Inclusive playgrounds can be enjoyed by all children and adults, regardless of their physical, sensory, or cognitive abilities. Yet, only two existed in Santa Clara County in 2015: Magical Bridge Playground at Mitchell Park in Palo Alto (for which Supervisor Simitian secured County funding) and the Rotary PlayGarden in San Jose. The overwhelming success of these playgrounds led Supervisor Simitian to propose a matching grant program to inspire the creation of additional all-inclusive playgrounds throughout the entire county. Since 2017, the Board of Supervisors has awarded $20 million in County funds to build 24 new all-inclusive playgrounds at parks and schools, including ones at Landels Elementary School in Mountain View and Addison Elementary School in Palo Alto.
Affordable housing for people with disabilities
In 2018 and at Supervisor Simitian's urging, the County committed $40 million to support the development of affordable housing for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). People with I/DD often have fixed incomes that can make it difficult to access and maintain housing, and are especially vulnerable if they become homeless. As of November 2022, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors has awarded funding for seven housing projects across the County in Milpitas, Palo Alto, San Jose, Santa Clara, and Sunnyvale, enabling the creation of more than 800 new affordable housing units, including 140 set aside for individuals with I/DD. Included in these is a project in Palo Alto Supervisor Simitian championed in 2020 located at a County-owned site Simitian identified. Known as Mitchell Park Place, the project is a partnership between the County, nonprofit housing developer Eden Housing, and AbilityPath (a nonprofit that provides services to residents with I/DD). It will include 25 units for residents in this population, as well as space for AbilityPath to provide services.
Fostering Understanding of our friends, neighbors, colleagues and community
In 2021, at a time when anti-Asian hate and sentiment elevated at a national level, and even Silicon Valley was not immune, Supervisor Simitian brought back his “Understanding” panel series, this time in a virtual format due to COVID, to support deeper understanding of the Bay Area’s diverse Asian American and Pacific Islander communities. His first “Understanding” discussions launched in 2017 with a focus on understanding our Islamic communities. Due to strong community interest, those panel discussions returned in 2018 and 2019.
And in 2016, as someone who worked across the aisle in the State Senate and Legislature, Supervisor Simitian sought to understand the political divide between the Bay Area and other places across the country after President Trump was elected. He traveled to counties in North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Michigan that had previously voted to elect Barak Obama, but later supported President Trump. This “listening tour” evolved into a series of speaking events where Supervisor Simitian reflected on what he learned during his travels.
Via Services scholarships
Via West is a 13-acre residential camp serving children and adults with disabilities. It provides recreation and social experiences to individuals whose disabilities and medical needs exclude them from other camps, as well as vital respite for caregivers. The County and the City of San Jose provide scholarships for Via West attendee families without the ability to pay.
Ada's Cafe job training
Supervisor Simitian recommended County funding for Ada’s Café, which creates unique employment opportunities for adults with disabilities who face obstacles to full employment. Employees are trained in food preparation, customer service, and other professional skills, interacting with the larger community while also earning a paycheck.
Supervisor Joe Simitian championed a collaboration between and among the County, AbilityPath, Ada’s Café, and private donors to renovate AbilityPath’s outdoor courtyard at their Middlefield Road location in Palo Alto. The upgraded area will provide adults with developmental disabilities who are participating in the AbilityPath employment and careers program, or working at Ada’s Café, practical onsite employment experience in the food services and hospitality industries.
Avenidas Rainbow Collective
In 2019 Supervisor Simitian began a partnership with Avenidas to develop the Avenidas Rainbow Collective, a program designed to engage LGBTQ+ seniors with socialization opportunities while providing access to case management, caregiver support, and transportation. The Board of Supervisors, led by Supervisor Simitian's efforts, approved an additional $75,000 to extend the program in 2021.
Hakone Estate and Gardens
From time to time the Board of Supervisors is able to make funds available for historic and cultural preservation. For Hakone Estate and Garden in Saratoga, County support has meant restoration to the Mon (Main Gate) roof, improvements to the beautiful tea ceremony rooms, and restoration and repair of the koi pond and garden pathways.