In an effort to help Santa Clara County with the rapid distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, San Jose will relax land use rules to keep vaccination stations operational.
The San Jose City Council unanimously voted Tuesday to bypass the usual permitting process for hosting outdoor events to allow more vaccination clinics to open in high-risk areas.
“I appreciate the work the staff are doing to move this forward so that we can seize the opportunity to provide vaccines to our residents who need them most,” said Mayor Sam Liccardo.
If a group wants to hold a meeting outside in San Jose, or in this case open an outdoor vaccination clinic, the city must get permission. Permits help ensure that outdoor events such as festivals do not harm the environment.
However, event approval and special permits for outdoor events can take 45 days to three months, depending on how much environmental review or resident input the city needs to get.
Lee Wilcox, deputy city administrator, and planning director Rosalynn Hughey said the introduction of vaccination sites in Santa Clara County would delay the introduction of vaccines and make it difficult for residents to take their pictures.
“In the course of this pandemic response, it became apparent that flexibility and speed are of the utmost importance in adapting to rapidly changing information, guidance and developments in the pandemic health response,” wrote Wilcox and Hughey on the Feb.25 memo. “Subjecting vaccination activities to the typical land-use permit process would create unnecessary and unacceptable delays.”
Inoculation sites have no noise or crowd concerns that are common at outdoor restaurants or festivals.
This isn’t the first time the city relaxed land use rules during the pandemic. In May, the council created the Al-Fresco program to make it easier for businesses and restaurants to open outdoors and to adhere to social distancing guidelines.
San Jose agreed to help distribute the vaccines across the county by identifying potential clinic locations, hiring staff to operate the clinics, and running its own clinics in areas hardest hit by the virus.
“I will just say, as soon as it is my turn to have my vaccination, I will be happy in the queue and I hope everyone else is too,” said Liccardo.
New vaccination sites – including the state’s largest clinic at Levi’s Stadium – have popped up across the county. A new clinic opened at Eastridge Mall in East San Jose just yesterday, weeks after vaccination clinics opened at Emmanuel Baptist Church and the Mexican Heritage Plaza in East San Jose.
Contact Carly Wipf at [email protected] or follow @CarlyChristineW on Twitter.