Trial project hopes to improve San José vacant storefront blight

ABC 7 KGO November 7, 2017

San José's City Council is expected to approve an initiative first proposed two years ago by Council Member Raul Peralez to require landlords to register vacant downtown storefronts.

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- Proposed two years ago, the San José's City Council is expected to approve an initiative today that would require landlords to register vacant downtown storefronts.

There has been much criticism over boarded-up windows and no lighting create an unattractive and potentially unsafe environment. Some call it blight.

The initiative, proposed by Council Member Raul Peralez, would require landlords to register storefronts vacant at the 30-day mark, unless permits are in place for redevelopment. They would also be required to pay a quarterly registration fee of $202.

Those who fail to register will be automatically enrolled and charged the fee after 90 days. In addition, property owners will pay $606 monthly to cover monthly code inspections.

City staff recommended vacant storefronts include outdoor lighting to provide safety for pedestrians after dark. That was a welcome idea by a woman who frequently visits downtown San José to patronize restaurants and other attractions.

At the same time, San José's Office of Economic Development will encourage storefronts be used for temporary art galleries on pop-up shops. The city, along with the San José Downtown Association (SJDA), will work with property owners to identify potential tenants.

SJDA's Executive Director Scott Knies says his group, which includes property owners, is willing to support the 18-month trial to see if it can provide a carrot to landlords to fix up storefronts. However, Knies points out that the majority of property owners are not the target of this initiative, but rather a small number who have done little to address unsightly storefronts.