The San Jose Downtown Association is undertaking a nationwide search to replace longtime executive director Scott Knies, who was promoted to chief executive officer last week. Knies will step down Nov. 1, 2022, after 34 years with the organization, as part of a planned succession anticipated in its August 2020 strategic plan.
The downtown association is using the executive recruitment firm HRS Inc. to manage the search. “We’ve been succession planning for several years,” said Alan “Gumby” Marques, president of the SJDA Board of Directors and owner of Heroes Martial Arts. “Scott exits prior to the November elections and our new CEO will start together with the next mayor.”
SJDA was founded in the then-unnamed SoFA District in 1986 by photographer Ray Rodriguez and newspaper publisher Dan Pulcrano. The two organized a group of independent businesses to provide them with a voice and engage in coordinated promotions during a period that saw the city’s center transformed by several large redevelopment projects. At the beginning, it operated inside the offices of the Metro newspaper, with a part time administrative assistant and 100 members.
Knies came aboard two years later, after the volunteer-run organization secured city funding that enabled it to hire its first executive, establish its first independent office and begin a series of promotions that included the Music in the Park summer concert series, street festivals, a fireworks show, restaurant promotions, outdoor movies, the Downtown Farmers’ Market and the Downtown Ice skating rink. Former San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed was an early president prior to entering politics and co-led the campaign to establish downtown’s first Business Improvement District.
Knies built the grassroots organization into one which owns its offices, manages two assessment districts—one paid by businesses and the other by property owners—operates a foundation that creates artwork for downtown doorways and plays a role in influencing city policy on issues affecting downtown. In 2014, it incorporated the Downtown Community Development Corporation. The four entities have combined revenues in the neighborhood of $6 million annually.
Under Knies, SJDA has advocated for initiatives that include BART subway planning; promoting higher building heights downtown; Google’s plans for Downtown West; free parking in city-owned garages; and improved light rail station design.
SJDA developed several iconic projects that include the winter skating rink encircled by 32 palm trees; the SoFA Pocket Park and Hart’s Dog Parks and the MOMENT shops at the Market San Pedro Square Garage to activate both sides of San Pedro Street.
The SJDA launched the Property-Based Improvement District (PBID) in 2008 that resulted in Groundwerx to clean and beautify streets and sidewalks. The PBID is currently in the formal process of renewing its term for another 10 years through 2032.
For more information about the SJDA CEO position, click here. Applications are due April 22, 2022.
Along the same lines, public interest reporting would have explained precisely what the San Jose Downtown Association, Business Improvement District, Downtown Community Development Corporation and Property-Based Improvement District do, how they are funded and who decides, in particular, what these entities do with public funds or public property. It would also explain what is “grassroots” about what appears to be an association of businesses (it sounds more like “astroturf,” actually). And it would explain the relationship between the owner of the Metro publication and all of the above and the role of that publication itself as a mouthpiece for all of the above.
Serious journalism might begin with a flowchart focusing on the source, magnitude and direction of fund flows between these entities and others. This could be augmented with a flowchart indicating who makes what decisions regarding those funds and where they are situated in the flowchart. Then maybe we would have half a chance to understand what this all means. As it is, this piece is just stenography.