San Jose Planning Commission expands seats, selects new leadership

The San Jose Planning Commission has elected new leaders and seated newly appointed members selected by the City Council.

Following voter approval in November 2020 of Measure G, the start of the new fiscal year 2021-22 marks the first year where the commission will meet as an 11-member body. Measure G included the expansion of San Jose planning commission membership from seven to 11 with members appointed from each council district and one at-large member. The measure authorized the city council to appoint two new members to serve until June 30, 2022 and two to serve until June 30, 2024.

As part of the expansion, City Council appointed Maribel Montanez (District 4), Sylvia Ornelas-Wise (District 7), Michael Young (District 9), and Charles Cantrell (citywide seat) to join the commission.

The decision to add the expansion of the Planning Commission to Measure G was made after recent calls to diversify the ethnic and socioeconomic makeup of the commission.

“The public has made it very clear that when it comes to representation within every aspect of San Jose’s government, they want to be represented,” said Planning Commissioner Rolando Bonilla to the San Jose Spotlight. Bonilla is the only representative from East San Jose on the Planning Commission, and also its newly-elected chair. “Through Measure G, the most powerful commission in San Jose will now have guaranteed representation from every corner of the city. Because of that, the decision-making process of the government will be better off.”

Planning commissioners elected Commissioner Bonilla (District 5) as chair and Commissioner George Casey (District 10) as vice-chair at the Commission’s meeting on June 9.

According to the Commission, Bonilla was appointed by the Council to his first term as a commissioner in 2019 and previously served as vice-chair. He is currently the chief strategy officer for Voler Strategic Advisors and has deep roots in East San Jose, having lived there for nearly 50 years. In addition to his 24 years of public service in government work, Bonilla’s civic experience includes serving on the Board of Directors for the Healthier Kids Foundation.

George Casey was appointed to his first term on the Commission on July 1, 2020. Casey has an extensive educational background that includes B.S. in Political Science from Santa Clara University, a Master of Urban and Regional Planning from San Jose State University, a Master of Real Estate Development and Design from UC Berkeley, and a J.D. from Santa Clara University School of Law. He has lived in San Jose for more than 40 years and is currently a real estate attorney, working most recently with Morrison Foerster.