Catalyze SV takes a regional approach to development by working collaboratively with community members, developers, & government leaders throughout Silicon Valley.
How Our Project Advocacy Committee (PAC) Works
Every 4th Wednesday of the month (except for November and December), community members gather virtually for our Project Advocacy Committee. Committee members give constructive feedback and suggestions on proposed Silicon Valley developments to get the best possible projects built. We use our scorecard to evaluate projects, employing a consistent, standard set of 7 criteria that align with our organizational values. Each eligible member provides a numerical score between 1 - 5 in each category (1 is the lowest and 5 is the highest.)
Projects that score an overall average of 3.5 out of 5 are eligible for our support & advocacy efforts. This means that, with appropriate notification, our staff will show up to public meetings and support your project leading up to approvals. We will also encourage our stakeholders to do so via social media and our over 1,800 email list.
Community: The applicant is making significant efforts to reach out to the community, including underrepresented** voices, and has addressed recommendations collected through community engagement.
Vibrancy: The proposal’s public realm improves the human experience and safety of the neighborhood. Public and private space is designed to promote physical, mental, and/or social well-being while connecting with parks, fresh food, and/or other community amenities.
Transportation: The project recognizes the importance of mobility solutions; including transit, walking, biking, & micromobility; incentivizes reduced automobile usage; and prioritizes the safety of vulnerable users, such as children, seniors, & the disabled. Transportation Demand Management plans are encouraged. One example in these plans is VTA transit passes.
Sustainability: The project incorporates measurable green building features. CalGreen Tier 1 or 2 measures and/or third-party certifications (LEED, Well, Living Building Challenge, etc) are encouraged. There are many examples of green building features.
Intensity/Zoning: The project utilizes nearly the full density allowed under its zoning and general plan designations.
Affordability: The proposal considers protections or relocation benefits for existing residential and/or commercial tenants that may be displaced. It goes beyond current government requirements for onsite below market-rate homes, stabilized commercial leases or appropriate substitutes.
Legacy (when applicable): The project undertakes efforts to incorporate, protect, or preserve any objects of significant cultural or historic merit identified by the community on or near the site.
** = Research has shown here, here, and here that renters, new residents, people of color, younger people, and females tend to be underrepresented voices on local development issues.
Grading Scale - Merits
An average score of 3.5 is required for Catalyze SV to consider advocating full support for a project.
1 = Fails to meet project review criteria
2 = Meets some project review criteria
3 = Meets basic project review criteria
4 = Exceeds project review criteria
5 = Goes far beyond project review criteria
N/A = Category does not apply
Project Advocacy Committee Timeline
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is the Project Advocacy Committee (PAC)?
Our PAC is composed of community members who want to see sustainable, vibrant, & affordable places for people in Silicon Valley. We provide friendly feedback and suggestions through our standardized scoring process on projects proposed in San Jose, Santa Clara, and beyond. In our meetings, developers presents their project to our members, who ask questions and score projects using our 7 criteria. Our members have scored over 50 projects in the last half-decade.
How is Catalyze SV's approach similar or different from other groups that review & advocate for projects?
Catalyze SV takes a distinct "Yes, and ..." approach to reviewing and advocating around developments. This means we often share what our members like about a development and what we'd like to see improved. We want to see the best possible projects built that do the most good for the most people. The higher a project scores, the more we do and say to support it.
While some other groups only focus on housing, we consider that key criterion alongside others. Community benefits & amenities are key to better projects.
Our scoring is driven by our members alongside our staff. Our members' input significantly impacts our scorecard & advocacy.
Since a big cause of our housing crisis is the lack of supply, we often advocate for as many homes as possible on projects, which can mean more floors.
Who are your members and what do they care about?
Our members are deeply rooted in the community, most of whom live in San Jose & Santa Clara. Our members take a regional approach to solving Silicon Valley's biggest issues like housing & transportation. Our members first designed our scorecard criteria and process in 2017 and 2018. Our members' feedback is through a Scorecard that evaluates a project's Community Engagement, Vibrancy, Transportation, Sustainability, Intensity/Zoning, Affordability, and Legacy (if applicable). For a more detailed list of the types of questions our members ask see this FAQ.
I’m a developer who has a project in your community. How can your process benefit my project?
There are two key ways our PAC can benefit your project. First, should you engage our members early on, we're able to provide crucial early feedback that will positively shape your project. Second, if the project meets our advocacy threshold of 3.5 out of 5, it is eligible for our support & advocacy. This means our staff and/or members will show up and voice support for your project as you navigate the entitlement process. With appropriate time and notification, we're happy to voice our members' feedback at public meetings.
When does your Project Advocacy Committee (PAC) meet?
It meets on the 4th Wednesday of the month from January to October. November and December dates are flexible to accommodate the holiday season.
How long do your Project Advocacy Committee (PAC) meetings take?
Our PAC meetings are currently virtual and finish in 2 hours.
We usually have 15 minutes of introductory comments and updates at the beginning.
Then, the development team presents for 20-30 minutes.
Then, our members ask questions based on our 7 criteria.
Finally, our members spend the final 30 minutes privately scoring the project.
How do I receive the agenda for a Project Advocacy Committee (PAC) meeting?
To receive the agenda, make sure you've signed up to our Project Advocacy Committee email list or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Meeting agendas are e-mailed to our PAC members and other interested individuals one week before the project presentation.
Who is eligible to score projects?
a) lives in Silicon Valley and:
b) has donated a minimum of $5 in the last year, and
c) has attended a Project Advocacy Committee (PAC) meeting in the past 12 months.
What kind of projects do you score?
We look to evaluate projects that are multi-story, usually including multi-family housing, and are ideally mixed-use. Housing projects we've scored in the past include affordable housing, including permanent supportive housing, and market-rate projects. In 2022, we also scored our very first senior & memory care facility, as well as our first commercial-only project.
When in the development process is the right time for a developer to bring a project to your members?
Our members like to provide constructive feedback which can be incorporated into the design process. Hence we like to be involved as early as possible. Many of the projects we've reviewed and scored have come to our members during the community engagement phase of the project around the time of project submittal. For early feedback from our members, we welcome developers coming to our PAC before they have a project.
How can I watch your past projects?
You can see previous project presentations on our Facebook page.
Looks like most of the projects you score are in San Jose & Santa Clara. Do you evaluate & advocate around development in other communities or with other groups?
We work on projects in any community where we have active members or where there are allied community groups who share our values. If you represent a group and would like to partner on a project in your community, email us at email@example.com.
As a developer, how quickly will I receive my score from your members?
Our members' qualitative and quantitative comments will be sent to the developer and relevant stakeholders in 30 days. We will share the project's overall score with the developer within 48 hours of their PAC presentation.
If my project scores above a 3.5, how will you speak up about it?
We strongly advise the development team to keep us informed of upcoming public meetings where the project is discussed. Our team will be present on behalf of our members and highlight our collective views. On highly-opposed and/or important projects, our team prepares action alerts to inform and turn out our members to speak and/or e-mail relevant stakeholders about it. The higher the project scores, the more fervently we will advocate for your project.
Do you re-score projects that make improvements?
Yes! If your project incorporates the ideas of our members, our staff will bring the project back to our members on one or more criteria.
What if my project scores below a 3.5?
Projects that score below a 3.5 are not eligible for our advocacy services. Yet if significant improvements are made in one or more categories, we are happy to present it to our members for a re-score.
What’s the highest-scoring project you’ve ever seen?
The highest scoring project with 4.8 out of 5 is a tie between Maracor's 80 Saratoga and Swenson's 275 Saratoga in Santa Clara.
What can my project do to receive an award from Catalyze SV?
The highest-scoring projects are recognized at our annual Catalyzing Change Awards. Click here for a list of the 2022 Winners. We will be awarding 2022-2023 projects at our November 30, 2023 event.
If I’m a developer, can I become a PAC member and score a project in which I’m not involved?
Yes! All community members aligned with our organizational values are welcome to become members and score projects.
Does Catalyze SV oppose projects?
Our members much prefer to support projects. Our goal is that all projects score 5 out of 5! We have only ever opposed one project. When Catalyze SV first started in 2017, we opposed a single-story grocery store across the street from another grocery store along a major commercial street.
I love this approach. How can I support this work?
Anyone who likes our approach can donate to become a member and support our work. Yet at the direction of our leadership and members, development companies are not able to donate to support and/or influence our work.
Who are the developers you’ve worked with?
We have worked with dozens of for-profit and nonprofit developers that work both locally and internationally. Here's some feedback on our work from the development community.
“Canyon Snow has provided community engagement & government affairs expertise to our clients on large-scale projects in Silicon Valley for over 15 years. We understand when to engage the community on projects, and we know the difference between community groups that put up excessive barriers versus those that provide valuable input. Catalyze SV is the latter. When we have brought projects for Catalyze SV to score, its members offer our development team constructive input. Catalyze SV’s overall process and criteria are clear, consistent & unchanging. Catalyze SV's advocacy around the projects on which we have worked has brought real value." -- Jennifer Johnson, Principal, Canyon Snow
Interested in working with us? Reach out to Projects@CatalyzeSiliconValley.org