Free parking and takeaway liquor are among the many concepts to maintain the downtown San Jose enterprise alive

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by Carly Wipf December 2, 2020

A coalition of more than 55 San Jose companies is pushing for recommendations from local and state policies to help the once thriving downtown core survive the pandemic.

Legislators on the City’s Committee on Rules and Open Government voted unanimously on December 2 to propose 15 new policy recommendations to the San Jose City Council for discussion and approval.

“When considering solutions for economic recovery, it is important that we leverage the expertise of our local business community and raise their voices – these recommendations do just that,” said Councilor Raul Peralez, who led the group known as Greater Downtown San Jose Economic Recovery Task Force.

Companies that ranged from small restaurants to arts organizations to tech giants like Adobe were calling for city-sponsored grants and tax break programs for companies forced to spend extra on safety and outdoor gear due to COVID-19. They are also campaigning for city-level regulation to limit third-party delivery service fees to 15%.

“We believe that third-party companies like Doordash, which is currently valued at $ 16 billion and recently helped pass an election measure of $ 204 million, can afford to pay their fees to support our mom and pop businesses to lower, “wrote the task force.

Nate LeBlanc of the San Jose Downtown Association said temporarily helping businesses get grants for tents and canopies to survive the winter, but capping fees will help businesses save their incomes in the long term.

The coalition is also calling on the city to support the sale of take-away alcohol to help food companies make up for lost cash revenues. If the state allows takeaway sales, the task force will propose a pilot program that enables monitored consumption of open containers.

The task force said free parking has been particularly helpful in Japantown and the East Santa Clara business corridor. It was recommended that free parking be expanded to areas surrounding the downtown core where parking garages are not as common and that existing parking in the convention center be made free. These steps would help boost traffic in the city center, it said.

Companies also agreed that the city needs to strengthen its public safety messages and highlight local art during the pandemic.

Small business sales in San Jose are down 39.2% from January 9th, according to a statement from Peralez. However, consumer spending only fell by 4.1%. This means that people are still spending money – just not downtown.

This is the second round of the Task Force’s policy recommendations. The first recommendations, passed by lawmakers in June, urged officials to expand free downtown parking, convert public areas into outdoor retail space, and reopen personal care businesses such as hair salons, nail salons and gyms. The task force urged the city to follow these recommendations and continue to offer free parking in the city center.

“I take pride in the work of the Task Force and believe that we have done everything we can to ensure that San Jose companies and organizations from all sectors are heard,” said Dalia Rawson, executive director of New Ballet SJ and Task Force Co. -Chair.

Wisa Uemura, executive director of San José Taiko and co-chair of the task force, said the second phase will focus on areas that are severely restricted and cannot be reopened, especially now that Santa Clara county is in the most restrictive purple stage The task force has declined the state’s COVID-19 reopening plan.

As Santa Clara County’s COVID-19 cases soared to historic levels, health officials shut down indoor dining two weeks ago and limited non-essential indoor retail to 10% capacity.

Many companies have stayed afloat thanks to programs like San Jose Al Fresco, which paved the way for outdoor dining and surgery. However, according to the task force, these programs are not sustainable. One of the task force’s first recommendations is to improve the city’s outdoor dining options.

“The city will continue to exist, the civil structure will continue to exist,” said LeBlanc. “But there is no guarantee that these companies – especially those linchpins that we all think of when we think of our inner city – may go out of business if we don’t take active steps to save them.”

Contact Carly Wipf at [email protected] or follow @CarlyChristineW on Twitter.

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