San Jose Mayor Faces Conflict Of Interest Questions Over Property Near Google Project

Jennifer Hodges
February 20, 2019 - 10:48 am

San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo failed to disclose his wife’s ownership of a condo in downtown San Jose before voting on a land deal for Google’s massive “transit village” project centered around Diridon Station.

As first reported by San Jose Spotlight, Liccardo voted twice to move forward with a plan to sell city-owned land to the tech giant, prior to disclosing his wife’s ownership of the home on 3rd Street in downtown San Jose.

Google plans to transform 50 acres of neglected real estate around the station — which is undergoing a renovation to converge BART, Caltrain, Amtrak and even high-speed rail—  into a modern complex of office space, shops and restaurants with space for up to 25,000 workers.

Real estate in the vicinity of the project has appreciated significantly as plans have taken shape, and San Jose is expected to be the Bay Area's hottest real estate market for a second year in a row.

“I take very seriously my obligations to ensure that we disclose everything,” Liccardo told television station KPIX . “And we take a lot of time to do it. In this case, I screwed up.”

Jessica García-Kohl, whom Liccardo married in 2013, owned the 3rd Street condominium. The couple sold the property in 2018, prior to a final vote on the Google plan. Liccardo said he belatedly disclosed the couple’s ownership of the property to the California Fair Political Practices Commission, and admitted his error.

 “Like anyone who has sold any property downtown in the last year or two, yes, we did make a profit,” Liccardo admitted. But, Liccardo pointed out that the condo was sold several months prior to the final vote and that it was widely known that also independently owned property downtown.

The condo is located approximately a mile away from the Google transit village, and Liccardo said most conflict-of-interest policies set 500 feet as the boundary.

Critics of the plan said the revelation is part of the broader lack of transparency around the transit village’s political path to approval, including the decision to bar the public from the meeting at which the Council voted to sell the public land.

In November, two groups filed lawsuits against Liccardo and 18 other city officials for signing non-disclosure agreements with Google during negotiations. Recent protests denounced the project's potential to gentrify the area and displace low-income residents.

Written by Jordan Bowen.