San Jose needs to preserve industrial jobs within city limits

San Jose needs to preserve industrial jobs within city limits So much for all the talk about San Jose needing more industry and the good jobs it provides. Tuesday night, the council approved a church next to Mass Precision Sheet Metal, a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week heavy-industrial operation on Oakland Road north of Brokaw. The owner brought documents showing how his insurance and other costs would be affected if a church moved in next door. He says he'll be moving the company to Santa Clara when the lease is up. So long, 400 jobs. So long, diversified economy: Nobody's building new heavy-manufacturing facilities here anymore. So long, another chunk of tax revenue when San Jose already is struggling to maintain parks, community centers and even public safety in its neighborhoods. Two years ago, the city council adopted a policy to protect the supply of industrial land and build up San Jose's weak tax base: Industrial areas provide more tax dollars than they use in government services, while housing generally does the opposite. But as proposals to convert industrial land come up, the council rarely sees one it doesn't like. Growing churches have a legitimate problem. Outside of industrial areas, there aren't many sites big enough for large congregations. San Jose ought to do more to help them find opportunities -- but the sacrifice of good jobs and consequent shortfalls in city revenue eventually will strain church-based charities and will hurt churchgoing families as much as anyone. The upcoming fall election has made it especially hard to say no to a church -- and produced some amusing political theater. The San Jose Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce spokesman struggled to explain why the chamber was neutral on this decision, even though it usually joins the Silicon Valley Leadership Group in opposing churches next to industry. The real reason undoubtedly was to give cover to the chamber's favorite for mayor, the generally pro-business councilman Chuck Reed, who along with opponent Cindy Chavez voted for the church. Only Mayor Ron Gonzales and council members Linda LeZotte, Judy Chirco and Nancy Pyle came down on the side of jobs. Watch for more of these situations. A proposal to build more than 1,000 homes around the Goodwill Industries warehouse near Japantown was postponed until Tuesday. The city's planning and economic development staff are pleading to nip this plan in the bud because it will cripple yet another industrial area, but don't place any bets. Will San Jose someday tear down tracts of homes to make way for jobs? It's unimaginable. When industrial land is converted to other uses, it's nearly always gone for good. Each decision like Tuesday's only magnifies the challenge of economic development in future generations. Mercury News Editorial Thu, Jun. 15, 2006