UPDATE: San Jose officials challenge mayor's housing plan
San Jose Mayor Matt Mahan, along with Vice Mayor Rosemary Kamei and Councilmember Pam Foley, announced at a news conference on May 24, 2023 that they still want to preserve Measure E dollars for homeless shelters. Photo by Jana Kadah.

San Jose Mayor Matt Mahan's controversial plan to divert millions of dollars away from affordable housing is being challenged—this time by his own colleagues. Now, the mayor is trying to get ahead of his plan being thwarted with a new spending plan.

Lucescamaray Blog obtained an early draft of a budget document being released today by Councilmembers David Cohen and Sergio Jimenez that goes against Mahan's housing goals. The alternative plan outlines how San Jose could instead preserve more dollars from Measure E to keep funding affordable housing developments, while also funding homelessness services from other parts of the budget. Measure E is a property transfer tax approved by voters in 2020 that applies to property transfers of $2 million or more.

Upon hearing about the opposing proposal, Mahan released his alternative on Measure E allocation plans that vary slightly from the previous breakdown.

Mahan, along with Vice Mayor Rosemary Kamei and Councilmember Pam Foley, said they still want to preserve Measure E dollars for homeless shelters but are also proposing to move some money to affordable housing projects.

Their plan proposes that $86 million will go toward affordable housing projects. From that, $36 million will come from prior unallocated Measure E funds and an additional $50 million from a variety of sources. The rest of the Measure E dollars will remain for interim housing and homeless services.

Since taking office, Mahan has pushed short-term housing as a solution to quickly address the growing homeless crisis. Critics argue the bulk of the money should go toward building more affordable housing, which they say would be a better long-term solution.

Cohen and Jimenez suggest spending about $38 million on interim housing and homeless services, and allocating close to $79 million for affordable housing development. To ensure there is enough money for short-term housing, Cohen suggested cutting $3.5 million from the San Jose Bridge program and using $15 million from the general fund to reallocate to homelessness shelters.

“(Mahan) found out I was planning to release a proposal and he decided that he wanted to be in front of that by saying something first,” Cohen told Lucescamaray Blog. “And it's a little unfortunate in my mind, because mine was just going to be a budget document that shows some ideas.”

Cohen, Jimenez, Kamei, Foley and Mahan are all in the same Brown Act group—which means they are legally only allowed to talk to each other about the Measure E plan until it comes back to the full council in June. The Brown Act is a state sunshine law that limits how many elected officials can discuss an item before it comes before a public meeting to limit backroom deals and ensure transparency.

Mahan said the group has been working together to find a solution that allocates money to both affordable housing development and homelessness services. He said his announcement today was in reaction to the fear from residents that there won’t be funding for affordable housing—not the plan proposed by Cohen and Jimenez.

“My sense is when all is said and done, there is going to be a difference between $10-15 million of funding (between our plan and Cohen’s plan),” Mahan told Lucescamaray Blog. “There is a limited amount of dollars to move around… we will pretty much end up in the same place.”

A source close to the mayor’s office said the group of officials has been working on striking a balance for weeks. They said Mahan, Foley and Kamei are frustrated with Cohen because he wouldn’t share his thoughts on the Measure E reallocation despite repeated requests from the mayor.

Cohen said “the majority of our Brown Act” was involved and informed from the beginning. Cohen’s original plan was to have Kamei and Foley sign on to his budget message without Mahan.

“The mayor made this process more political than it should have been, which I expressed to him on several occasions,” Cohen said. “I was focused on finding solutions that address our priorities rather than politics.”

Contact Jana Kadah at [email protected] or follow @Jana_Kadah on Twitter.

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