San Jose, California, is moving ahead with plans for two bond measures on the November ballot that would raise $1.1 billion for public safety, infrastructure and affordable housing.

The Tuesday vote by the City Council represented a shift in strategy, with the city splitting the proposal into two measures instead of one and increasing the amount sought for improvement projects.

Aerial view of sunset over downtown San Jose in California
San Jose, California, voters will decide the fate of $1.1 billion of bond authorization requests. Adobe Stock

One measure would raise $650 million for projects to upgrade the city’s 911 emergency response system and police, fire and paramedic facilities; repair streets and bridges; improve storm drains and other infrastructure projects.

The second $450 million bond measure would provide funding for affordable housing projects.

The city had 1,051,316 residents as of Jan. 1, according to the California Department of Finance, making it the state's third most populous.

Since spring, the city has been polling voters on amounts ranging from $150 million to $750 million and testing what types of projects might gain the most support.

A staff report to the City Council proposed a $950 million measure to raise funds for public safety, roads, bridges and affordable housing.

In a separate memo, Mayor Sam Liccardo suggested splitting the projects into the $450 million and $650 million bond measures based on the results of polling conducted over the summer.

Those surveys tested voters on their support for a $950 million bond measure and found support at or just below the two-thirds threshold required for approval, according to a staff report to the council.

The polling also showed the bond measure doing better with housing as part of the package versus just public safety and infrastructure. Support went up after those polled were given positive arguments for the bond measure, the report said.

The pollster concluded that passage is challenging but viable and that clear ballot language with a robust campaign will be needed.

Liccardo said that splitting the measures would give the city the best opportunity to win both or one of the measures. Because the state imposes a 75-word ballot language limit, two measures allows the city to provide more compelling arguments for how the money would be spent for each one, he said.

He noted the polling shows support right at the threshold and that support improved with positive arguments given to potential voters.

“We need to push pretty hard to win this one,” Liccardo said at the meeting.

The mayor has set a goal of creating 10,000 housing units over the next half-decade. City officials say San Jose also has a $1.4 billion unfunded infrastructure backlog.

“I know I hear a lot and I know my colleagues hear a lot about, we need to do something about homelessness, we need to do something about affordable housing, we need to do something about streets,” Councilwoman Devora Davis said in voting in support.

The City Council approved both measures with only days before the Friday deadline to make the November ballot. The council will meet again Friday morning for a special meeting to vote on the final language for the measures.

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