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The Leader September 2013

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When the Doors are Locked, Check the Windows

By Carl Guardino, President and CEO

In Silicon Valley, the epicenter of the earth’s innovation economy, we rarely take “no” for an answer. In this month’s edition of “The Leader,” please read two compelling examples as to why the collective work of our 375-member companies is so important, and the challenging and creative ways we try to address them.

In the first article, our Vice President of Housing and Community Development Shiloh Ballard’s puts into perspective our two-year effort for thoughtful reform of the much-abused California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Shiloh, one of the top environmental leaders in our region, clearly lays out what is at stake and why we will continue to fight for comprehensive and meaningful reform.

As newspaper editorial boards have opined throughout the summer, the abuse of CEQA is rarely for legitimate environmental reasons; but rather, “greenmail” by NIMBY’s, business competitors and labor unions.

In the second article, our Senior Vice President Dennis Cima provides each of us with a time-sensitive opportunity to impact the life of a school-aged child, while positively impacting our own lives in the process. Yes, the Leadership Group earns significant policy victories each year at the regional, state and federal levels of government. Yet, as Dennis explains, we also score meaningful victories with programs and projects that are equally worthwhile, and that can be brought to scale.

Please enjoy both of these brief articles – and then engage. Don’t be discouraged by the occasional locked door. Beat it down. Or check the window. Or find a garage – a time-honored tradition in Silicon Valley.

 

Current CEQA Reform Measure Not Meaningful or Comprehensive

By Shiloh Ballard, Vice President of Housing & Community Development

As the legislative session winds down, it remains to be seen whether a worthwhile California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) bill will emerge, one that helps protect the environment while curbing abuses. Senate Bill 731 (Steinberg) and the original CEQA reform discussions had promise but the scope of the bill has been whittled down. In addition, a last minute CEQA bill has been introduced to help build an arena in Sacramento to house the Kings basketball team. At this point, the words “meaningful” and “comprehensive” cannot be used to describe these CEQA measures.

That said, some interesting concepts are being vetted by the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research, (OPR). These concepts include the disclosure of settlement agreements, better defining thresholds of significance and a fix for the outmoded use of level of service standards to assess traffic impacts.

In the meantime, the onslaught of CEQA abuse continues. Three notable challenges in the past few weeks in Silicon Valley are:

  1. Maybell Affordable Housing: An affordable housing development in Palo Alto for seniors faces a CEQA challenge after being unanimously approved by the City Council. The main concern of the challengers is traffic, despite the fact that the senior demographic is known to drive significantly less than the average person. Unfortunately, in addition to a CEQA challenge, the neighbors have collected enough signatures to qualify a referendum and the project will now go to the voters in November. (Vote yes on D!)
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  3. A Netflix sequel: A second CEQA challenge was filed against the project that would house the expanded Netflix headquarters in Los Gatos. After being approved by the Council two years ago, the original project was successfully challenged by those who believe the project threatens the town’s character. In response, the developer started over. The new project reduced the height and removed the housing component in order to address height and traffic concerns. After being approved by the Council and then facing a new CEQA challenge by the same people who filed the first one, a Santa Clara County judge sided with the developer and the project is now moving forward.
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  5. Labor challenge to high-rise housing: The third recent CEQA challenge was by the Building Trades against a high-rise residential development in downtown San Jose, two blocks from the light rail station and in the area where San Jose has proactively directed growth. Testimony from the Trades representative made it clear that the top concern was local labor.
  6. All three projects exemplify environmentally preferable growth patterns – building up near transit and other services in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and grow in a more environmentally sustainable method. All three illustrate how CEQA is used to force costly delays for non-environmental purposes.

    The CEQA work of the Leadership Group comes with a real price tag and we need help. Please contact Shiloh Ballard at sballard@svlg.org if you would like to support the effort.

    Closing the Achievement Gap with 1000 Hearts for 1000 Minds

    By Dennis Cima, Senior Vice President

    Back to school is an exciting time. In our home, back to school is an annual exercise in shopping, logistics, and getting our daughters into “school mode,” a mode that is accompanied by the nearly audible sound of gears turning once again in their brains. Back to school is also an exciting time for me personally as I begin another year volunteering at Horace Mann Elementary School in downtown San Jose with Reading Partners, a nonprofit literacy organization that recruits and trains community volunteers to provide one-on-one reading tutoring to students in under-resourced schools across the country.

    Have you considered helping an elementary school student with reading or math? Chances are you will receive more than you give. I have.

    I learned about Reading Partners through an effort the Leadership Group and San Jose City Councilman Sam Liccardo co-founded called “1000 Hearts for 1000 Minds.”

    It was designed to match our region’s volunteer opportunities across a variety of educational organizations to talented folks in Silicon Valley companies, schools and communities.

    I volunteer one hour per week during the school year with Reading Partners, and it could not be easier.

    I volunteer before I go in to the office, the program’s lessons are easy to follow, and I am supported by both the program and school staff. Most importantly, this program has a robust evaluation component allowing me to see the difference I am making with a child in need of my support. This program and the many others like it that are linked through “1000 Hearts for 1000 Minds” are making a difference.

    In Silicon Valley we have so much talent and, believe it or not, time at our disposal. There are many ways to give back to our community, particularly as we think about the next generation of community leaders, engineers, risk takers and dreamers.

    Please join the effort to improve the academic achievement of all our students and volunteer your time. It’s easy. Just one mouse-click will get you on your way at: www.hearts4minds.org.

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