Catalyze SV engages community members, developers, and city leaders to envision and create sustainable, equitable, and vibrant places for people in Silicon Valley.
What makes a place sustainable, equitable, and vibrant.
Inclusive, diverse communities
We believe deeply in neighborhoods that include folks of different races, cultures, languages, ages, physical abilities, income levels, and family types. Allowing a diverse array of people to live in the same neighborhood can encourage social harmony and combat discrimination and prejudice. We strive for communities in which anyone who currently lives or works there can continue to do so and where all newcomers are welcome. Everyone deserves the chance to call this wonderful place Silicon Valley home.
Vibrant places for people
For centuries, cities have thrived by having homes, businesses, services, public plazas, & open space near each other. Who doesn’t want to get easily from our homes to a favorite restaurant, grocery store, shop, art exhibit, park, or even to work? Yet in many Silicon Valley communities, these different types of spaces are segregated far apart, separated by roads mainly for speeding cars. We believe in the model of cities that creates enticing, enlivening public places where people can spend time & build community. Simply put, placemaking. This can increase our sense of pride in our community, raise property values, enhance our reputation elsewhere, & most crucially, improve our quality of life.
Housing solutions for all
Silicon Valley is one of the nation's most expensive real estate markets. To ensure everyone has a chance to live and work here and no one is displaced, Catalyze SV advocates for increasing the number of housing units built both at market-rate and as affordable housing below the area median income. If we don’t make our community more affordable, people will choose, or be forced to, live elsewhere. That would be crippling for our region's economy and its long-term fiscal health. We're building a community where everyone can afford to live. It’s as simple as that.
Healthy, sustainable development
The most livable communities come from development that improves people’s health and safety, as well as the well-being of the environment around them. We believe in making developments as environmentally sustainable as possible. New and refurbished projects should incorporate “green features” into how projects are built and function. Green buildings can provide huge energy savings for the companies building them, as well as the people occupying them. Click here for leading examples of sustainable features that developers and cities can include in projects.
Convenient transportation choices
On a day-to-day basis, we all get around using a variety of ways. So why does so much development primarily plan around an automobile with only one person in it? To reduce the traffic clogging our roads and improve the environment, we believe projects should provide transportation choices including public transit, walking, biking, scooters & car-sharing. Great projects will locate along or near transit corridors. With technology changing rapidly, projects should also prepare for the transportation possibilities of the future.
Equitable community engagement
From the moment a project is conceived to once it’s built, our diverse community should be at the table to shape it. We deserve access to easy-to-understand info about how our neighborhoods develop & productive ways of advocating to city staff & developers. Community meetings about development should be welcoming from the moment one arrives and inclusive of everyone, including working families & those speaking different languages. Constructive, creative collaboration between neighbors, developers & city leaders leads to better communities for everyone.
Our Board & Staff
Diverse, local leaders with a positive vision for Silicon Valley
Kaitlin's interest in the built environment led her to study architecture and sustainable environments at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. Born and raised in San Jose, she returned after graduation to practice architecture in the community and educational sectors. Passionate about community building, she encourages others to engage in their existing communities and also advocate for the communities they envision for the future.
Vikas has been a resident of Santa Clara since 1999, where he lives with his wife and two children. Most recently, Vikas was Sr. Director of Engineering at Nimble Storage (now part of HPE). He has lived in many large and small cities in the US, England, and India. He's traveled to hundreds of cities around the world, exploring diverse cultures and places. As an engineer, he notices the inefficiencies in the places we live and work. As a manager, he is compassionate and wants to help. As an aspiring artist, he is curious about the aesthetics of buildings and places. Vikas is also a marathon runner and a hiker. He has climbed Everest Base Camp and Stok Kangri at a height of 20,187 feet.
Christina Johnson - Chair
Christina was raised by a single mother in east San Jose and this is where her passion for community advocacy developed. As a child of Vietnamese refugees, she saw first hand how inequities & a lack of affordable housing impacted families in her community, which motivated her to dedicate her life to social services. After graduating from UC Davis with a BA in Women & Gender Studies and Asian American Studies, Christina came back to San Jose to start her career in fundraising and development for various nonprofits in Silicon Valley. She was previously a Program Director at All Stars Helping Kids, a foundation focused on seed funding start-up nonprofits in the Bay Area. She now works for Assembly-member Ash Kalra and lives in San Jose with her husband & dog.
Growing up in south San Jose as a 4th generation city resident, Sean heard family stories of how the Valley of Heart's Delight & Silicon Valley developed. The impacts of endless sprawl inspired him to study architecture at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo and get his architectural license. He pursues his passion for San Jose and great urban design by volunteering on the SJDA Downtown Design Committee and mentoring with ACE, a non-profit for teeens interested in building industry careers. He believes an engaged community with an informed vision for development is important to building a better future. Sean is an architect at Gensler, an architecture & interior design firm. He often runs along the Guadalupe River & other regional trails.
Joe Escobar - Vice-Chair
Joe was born in Santa Clara and raised in Sunnyvale. After undergraduate studies at the University of California at Riverside, Joe now lives near downtown San Jose. Joe’s experiences in the Bay Area have fueled his desire to improve the equitable and vibrant places surrounding the neighborhoods he loves. Joe holds a position with the public accounting firm Eide Bailly performing audit, attestation, and consultancy services mostly for non-profits, governments, & commercial entities. As a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), he feels fiscal accountability should be a primary goal of any organization. Joe strives for more transparency & engagement in his community.
Kirk Vartan - Co-founder
Kirk is a strong advocate of smart urban developments, transportation solutions, & the proposed Agrihood project in Santa Clara. He is president of the Winchester Neighborhood Action Coalition, VP of the Cory Neighborhood Association, and a co-chair of the City of San Jose's Stevens Creek Advisory Group. After moving to San Jose from New York City in 1998 to work for Cisco, Kirk came to miss the pizza with which he grew up. So he left the tech industry to open A Slice of New York with his wife Marguerite in 2006. In 2017, it became the first brick-and-mortar, worker-owned cooperative in the South Bay.
Marisol started her career in tech 19 years ago in Silicon Valley, with direct program / project management experience over the last 15 years. Her experience spans both technology companies & non-profit work. She currently work at Oracle as a Program Manager for Corporate Security Architecture.
Marisol has a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management from University of Arizona & a Master’s Degree in Urban & Regional Planning/Community & Economic Development from San Jose State University. She lives in San Jose with her husband & 2 young boys. Marisol is passionate about hiking, accomplishing the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu in 2016.
Alex Shoor - Executive Director
Alex was raised in Silicon Valley and came home after a dozen years away. He’s on San Jose's Housing & Community Development Commission and the Advisory Board of the Silicon Valley chapter of New Leaders Council.
Most recently at the communications and public engagement consulting firm Katz & Associates, Alex worked with the Valley Transportation Authority on the extension of BART into Silicon Valley. He has also been a policy aide for a Santa Clara County Supervisor and a Director of Government Affairs for a Bay Area nonprofit organization.
Alex studied Political Science and African American Studies while earning a BA from Vanderbilt University and holds a Master of Public Administration from the University of Southern California. Alex lives off The Alameda in San Jose and is active in his neighborhood association.
Emeritus Board Members
Volar Project Approved with Support of Catalyze SV
We may be a young organization, but we are getting things done.
Catalyze SV Gets Transit Passes Added for Future Residents
Volar Project Approved with Support of Catalyze SV
Catalyze SV Supports Senior Housing on El Camino
Agrihood Concept Selected by City of Santa Clara
In 2013, the owner of a local pizza shop, Kirk Vartan, saw opportunity in an empty city-owned parcel in his neighborhood. Kirk organized a group of neighbors and paid architects – out of his own pocket – to create a vision for the land. Their vision included mixed-income housing, as well as an urban farm and open space. Kirk and his neighbors called it The Agrihood. Developers took note. One developer included the vision for The Agrihood in their proposal. Three developers submitted bids to the City Council. Kirk and dozens of his neighbors showed up to advocate for The Agrihood. The City Council voted with the neighbors, selecting the developers who wanted to build The Agrihood.
CSV Members Play a Major Role in Improving 259 Meridian
Community members in Catalyze SV’s Project Advocacy Committee first reviewed 259 Meridian in July 2018. Strangis Properties took our member’s feedback seriously. After presenting 3 plans over 2 years - each one improved based on our feedback - CSV was ready to fervently advocate for 259 Meridian. With major improvements, and Catalyze SV’s advocacy, the project was approved by the San Jose City Council in June 2020. This approval attests to our "Improve, then Approve" strategy - urging developers to design more equitable, sustainable, & vibrant projects that can yield huge wins for the community. In working with the developer, we were able to get such improvements added as: on-site affordable housing, family housing added, parking spaces traded for a “mobility stipend”, & public art in a 24-hour plaza. When our members & developers find consensus on designing the best projects possible, the community wins.
In May 2019, community members who are part of Catalyze SV's Project Advocacy Committee evaluated an innovative proposal on North 1st Street in San Jose from nonprofit housing developer The Kelsey. Catalyze SV highlighted the proposal's strengths & its areas for improvement. In July 2019, The Kelsey presented a revised proposal that included one of Catalyze SV's main suggestions - complimentary transit passes for all residents to encourage transit usage & reduce the need for more parking spaces as part of the project. Fewer parking spaces means fewer cars, which means less traffic in the neighborhood, less air pollution & more space in the building for more homes. Catalyze SV supporters turned out at a July 2019 community meeting to express their positive perspectives on this project.
In October 2017, the Santa Clara City Council voted for a 151-unit mixed-use, senior apartment development with 18,000 sq ft of retail on El Camino Real & Anna Drive. It's a few minute walk to a rapid bus stop, two grocery stores, and two pharmacies. The Development includes five homes to be affordable to renters of moderate income or lower and a much-needed community room. Catalyze SV pushed for more units, less parking, and more affordability. With Catalyze SV and others expressing strong support for the project before the City Council vote, a majority of comments favored the proposal. This provided key backing for the City Council to approve the project after it had previously rejected it.