Thank you.

Sam Liccardo
9 min readJan 1, 2023

Friends and neighbors,

As we conclude one year and begin another, my tenure as your Mayor comes to a close.

Thank you. My heart is filled with gratitude.

Thank you for entrusting me with this honor to serve you, and our hometown.

Thank you for continually reminding me of our community’s uniqueness and special character. Every week, I met San Joseans who would inspire me with their commitment to magnanimously give, to boldly innovate, and to courageously create. We celebrated much along the way, but it was in the toughest of times that our community’s virtue shone most brilliantly. So many of you showed a deeply divided nation how a community can come together in crisis: the 1,600 volunteers who helped neighbors within the hours of the 2017 flood; the thousands more who responded to Silicon Valley Strong’s call to distribute food and support vaccination centers; or the many of you who converged at City Hall to mourn with the families of community members we lost in last May’s shooting. In the best and worst of times, this job has deepened my appreciation for our extraordinary community, and for San José’s collective spirit.

Finally, thank you for your partnership and support. Together, we have accomplished much. I don’t expect you to keep track of all of our work together, so I’ve listed several initiatives below. So many of you played critical roles — as volunteers, neighborhood leaders, City employees, employers, non-profits, advocates, supporters, community organizers, voters, sponsors, and philanthropists — tackling some of San José’s greatest challenges.

Of course, the challenges persist–such is the nature of large and complex cities. Yet new leadership brings new perspectives on old problems– and new opportunities to solve them. With your support, I like San José’s chances under Mayor Matt Mahan’s leadership.

In ways we don’t often appreciate, San José’s narrative comprises an incredible epic. By so many objective measures among global cities, San José is a remarkably diverse, innovative, successful community, poised to become America’s next great city. With your continued participation and passion, the best part of San José’s story awaits.

Thank you.

P.S. Here are a few things of the many things we’ve tackled together…

Homelessness and Affordable Housing

  • The 2021 census (aka “point-in-time count”) revealed a slight decline in unsheletered homelessness in San José, marking the first halt to growth in street homelessness in many year
  • We pioneered construction of prefabricated, “quick-build” apartment communities for unhoused residents that reduced construction costs and delay by 80% compared to standard apartment construction. This strategy brought more than 700 people off the street in the first year and a half after the construction of our first three quick-build communities in 2020–21.
  • We launched San José Bridge and then expanded it, now employing hundreds of unhoused residents in cleaning streets and parks for wages, job training, and housing
  • We pioneered the concept of converting two dilapidated San José motels to house homeless residents in 2016, years before California adopted it as a statewide strategy for addressing homelessness. We are now creating hundreds of units of housing through new motel conversions
  • We (as voters) approved Measure E in 2020, which generated more than $100 million annually for homeless and affordable housing solutions last year, and will continue to support critically needed solutions for years to come
  • We dramatically expanded the number of permits for new backyard homes (aka granny units, or ADU’s) by a 40x increase between 2016 and 2021 by streamlining permitting, reducing fees, and standardizing prefabricated building designs
  • We launched a first-in-nation partnership between AirBnB, the Bill Wilson Center, and San Jose State University to address student homelessness with extended-duration stays with AirBnB hosts
  • We expanded opportunities to build tens of thousands of new housing units in the years ahead by resolving the County’s legal objections to new housing construction in North San Jose, lifting height restrictions and reducing fees in Downtown, reducing zoning constraints in urban villages, and eliminating barriers for churches and temples seeking to build affordable housing in adjacent parking lots
  • We housed nearly 2,000 homeless veterans between 2015–2020 (“All the Way Home” campaign) with community partners, by successfully advocating for a federal boost of voucher reimbursements, subsidizing willling landlords, and soliciting help from local employers and churches
  • We partnered with Mastercard to launch “Cash for Trash,” paying more than 500 unhoused residents bimonthly to clean our streets and creeks with debit cards usable exclusively for groceries and necessities.
  • San José became first city in the nation to announce an eviction moratorium as the pandemic struck in March 2020 to avert a massive expansion of homelessness

Fiscal Sustainability and Pension Reform

  • We resolved lengthy battles over pension reform with voter approval in 2016 (Measure G), and with the negotiated agreement of 11 unions, thereby reducing the burden on San José taxpayers for pension and retiree health care liabilities by $3 billion over three decades
  • We reduced our City’s annual financial burdens by paying off debts on golf courses, selling a City-owned hotel, and refinancing and paying down bonds on parking garages and other city buildings.
  • We increased budget reserves to a 20-year high, and improved the San José’s bond rating, now the 2nd-highest among the largest U.S. cities.
  • San José’s budget office projects a surplus in 2023, despite the economic slowdown that has put other Bay Area cities into deficits

Environment and Climate Action

  • We became one of the very first major U.S. cities to almost completely decarbonize our power grid, enabling our one million residents and thousands of businesses to receive electricity that comes from 95% GhG-free sources — the greenest grid of any of the 10 largest U.S. cities.
  • We protected nearly 1,000 acres of open space and farmland–ultimately preserving the greater Coyote Valley for wildlife habitat, protecting water supply, buffering against flood and wildfire, and providing future recreation opportunities–through voter approval of 2018 Measure T.
  • We launched a municipal electric utility, San José Clean Energy, that made San José the largest U.S. city to provide residents and businesses with a choice of their electricity source (“community choice energy”) at a lower rate than PG&E’s
  • We made San José the largest U.S. city to require all-electric new construction of housing and office buildings in 2019.
  • Our voters twice approved ballot measures (2018 Measures B & C) to protect hillsides and open space from environmental destruction, against developers spending $6 million on a misleading campaign

Public Safety and Emergency Response

  • We embarked on rebuilding the thinly-staffed San Jose Police Department, expanding the force by about 200 officers since 2017 (net of retirements/departures), re-establishing a walking patrol, and adding community service officers to improve response
  • San José became the first U.S. city to implement a gun liability insurance requirement for gun owners to reduce gun-related harm and risk, and within months, it will be the first to leverage gun fees to support community-based efforts to reduce gun violence with programs focused on mental health , domestic violence prevention, and suicide prevention
  • We (as voters) approved $750 million in bonds through Measure T in 2018 to construct an emergency operations center, four new fire stations, flood protection, and other public safety infrastructure–most of which is under construction today
  • In 2016, our voters approved two ballot measures to finance the restoration of personnel to the dramatically diminished San José Police and Fire Departments; as a result, the SJPD budget increased more than 50% in seven years.
  • We approved changes to our City Charter through Measure G in 2020, to expand the authority of the independent auditor’s office over police misconduct, and were among the first cities to install body-worn cameras on every patrol officer
  • We expanded civilian, non-sworn response to public safety issues raining from mental health, homeless response, and neighborhood problem-solving
  • We rebuilt our Emergency Management team, re-instituted volunteer emergency readiness (“CERT”) programs, and launched innovative initiatives to improve disaster preparedness with AirBnB (“Open Homes”) and other partners
  • We mobilized to help neighbors in need, giving more than $7 million in private contributions for relief of 2017 flood victims, and more than $15 million for relief of low-income and unhoused residents and small businesses struggling with pandemic in 2020, in addition to the 4,000 volunteers who rolled up their sleeves through the Silicon Valley Strong campaign
  • Volunteers, non-profit organizations, and the City coordinated with the County on an outreach and public health campaign that made San José the major city with highest vaccination rate in the US (>92% in late 2021)

Educational Opportunity and Digital Inclusion

  • We connected more than 150,000 East San Jose residents with broadband through a free community wi-fi initiative with East Side Union High School District
  • We launched a first-of-its-kind digital platform, “San Jose Aspires,” to provide micro-scholarships to help guide and support first-generation students to reach college, leveraging more than $10 million in private contributions to support nearly 2,000 students from low-income families on their college-going journey
  • We created San Jose Works to provide summer jobs and support for more than 5,000 teens, mostly from gang-impacted neighborhoods
  • We launched and sustained San José Learns, an initiative to extend the learning day for thousands of K-3 students in 16 high-need neighborhoods
  • Local tech employers partnered with our Library and SJ Public Library Foundation teams to provide coding and computer science instruction to more than 8,000 public elementary school students through the 5K Coding Challenge
  • We embarked on digital inclusion efforts with many partners that enabled remote learning for 60,000 students from low-income families previously unable to connect prior to the pandemic

Transit and Transportation

  • For the first time in decades, we are repaving every San José street, due our community’s approval of 2016 Measure B and 2018 Measure T at the ballot box. San Jose’s street pavement index improved for the first time in two decades.
  • We brought BART to San Jose by opening the Berryessa North San Jose BART station in 2020, and we gained federal approval to enter the FTA program to finance construction of a extension to Downtown San Jose
  • With regional transit partners, we got light rail expansion under construction in East San Jose, and electrification of CalTrain underway
  • To help accelerate San José’s transition from the automobile, we dramatically expanded dozens of miles of separated and buffered bike lanes, implemented “quick-build” improvements that to reduce traffic speeds and improve pedestrian safety, eliminated parking minimums on new development, and incentivized developers to support housing and office projects that reduce auto dependency

More Equitable and Resilient Economy

  • We have seen Google commence the largest private-sector investment in San José’s history at Downtown West — including 7 million square feet of offices, 4,000 apartments (25% affordable), and retail, restaurants, and amenities — a project more than twice the size of Apple’s global headquarters. Google committed to contribute $1 billion+ community benefits package, including the construction of at least 1,000 affordable housing units, contribution of $250 million for local non-profits, and hundreds of millions more for trails, parks and other amenities.
  • San José led a collective push among several cities countywide to increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour in 2016, with cost-of-living increases thereafter
  • San José became the destination for an unprecedented expansion of tech employment–without any public subsidies or tax breaks– including announcements of new campuses from major companies (such as Amazon, Apple, Google, Micron, Microsoft, NetApp, Verizon, and Western Digital); new headquarters for smaller tech companies, (such as NetApp, Okta, Roku, Splunk, and Yahoo); and expansions of employers with deep San José roots (such as Adobe, Broadcom, SK Hynix, Nio, Supermicro, and Zoom).
  • We created an Office of Immigrant Affairs to support immigrant-led small businesses, help residents seek and obtain citizenship and DACA relief, and bolster community response to threats of raids and deportations
  • We employed several hundreds of young adults from struggling neighborhoods through the San Jose Resilience Corps to support our community through food distribution, tutoring students, mitigating wildfire, drought, and other climate-related risks

Innovation, Technology, & Data

  • We set a goal through our “Smart City Vision” in 2016 to make San José the nation’s most innovative city. The City workforce embraced the vision, using data and technology to improve emergency medical response, identify high-risk traffic collision corridors for safety improvements, rapidly locate PG&E blackouts, improve census count, and hasten food and health pandemic response to vulnerable residents. Government Technology magazine deemed San José the top digital large U.S. city in both 2020 and 2021.