News Column

EDITORIAL: San Jose Historic Landmarks Commission in danger of gutting

August 12, 2014

San Jose Mercury News



Aug. 12--San Jose Councilman Donald Rocha is on a mission to salvage the independence and purpose of the city's Historic Landmarks Commission. We hope he succeeds -- and we hope preservation advocates pack the council chambers Tuesday afternoon to keep this important commission from being gutted.

In his usual thoughtful style, Rocha set out in a memo all the reasons Ramiro Torres and Marilyn Messina deserve to be reappointed. His argument is linked at the end of this editorial, but to sum it up, they are highly qualified and in their first terms have done an excellent job of carrying out the intent of the commission, which is to study and determine whether buildings are historic and to make recommendations to the city council. The council can reject the findings, but it's a lot easier to tear down historic buildings if the commission doesn't object.

Councilman Pierluigi Oliverio, the council's liaison to the seven-member commission, got to nominate candidates for the five vacancies this month. He had opposed saving the Century 21 dome theater that the commission deemed historic. If Torres and Messina are not reappointed, a solid majority of the commission will be new members who, we're just guessing, will be less apt to make historic findings of buildings newer than the Peralta Adobe. Gentlemen, start your bulldozers.

As Rocha points out, members of city commissions nearly always are reappointed to a second term unless there's a reason to remove them. Oliverio had no reason. He even wanted to leave one seat vacant rather than reappointing either incumbent, but that was a little too obvious, so he agreed to appoint one to a partial term.

Mayor Chuck Reed and the rest of the Rules Committee never should have brought these recommendations forward, let alone placed them on the consent calendar for today -- the place for items requiring no public discussion. It took us by surprise. It's disrespectful to commissioners who work hard serving the city and to preservation advocates.

Fortunately Rocha is forcing a discussion. If you can make it to City Hall for the 1:30 p.m. meeting -- it's a short agenda -- and if you care about history and about character in a city short on both, be there. Here's the memo:

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(c)2014 the San Jose Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.)

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