La Oferta

September 22, 2023

“The City did do a miserable job, I’m not proud of it…” – Susan Hammer

March 5, 1990

By Yolanda Reynolds

La Oferta Newspaper
La Oferta Newspaper

La Oferta Review each week is featuring the responses of San Jose Mayoral candidates to some of the issues and concerns that have been voiced within our community.

There is no order in which the candidates were selected for interview other than their availability at then time the Oferta Reporter telephoned for an interview.

It is intended that all of the candidates will be interviewed. At this time there are seven announced candidates. In order to be as fair as possible, the mayoral candidates were interviewed and asked the same questions.

Susan W. Hammer was the second candidate to be interviewed. Susan has served seven years as District 3 Representative on the San Jose City Council. District 3 encompasses most the central (downtown) San Jose.

From 1985-1987 Susan Hammer served as Vice Mayor of the City of San Jose. She is married to Phil Hammer, a San Jose attorney and has three adult children, Hali, Phil, Matt a daughter in law, Donna, and a grandson Nicolas.

Janet Gray Hayes appointed Susan to the Council in 1983 when the District 3 position was left vacant by the resignation of Jim Self. Hammer ran for the position in 1986 and won.

In her Mayoral bid, Susan Hammer has significant endorsements, among others, those endorsing her are Vice Mayor Blanca Alvarado, and Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors, Ron Gonzales.

Hammer and Frank Fiscalini have co-chaired the Downtown Wording Review Committee (DWRC), a powerful committee that makes recommendations to the Redevelopment Agency Board (City Council) regarding the City’s Redevelopment Projects.

Susan Hammer has served on numerous commissions and boards within the community.

By placing her name in the running for the Mayoral seat, Hammer is not running for reelection to her seat on the Council.

1. There is a perception within the Hispanic community that there is an unequal distribution of city services in the community. Example: District 5 is one of the districts with the fewest of neighborhood parks; Alviso, in District 4, a community with a large percentage of Hispanic families not only lacks city services but is very concerned about a dump that has for years been allowed to function without permits or proper zoning. The list goes on – How will you address these problems – in your response be specific to the examples mentioned.

SH – Fist of all, a general comment, you should have sent these questions out before – so that people have time to think… I’ll take by best shot at it.

As a District 5, I guess you understand how parks are funded – through the Construction Conveyance Tax. There have been inequities.

District 5 does not have a lot of resale of homes, or a lot of construction activity – (therefore in District 5) that fund does not generate a lot of money. Though there have recently been changes to allow a more equitable distribution among those districts who have more of the C&C Taxes to those districts that have less – there are (still) unmet needs for more parks and libraries – we must strive to meet those needs.

I will continue to look at the unmet needs of the City of San Jose there are a tremendous number of parks and libraries needed – we constantly must strive to find sources of revenue to meet those needs.

I agree with the premise of this question, I think that there are districts that have been overlooked and haven’t gotten their fare share.

As to the Alviso dump question – that was very, very difficult decision. When it came before the council I went into a meeting prepared to vote against the staff and attorney’s recommendation to go through a General Plan change to make it, (the dump), legal because it has caused some problems out there – but (I) became convinced that the only way to correct the problem was – that the City have control over the problem.

During the course of the questioning and the debate, I became convinced that the process – the long bureaucratic process was the only way to we could have control over the problem – it, (the dump), has to be dealt with.

2. The educational achievement of all youth has been failing, particularly for Hispanic youth. What do you propose to do to help with this situation? How do you envision the city’s role in education?

SH – I’m not going to be specific on that – because we’re planning to come out on some specifics on a variety of issues, education being one of them – so at this point – until we have a press conference, I will then make an announcement that – I don’t feel comfortable getting specific at this time.

The City does have a role (in education). I have worked diligently for after school recreation programs for latch key kids and obtained another million dollars for after school programs for latch key kids to avoid having them going to empty homes after school – all of this helps, but it doesn’t really address the problem.

As Mayor there are exciting possibilities to be in addressing these issues.

3. Affordable housing is an issue. How do you plan to alleviate the scarcity of such housing? Do you support a land banking program? Redevelopment Law requires that no less than 20 percent of its money be spent in housing. Do you support the proposition that 50 percent of the Redevelopment monies be spent on housing? Why? Why not?

SH – I strongly support land banking. As to the 50 percent – the City is looking at ways to enhance the housing money at this point. At his point the Agency Board is looking at bonding for the 20 percent money which would generate millions and millions of dollars – depending on how we bond it, we can raise anywhere from 25 million to 70 million.

We have also asked the staff to look for more ways to generate more revenues. I’ll wait on an answer (to this question) – I’m not going to take a position on the (suggested Increase) 50 percent. It’s not all that simple. There are commitments out there – for instance, the arena, the Highway 87 extension (through Downtown) – from Taylor to Highway 101. It makes it very difficult to say “yes” without getting information back and looking at the big picture.

4. Hispanics feel that there has been an unequal distribution of arts funding and a distinct lack of recognition of the Hispanic/Indian contribution to San Jose’s History. Example: erection of a statue to Thomas Fallon, a man who many see as a conqueror and an insult to the Hispanic community, and now – there is the officially sanctioned proposal to close the only Spanish language theater in downtown San Jose. There is a lack of an “official” Hispanic presence in downtown San Jose – and a growing dissatisfaction with that absence.

How will you address these concerns? Please respond in general to the above mentioned perception and to the specific examples that have caused great concern and controversy. Finally, would you support a major Hispanic oriented cultural center with support given it not unlike that given the Opera, Symphony, Museum, etc.

S.H. – As to the perception – I think it is a reality – I was chair of the 20/20 Arts Task Force that met for one year, and it became very clear to me – and before these meetings it already was clear to me that there was an unequal distribution – but particularly as a result of the Arts 20/20 Report and working with MAPA and the multi-cultural sub committee that this (arts funding), is an issue that must be addressed. Multicultural groups are getting more now – from the Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) and we are also soliciting outside funds.

The Studio (issue) – is very difficult – with two – competing interests. As you know, I have been very involved with arts in the community and I think we are now making some decision that will help all of the arts.

Through the Arts 20/20 (process) we, (The City), have worked very closely with multicultural groups. We are working with the Repertory Theater, a major user of the Montgomery Theater to free up Montgomery to make room for other groups. (We) are responding to multicultural group demands.

I guess what I am saying – on the one hand we-re responding to the multicultural arts groups and on the other hand have the competing interests that seems as if we were doing it, (meeting these demands, by driving a Hispanic businesses out of the City.

I met with Frank Taylor to share my concern (regarding the Spanish language theater) and asked him to find another place in downtown San Jose that the Studio could go.

Whether that will happen – I won’t know – but it’s something I intend to work for.

5. There is a perception that Hispanic businesses are not desired in downtown and in fact have been deliberately displaced. A downtown Business Association letter to the City’s Downtown Working Review committee (DWRC) states:

“Retail surrounding the San Antonio blocks, particularly south of San Carlos and north of San Fernando Streets, is in a state of transition. The diversity of retail in this area adds to the character of downtown. However, many of the off-price and ethnic stores do not develop sound product or pricing strategies that enable them to effectively complement new retail if maximize sales per square foot of retail space.”

How do you react to the statement made in that memo? What measures will you take to promote downtown Hispanic owned and market oriented businesses?

S.H. – First, I have spent seven years working with Hispanic businesses in downtown – I have gone to innumerable meetings with the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, assuring them that through the City they could expect assistance so that they can remain viable businesses especially during transit mall and downtown construction.

Second of all, you look that quote out of context – I thank that is unfair. The City has provided money so that (it) can give technical assistance to minority businesses and help them with marketing plans and financial plans so they don’t close because they can’t compete in the downtown.

We want to work not only with the Hispanic businesses, but the Vietnamese and other minority businesses downtown.

So, I think that the assumption made by reading that quote out of context is wrong – that the Downtown Association and the City are not supportive of those businesses is – really erroneous.

6. Redevelopment has demolished housing in downtown San Jose, example; the Guadalupe Auzerais neighborhood for the Convention Center, Children’s Discovery Museum, and more recently for the arena, and the Guadalupe River Park, etc. Many, if not the majority, of those displaced were Hispanic families. Some say that Redevelopment is really Hispanic removal. Currently no Redevelopment 20 percent housing dollars will be spent in the Central Incentive Zone that covers a large part of Central San Jose and includes the areas of displaced housing. Do you consider this policy racist? Why? Why not?

S.H. – First of all that statement is incorrect – We are spending 20 percent replacement housing to help place those people who were displaced by the projects you just mentioned.

I’d be glad to drive you around the Central Incentive Zone (CIZ). There are 20-30 housing units right down at Almaden and Duane – those people are being given an opportunity to be relocated in the same geographic area they lived in before. I think it’s the right thing to do. I’ve taken a lead in that.

It’s an incorrect statement when you say monies are not being spent to locate the people in the downtown – there are projects all over downtown – I’ll be happy to show you.

The City did do a miserable job – I am not proud of it – (I’s) a black mark on the City on how it handled Guadalupe Auzerais (resident) location.