SAN JOSE, Calif. (KRON) — Community leaders say for years East San Jose has been virtually neglected and with the pandemic severely impacting the community, only to highlight inequities, they are now urging the city to step in and help. 

“The fact of the matter is that there is enough money in the city budget, in the money we are already investing as a community, to allocate that money into our community,” said Rolando Bonilla, Chair of San Jose’s Planning Commission. 

For the last year, Bonilla, who is the only member of the planning commission representing East San Jose, has been leading efforts to help small business owners survive the pandemic. 

Last month, Bonilla requested the city purchase several vacant buildings along the Alum Rock Corridor to allow East San Jose business owners to rent those buildings from the City at below market rate.

“The City budget has those dollars already within it, dollars that we generate,” said Bonilla. 

“If we simply took a stronger position at the council level to reallocate those dollars into our community,” Bonilla added. 

“If you actually did something as simple, in this case, providing dollars to small businesses directly to maintain the economy, these things are going to happen much better and much faster without government intervention.”

In total, there are three independently-owned properties up for sale totaling more than $5.1 million. 

The proposal submitted by Bonilla along with Jesse Haro, founder of Alum Rock Village Action Committee and Juan Estrada, president of District 5 United, seeks that the City allocate these purchases as part of the current budget process. 

Other efforts to help East San Jose include Councilmember Magdalena Carrasco calling for an East Side Rescue Plan and proposing a property-based improvement district for the Alum Rock Area. 

During the pandemic, East San Jose businesses were forced to close their doors, some permanently. 

And although no official data reveals the total number of business closures in East San Jose, many KRON4 News spoke to say they just couldn’t afford to pay rent with business slowing down.

“We seem to get attention only when somehow it’s salacious headlines but there’s so many beautiful and wonderful historical facts that are part of the east side,” said Carrasco.  

“And the residents, our families, our children, and the future of the east side deserve so much better.”

The City Council recently approved a report conducted by San Jose State University’s Department of Urban and Regional Planning, titled “Community Priorities for the Alum Rock Corridor.” 

According to the report, it will serve as a guide for community leaders, City staff, and elected officials about future developments along the Alum Rock Avenue Corridor. 

“I have the great honor of representing Alum Rock and it’s neighborhoods and the residents, but truly it’s a gem,” said Carrasco. 

“But I think that this also speaks to the work that they were already doing and now the work that still needs to be done.”

The City has yet to announce if they will consider purchasing any buildings along the Alum Rock Corridor.