How sweet it is – Summertime! What’s not to love about Summer in Los Gatos, okay maybe the cut-through beach traffic, but besides that there is not much. The Promenades have even made it more special this summer - thanks to all of you. We are hoping to bring a series of Promenades back for y’all next summer. This August newsletter has some salt in it as well though, so if interested read on and form your own opinion.
Yesterday, I had the opportunity to talk with a young man about our Town, about the Chamber and our County, as well as our country, homelessness and affordable housing, politics and about his aspirations and mine. To say it was inspirational and hopeful would be an understatement. The conversation was so refreshing and fun. There are people who still believe in democracy, who still believe they can make a difference, who still believe we can accomplish our goals and can find solutions to the big problems we face. Were we all so idealistic when we were in our early twenties - I know I was. At what point did we give up and think our efforts were futile or in vain? At what point did our perspective change?
The conversation did get me thinking about our small-town Chamber of Commerce and who we are, what we believe. We try to be relevant and important. Chambers are unique in this way because they are a direct reflection of a Town’s business community, its government and its residents. A Chamber embodies a town’s personality, and has the distinct advantage of staying one step out of politics. Once a week, we ask ourselves, “What should we be promoting and for what we are fighting?” We think about what our members and the community would answer, but our personal beliefs also play a part. I just hope we get it mostly right.
Personally, I am kind of frustrated that our County Health officials are mandating that we all have to wear masks again. What the heck, truth be told, half the reason I got the vaccine was to not wear a mask. The other half of my reasoning was that I felt it was the right thing to do. I cannot tell you all what to do, only you can make that decision. Unfortunately, here we are, again, facing Covid adversity and as frustrated as I am for the sake of the country and the world’s health, maybe wearing a mask for a few more months is okay.
A few other inquiries caught my attention this week. One middle-aged gentleman queried that if the Chamber supported the efforts of the Los Gatos Anti-Racism Coalition, then we must be in favor of defunding the police as that is one of their charters. For the record, yes, the Los Gatos Chamber does support the efforts of the Anti-Racism Coalition. That group has helped us navigate an interesting time in history; one that needs reflection. Through their eyes, we have been enlightened to the fact that maybe Los Gatos can be more welcoming and inclusive. We are not going to change suddenly overnight, but there is nothing wrong with listening and learning and critically thinking. However, we have a great police department and I am awed by the fact that they are open to looking inward, making changes and becoming more transparent. Defunding the police has never meant getting rid of the police department, rather it means doing some analysis. Change is okay.
Lastly, and wow, the Town’s General Plan Proposal in the 9th hour (not even the 11th), particularly the housing element, sure brought a lot of people out on NextDoor. There will be many more iterations of this Plan. Everyone has plenty of chances to weigh in before the Plan is signed and sealed. Even then, you are still going to have many chances to give input. In fact, Council decided to add up to 4 members to the Housing Element Committee. Now is your chance to apply and be part of the solution.
To the outside observer, one would think we will have 4000 new housing units built in the next few weeks and there will be at least 10,000 new people moving into Town by the end of the year. Really? Is common sense no longer a thing? The General Plan is a plan. The Housing Element is part of that plan. We are planning, wisely I might add, for the next 20 years. Many factors will weigh into the many changes that will ultimately happen in those 20 years. A plan is a thoughtful, well-designed roadmap, where our Town Council, Planning Commission, Housing Element Subcommittee and staff will focus their energy. The RHNA numbers may go up or may go down after the first 8 years of the plan. No one knows. It is highly unlikely that our Town will ever have too much housing.
Right now, our concern should be that right now we need some affordable housing. We need workforce housing; places where our teachers and our restaurant workers can live; places where our fireman and police officers can live, homes or condos that our children can afford to buy, or where our parents can live. We do not have an adequate supply right now and we sure have not held up our end of the deal these last 20 years when we said we would build some of this housing. Building affordable housing is our civic duty and responsibility, and wouldn’t you rather be in the Director’s Chair on this one, deciding how and where we are going build it, instead of allowing the State to do it for us? In addition, just because we plan for it, doesn’t necessarily mean it will get built – it is a plan and an opportunity. A developer still needs to be interested, apply for permits, get public input and build. If we hold up this Plan, we are potentially giving the farm away. Let’s own it and be a part of making this Plan a good one. Look around, the towns that are vibrant and thriving have diversity in all forms, in culture, in age, in interests. I think we should all rally around getting that General Plan passed. Growth is healthy and okay.
If I was still in my twenties, I wonder if Covid, the misunderstanding of the critical race theory, defunding the Police and affordable housing would seem like small obstacles standing in the way of peace and equality in the world? Like that young man I met yesterday, I am hoping I would have thought they were just minor bumps in the road. We need those young idealists and dreamers around so that we don’t give up. Anything is possible, but we do have to stay calm, listen to each other, compromise and vow to work together.
Form your opinion and give me a call if you think you think I need to change mine.
In the meantime, I look forward to seeing you out at the Promenade.
Cheers to the sweet summer of 2021.