said he plans to do better: ”two words, safety and health.” He went on to say that he plans to better the safety of our community by making sure that our neighborhoods, schools, and homes are secure. He also plans on bettering the health of our community by making sure that our surroundings and environment are clean.

He is a dedicated man who plans on making change throughout San Jose – so devoted that he has even offered for people to call him if there is trash so he can go and help clean it up. By offering his services, he not only contributes to this community but he also gains the community’s support and trust in order for him to keep his current position as councilman and continue to make positive changes.

Mr. Nguyen has learned that when being a councilman you “don’t do something at the expense of others” and you “don’t take things too personal.”

All in all, Mr. Nguyen’s journey from escaping his country to now being one of San Jose’s city councilmen has been an eventful and transformative experience for him and the people of San Jose. He has devoted a lot of his time and work to bettering San Jose by being an ally to our community in District 7.

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San Jose City Council Member Tâm Nguyen visits Summit Rainier

By Juan Ambrosio, Osvaldo Ayala, Analisa Sofia Perez and Jhancarlos Rodriguez

Staff Writers

San Jose City Council Member Tâm Nguyen tries to approach change and be open to new challenges.

“I take on the challenge.” Mr. Nguyen said that he is willing to grow through new experiences and that he is determined to make San Jose safe and healthy.

Mr. Nguyen wants the best for San Jose. He does this by helping the community and volunteering his own time to make the San Jose community a better place for everyone.

On Sept. 12, Mr. Nguyen came to get interviewed by Summit Rainier’s Multimedia Political Journalism class. He spoke about how he was poor in college and how he had to leave Vietnam because his country fell into communism.

Mr. Nguyen started out in the United States as a “broke college student” and came here with “nothing to my name.”

With nothing, he made it into something. He told himself he could and he would. With the baby steps he took, he accomplished his dream and he keeps on dreaming today.

Mr. Nguyen made it a point to prove how much his community is important to him and how with hard work and perseverance he was able to achieve the position he is in today. He believes in hard work and never takes a day off: “I always work hard every single day.”

As a council member, Mr. Nguyen feels very firmly about productivity and bettering his town. Because of his passion, he makes himself available to clean up neighborhoods and his community every Saturday morning with the help of his volunteers whenever he can.

Mr. Nguyen makes sure that the people of his district know he’s available to help. Here’s a recent cleanup he organized in a San Jose community:

Picking up trash in his neighborhood is only one of the challenges that he’s faces as he tries to improve life and safety for the people of his district. He has overcome many challenges, but he likes to do “one thing at a time.” He keeps things slow and steady so he can do more things that will benefit the community.

Mr. Nguyen isn’t afraid to take on new things, and he does it all with the help of his community. “I’m so lucky to be here. I’m grateful.” 

Citizens express their views on street art

By Kainoa Garo, Nethan Sivarapu, Maxwell Taniguchi-King and Ian Vu

Staff Writers

Functioning as a foundation and reinforcing the network of cultures, art is the crucial factor that enables us to express our passions. While walking the streets of downtown San Jose, said art is found on virtually every corner.

In many cases, this art appears in the form of visual art, in which pieces are produced and displayed in public locations. This is recognized as street art, where, oftentimes, positions regarding specific ideologies are demonstrated.

Pieces of art, seen while driving through the streets of countless cities, have influenced a considerably large amount of the world’s opinions. Whatever the effects of street art are, they have occurred for centuries.

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This portrait is one of downtown San Jose’s many examples of street art.

According to Smithsonian magazine, the action of marking walls with art has occurred for more than 35,000 years, making street art a form of art generated from thousands of years in the making. Despite this, the appearance of this type of art in cities is quite recent.

The first signs of graffiti (not to be confused with street art and believed to have been started in 1967) were created by a young man named Darryl McCray, known by his tag name, Cornbread. In an effort to capture a girl’s attention, the Philadelphian high schooler began tagging city walls. KQED claims that only decades later, during the 1980s, did street art get the respect and attention it deserves.

According to Google Arts & Culture, as graffiti became popularized, it spread across the nation and the globe, quickly branching into various genres. From this, modern street art emerged, as it too quickly branched into various types.

Graffiti artists began using stencils for portraits and landscapes and created public murals. Specific names such as Barry McGee, Taki 183 and Keith Haring revolutionized street art, leading and growing street art into the very form it takes today.

Born and raised in San Francisco, McGee “is considered to be one of the most pivotal members of the street art movement.” Invaluable claims he utilized large, bold cartoon figures in ways that drew awareness to the homeless population in the Bay Area.

The new form of expression on the street started spreading internationally in the 1980s. According to Invaluable, Blek le Rat pioneered street art in France; for Britain, it was a man who went by Banksy.

As the years advanced, street art evolved immensely and will continue to do so. Downtown San Jose demonstrates the history of street art, in addition to the ever-changing current state of it.

As residents and visitors walk across the downtown area, they marvel at both the quality and quantity of street art. Pieces include everything from painted electrical boxes to large-scale murals covering an entire wall.   

See below for a look at the San Jose street art scene:

Art directly influences the people who experience it. Whether or not that influence is beneficial depends greatly on how different people receive the artist’s intentions. Nick, (a San Jose pedestrian who asked to be identified solely by his first name), said the positive or negative effects of street art on society depend on its origin.

“I think it depends on the street art. I think it depends on who made the street art; if it’s paid legally, if it’s hired by an artist. I think- I think if it’s hired, I think it’s good. It promotes – different viewpoints,” he explained. “There’s a – the artist has a canvas to convey their thoughts. So it’s good in that it promotes expression. Even if it’s illegal, even if someone is graffiting. So I see it as a benefit, yeah.”

The topic of public street art, especially the illegal aspect of it, has been controversial since the birth of graffiti. While paid murals are completely legal, producing street art on a property without the permission of the owner is not permitted.

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Downtown San Jose street art is often colorful and even whimsical.

The argument that, while this style of street art is considered vandalism it enables artists to express themselves and communicate their viewpoints, is a strong point. Disputes concerning the advantages of criminal street art occur consistently as many hold strong opinions on the issue.

Art, in turn, also affects society, changing the artist and what they are attempting to convey. Nick communicated his thoughts on that as well.

“Looking around I see a lot of street art; I see that street art is big here. So I would say that it promotes it – people seem to be OK with street art and seem to like it and seem to want to want it all over.”

This holds true in nearly every city, as society takes its toll on the surrounding art. Events and attitudes, such as political views, play substantial roles on the exact message artists carry.

Street art seems to weave itself within society, solidifying as an everlasting piece in the network. Subsequently, the society that surrounds street art affects every art piece.

Ethan, another San Jose pedestrian who asked to be identified solely by his first name, summed up the difficulty of categorizing street art: “Street art allows people to have the room to be creative and to express themselves freely … like all things, you could express a positive emotion or express a negative emotion.”

Related:

Art teacher expresses his passion for the visual arts

Expeditions course reveals itself to be more than simply a Visual Arts class

Public art spreads a message

By Liz Kromrey

Staff Writer

Walking around San Jose, public art can be seen almost every time you turn the corner. What does all this art mean? Why is it there?

Right: In schools, public art can be found on walls, on posters and in many other places.
Eli Cetto, who teaches Visual Arts for the Expeditions team, said, “Public art is most effective when it’s in spaces for people to enjoy.”

MiddleArt students at Summit Public School: Rainier were taught by Ms. Eli how to create art to be shown in public; these wire sculptures allow students to put a message into the art they create, even if it’s just a simple message such as showing a hobby that they like to do. 

Left: Many of the students created wire sculptures of people who they look up to, objects from places they wish to go or things they wish to do.

 

Many artists who have their art in public spaces have it there for a reason. This reason could be to prove a point or to share an opinion. For instance, a person passing a mural down in San Jose might think it signifies something different than it actually does.

 

Left: Karren Windsor, a Rainier English teacher, said, “If it’s artistic, then it tells me somebody is trying to build a community.” 

Right: This mural was created by students for students; it can be found on the Rainier campus, where it hangs near one of the gates.

Many artists have something in mind when creating their art, and they are able to find different ways of showing that message. By interviewing local artists, as well people who don’t know or follow art that often, it is easy to get different opinions about what public art signifies.

Left: Summit Rainier has pieces of public art all over campus. This piece is an example of teamwork and of a message shared by the school.

Middle: Graffiti can be found all over Downtown San Jose. Much of the graffiti is made by people who want to have their opinion heard. “I’ve also seen one that was like stop human trafficking,” Mrs. Windsor said, explaining that public art is used to spread awareness of problems which occur in the society that surrounds us.

Right: Graffiti is popular to do in places where it is difficult to reach but can still be seen.

 

Often times most public art is graffiti or murals. Murals are made by artists who either got permission to use a wall or were paid to make said mural. Graffiti, in contrast, is typically made illegally, but there are also artists who use spray paint to do amazing art on public streets. These types of artists typically buy a pass to allow them to paint or draw in public areas, Ms. Eli said. Often times, these artists are able to make money selling their art.

 

Left: “I love collaborative work that involves the community’s voice,” Ms. Eli said. “I think that when artists bring in the opinions or skills or culture or practices of the local residents into their work.”

Middle: Many people post online, or on social media, and are able to share their art, turning what originally was private art into public art.

RightDepending on what is being shown in the art, the message can change from negative to positive in an instant. For instance, the Multicultural Club shows how even though some people might see cultures as being independent from others, cultures can band together and be made into a community.