Housing and public safety were the hot topics at Silicon Valley Leadership Group’s Annual Luncheon Friday.
Hundreds packed into the Santa Clara Convention Center to hear from politicos and business leaders including Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, State Controller Betty Yee, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo and Governor Gavin Newsom’s Chief of Staff Ann O’Leary. But the “Community Conversations,” as the Leadership Group called them, stayed in line with some of California’s biggest issues.
“I would say that the biggest issues on our agenda are really about affordability and opportunity,” O’Leary said about Newsom’s priorities. “You can’t live anywhere in California without realizing that the prices [are] so real. We put $1.75 billion dollars into our budget on affordable housing, but we have so far to go.”
When he took office earlier this year, Newsom vowed to build 3.5 million homes over the next five years. But to do that, O’Leary said they’re going to need to collaborate with local governments. California’s third largest city, San Jose, hopes to contribute to some of that housing stock. In 2017, Liccardo set a goal of building 25,000 new homes—10,000 of them affordable—by 2022.
On Friday, Liccardo said he wants Silicon Valley’s so-called capital to play a more innovative role in the construction industry. While there has been some progress in boosting interest in prefabricated backyard homes, it hasn’t been enough to keep pace with the growing need for affordable housing.
“We’ve been able to permit more ADUs, or backyard homes, in the last year than we saw in the last four years combined,” Liccardo said. “And we think we can really drive that cost down now with prefabricated modular construction so this is a great opportunity for us to get affordable housing built and partner with a lot of homeowners.”
Liccardo also gave attendees an update on his gun liability proposal. The mayor announced the policy in August, just weeks after a gunman opened fire on a crowd at the Gilroy Garlic Festival. The plan would require firearms owners to carry liability insurance for their weapons. If someone wasn’t able to acquire the insurance, they’d pay a fee to help offset the cost of gun violence in San Jose.
Liccardo said that his team has been working with the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence and Everytown For Gun Safety, among other organizations, to review the legal aspects of the policy.
“If you can imagine it is complex, of course any time you’re dealing with a constitutional right,” he said. “But we expect to be at council in the next couple of months with a formal proposal that would have insurance mandate for anyone owning a gun in the city.”
Liccardo said he hopes other cities and states take notice and follow with similar policies.
Schaaf also chimed in on the region’s housing crisis, but from a transportation angle, blaming the Bay Area’s traffic jams on the inability to “plan adequately for housing.”
“If we wanted to solve our commute problems we could do it faster and cheaper by just building affordable housing near jobs,” she said.“These mega commutes are really unhealthy for our families and for our planet.”