Lan Diep was born in Houston, TX as the firstborn son of Vietnamese American refugees. Through his parents’ experiences working odd jobs to pay rent and put food on the table, he witnessed from an early age the obstacles that working families face to make it in America and the additional barriers immigrant families must overcome.
His father worked as a laborer on construction sites and as a cashier at gas station convenience stores. To show his thanks to America for taking him in, he also enlisted in the Air National Guard. His mother worked as a waitress in a bowling alley and as a seamstress for Levi’s. Eventually, both Lan’s parents found employment as lab technicians at a Shell research facility.
Lan was raised with a profound sense of gratitude for his life in America. His parents reminded him that while they might have less than their more-established neighbors, they were much more fortunate than countless other refugees whose ships never made it to safety. Although they lived modestly, they enjoyed freedoms that an entire nation of Vietnamese people could not, while living under totalitarian rule in communist Vietnam.
This foundational realization defined Lan’s worldview and instilled in him a sense of obligation to pay forward the good fortune given to his family. His parents instructed him not to take for granted or squander the opportunities presented to him; he must make something of himself and help pave the way for others. Throughout his life, he’s tried to take that instruction to heart, dedicating himself to the service of others and always seeking to do the most good.
San José has been home for Lan since the late 90s with he moved here with his mother to help her start a new life after his parents divorced. He took public transportation to Independence High School and was late for class whenever the buses would break down. His mother found work a local tech company working as a quality control technician. Although she struggled, she was able to provide for him and his younger brother. Lan knows that a similarly-situated family coming to San José today, facing these housing costs, would have a much more difficult time of succeeding. As a councilmember, he’s fighting to change that.
Lan envisions an inclusive, fiscally sustainable San José, with good public transportation, many middle-class jobs, and plenty of housing availability for incomes at all levels. Achieving this requires understanding the unique challenges facing San José and not just applying textbook solutions in an unthinking manner. In his first term, he’s worked to take San José down the right path and intends to take us further towards prosperity in a second term.
San Jose City Council
Lan currently serves as the San José City Councilmember representing District 4, which encompasses North San José: Berryessa, Uptown, and Alviso.
He first ran for this seat in 2015 in a special election against nine other candidates. He fell short by 13 votes. A year later, despite having no institutional support, he challenged the then-incumbent councilmember and won by 12 votes. He endured two recounts and a lengthy court battle but prevailed on every challenge.
Lan understands the distinct needs of our district. From the residents of Berryessa who make our district a close-knit community, to the employers in Uptown that generate 70% of the sales tax revenue for our general fund, to the environmentally sensitive town of Alviso that is steeped in history and tradition, each area has different priorities. In his first term in office, Lan has focused on addressing improving quality of life for our district as well as our city.
As a councilmember, he’s focused on quality of life issues by holding monthly Dumpster Days to combat illegal dumping and funded a transitional jobs program to hire homeless individuals to help clean blight in our communities. He’s pushed to complete a state-of-the-art flood pump station and secured $250,000 in funding to begin building out the Alviso Park. He’s won approval for a long-desired dog park in Berryessa at the Penitencia Creek Park and has directed staff to repave Piedmont Road in 2020. He’s currently focusing the city’s attention on amending the North San José Development Policy to allow more affordable housing to be built quicker, while making it easier to open shops, restaurants, and other amenities among the sea of apartments and tech companies.
Citywide, he’s stood with Mayor Sam Liccardo in supporting policies that will build more affordable housing, bring first-class employers to San José, support our fire fighters and police officers so they can better serve our residents, lower San José’s carbon footprint, and renew our city’s roads and infrastructure.
Legal Aid Society - Employment Law Center
Prior to being elected to office, Lan was a fellow at The Legal Aid Society – Employment Law Center (now Legal Aid at Work). There, he directed the Vietnamese American Workers’ Rights Project. Through this program he raised awareness of employee rights under California law among Vietnamese Americans in the South Bay and defended low-income workers against mistreatment by employers.
Organizing for America – Nevada
Lan was inspired to join President Obama’s reelection campaign in 2012 and worked as a field organizer in Las Vegas. There he helped secure President Obama’s second term by recruiting, managing, and training volunteers to organize their communities and neighborhoods to register, persuade, and motivate voters. He contributed to a record-setting voter turnout of nearly 81% in Nevada that election cycle, winning the state with a 10 point lead.
Mississippi Center for Justice
Upon graduating from law school, Lan moved to Biloxi, Mississippi to work at the Mississippi Center for Justice as an Equal Justice Works/AmeriCorps Legal Fellow. The BP Oil Disaster of April 2010 devastated America’s Gulf Coast, impacting the fishing and tourism industries, as well as the sensitive coast ecology of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida.
Lan served on the frontlines of a disaster of national importance, providing free assistance to fishermen, seafood industry workers, fabricators, small business owners, and tourist industry workers who wanted to file claims against BP and defending them against low-ball settlement offers. Additionally, Lan worked to defend vulnerable, limited-English-proficient communities from out-of-state predatory law firms seeking to take advantage of them.
Lan’s work in the Gulf was featured in the New York Times. The Huffington Post recognized him as the “Greatest Person of the Day” for August 22, 2011. President Barack Obama honored Lan as a Champion of Change and President George H. W. Bush awarded him the prestigious Daily Point of Light Award.
Radio Free Asia
Lan’s first job after college was as an international broadcaster for Radio Free Asia’s Vietnamese service. There, he used his fluency in Vietnamese to report on the events happening around the world and in Vietnam that the Vietnamese government attempted to censor. In doing so, he sought to help Vietnamese citizens imagine life where free speech and the right to assemble are not taboo.