“The City of San José values inclusive and sustainable growth. We have taken steps over the past few years to ensure all residents, businesses, and organizations can participate in and benefit from the prosperity and culture of innovation in Silicon Valley. From creating a sustainable, smart city powered by clean energy and using electric vehicles, to going all-in for transit oriented development, progress on our goals will require partnerships like the Champion Mayors initiative, that can engage us with with other cities around the world that are also working to create a more inclusive city.”
– Mayor Sam Liccardo
Sam Liccardo took office as mayor in 2015, and was re-elected in 2018 with 76% of the vote. From 2006 he served two terms on the city council, representing District 3. He previously worked as a prosecutor of sexual assault and child exploitation crimes in the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office and as a federal prosecutor. Sam Liccardo graduated from Georgetown University and attended the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard Law School for his master’s degree.
Building on the city’s 2018 Climate Smart San José plan, at the end of 2021 the City Council adopted a goal to become carbon neutral by 2030. This ambitious goal has two core elements: greening the grid, and then electrifying the economy to take advantage of zero-emission electricity. In 2018, San José became the largest US city to launch a “community choice energy” utility as an alternative for residents who wanted to source energy for their homes sustainably instead of purchasing from investor-owned utilities – private sector energy providers common in the US. As of 2021, 95% of energy supplied by San Jose Clean Energy (SJCE) is Green House Gas (GHG)-free and the public utility continues to invest in large-scale solar and wind projects in California’s Central Valley and in other states to provide electricity for San José residents. With two thirds of San José’s GHG emissions stemming from transportation, the city is encouraging the use of more sustainable modes of mobility. San José is working with regional partners on a $2 billion electrification of the region’s key commuter rail system Caltrain that connects San José to San Francisco, and San José Mineta International Airport deployed its largest fleet of electric buses. San José residents have embraced electric vehicles leading to San José having the third highest adoption rate and the highest per capita rate of charging stations. In 2019, the city adopted an official development policy eliminating gas-powered appliances in new construction. These actions uphold the spirit of San José’s commitment to accomplishing the goals of the Paris Agreement and encourage more American cities to take bold, local action on climate change.
At the start of 2020, the City of San Jose had an estimated 5,117 unhoused residents and only 849 shelter beds available. Within a year, the city leveraged public dollars from local, state, and federal sources with generous philanthropic support to create quick-build apartment communities – safe, more dignified housing solutions built in a fraction of the time and a quarter of the cost of traditional apartments. Instead of congregate shelters, in which unhoused residents were forced to crowd then made to leave early the following morning, San José’s quick-build apartment sites provide more than 300 private bedrooms with ensuite bathrooms. A fourth site is under construction. This model aligns with Santa Clara County’s 2020-2025 Community Plan to End Homelessness through three core strategies: addressing the root causes of homelessness through system and policy change, expanding homelessness prevention and housing programs to meet the need and improving quality of life for unsheltered individuals and creating healthy neighborhoods for all.
Through the San José Digital Inclusion Partnership, local major telecommunication companies and the city supported the deployment of 5G infrastructure citywide and continues to invest in community-based programs to teach digital skills and provide devices and connectivity to low-income families.
As a result of more than 60,000 San José students being unable to reliably learn remotely when COVID-19 hit, San José partnered with schools to accelerate the deployment of community wi-fi to provide free broadband to more than 100,000 residents in East San José neighborhoods. San José aims to connect more than 300,000 residents by the end of 2022.
Seeking to address another challenge, San José Aspires provides nearly 1,200 students from financially-struggling families with a roadmap to higher-education. Students are awarded up to $5,000 in microscholarships for their college-going decisions, actions, and accomplishments in high school. The average California public high school student receives only about 12 minutes of college counseling between freshman year and graduation from high school. San José Aspires awards virtual “scholar dollars” that transform to real dollars upon graduation, to be used to offset college expenses.
The Resilience Corps Program offers paid work experience and a living wage of $24.07/hour to young residents aged 16-30. While in the program, participants receive supervision, case management, and job readiness and professional development. The program started in the summer of 2021 and has already helped almost 500 young people. The pathways in 2021-2022 are Pandemic Response, Environmental Resilience and Disaster Preparedness, Accelerating Learning Recovery, and Economic Recovery. The focus of future pathways will include addressing climate change and learning loss mitigation.