The Los Gatos Planning Commission last month took a first look at a plan designed to find ways to make the city a more inclusive place for all residents.
“I think this is a necessary step to take these abstract concepts and turn them into meaningful actions that we can take in the city,” said Commissioner Melanie Hanssen at a March 22 meeting where the Justice, Equity, Diversity report and Inclusion, or JEDI, was introduced.
All committees and commissions, as well as the general public, will have the opportunity to provide feedback on the report, which includes recommendations for community involvement and building more affordable housing in the city.
Last year, the city council was verbally harassed by a far-right group criticizing the city council’s efforts on diversity, equality and inclusion and critical race theory. Then-mayor Marico Sayoc and her family were targeted by some of the vitriol, which included anti-LGBTQ comments.
Anti-Semitic graffiti was also left at the Addison-Penzak Jewish Community Center in Los Gatos during the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur.
These incidents served as a call to action for the city to speak out against the hate and led to the United Against Hate march which drew more than 3,000 residents.
The board voted in the summer of 2021 to work with the American Leadership Forum Silicon Valley (ALF) and the consulting firms Silicon Valley Insights and ReadySet to develop a preliminary JEDI report, detailing the current policies and procedures of the city were checked and the inhabitants were questioned.
The latest report identifies tangible goals, policy changes, measures of success and timelines to make the city a more welcoming and inclusive place. Goals include developing safe spaces in the city, funding a committee to address JEDI efforts, engaging the schools and youth committee, and building affordable housing
Ron Meyer, a longtime resident of Los Gatos, said at the planning committee meeting that there were “ambitious, socialist, utopian ideals” in the JEDI plan and that the time spent on the plan would provide essential services to the community such as completely removed.
“I don’t know what the problem is you’re trying to solve. What will DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) do for the residents of Los Gatos?” Meijer said. “The first problem I saw was over a year ago when a group of Black Lives Matter people paraded through downtown Los Gatos and wreaked havoc at the behest of the former mayor. That is a problem.”
Commissioner Kathryn Janoff said she wants to see some efforts to engage residents who are not yet involved in JEDI efforts.
“I don’t see a problem, but I know it’s there,” Janoff said. “I personally know from my own family’s experience that my relatives who are not white are not comfortable in Los Gatos. So I know there is a problem, and I know there are meaningful ways to work on it.”
The city’s master plan also includes a section on racial, social, and environmental justice with definitions, goals, and policies for JEDI efforts. The section was added after the General Planning Commission heard from residents in 2021 that they did not feel welcome in the city and wanted to see some changes.
To develop the report, ALF held listening sessions with the Chamber of Commerce, religious organizations, business owners and local school districts to hear what residents wanted from the effort.
Commissioner Susan Burnet said some of the recommendations felt like “overkill” and she wanted to include a more diverse set of votes in the report because it felt “one-sided”.
“To form a committee, to initiate funding, I think that’s going a little bit the wrong way,” Burnett said. “How are we going to measure success?”
Commissioner Kylie Clark said investing in the recommended changes is important to show the city’s commitment to change.
“We should put our money where our mouths are, in my opinion,” Clark said. “We could sit here and talk about it, but unless we really invest in it, I don’t think we’re really committing to anything.”