Coming to the United States

On July 29, 1995, my flight from Delhi, India touched ground in San Francisco, California. I entered the states with under $500 in my pocket and set out to start a career and life in Santa Clara, California. Despite my educational credentials from India, holding an M.S. in Physics and an MBA in Finance and Marketing, I struggled to find a job related to my field. Instead, I started working in office in accounts payable department.

Raising a Family and Starting a Small Business in Santa Clara

Shortly after starting work in the United States, my oldest son, Amar, was born. My wife, Daljit, worked full time, and I decided to quit my job to help raise and babysit our son. In 1998, when our younger son Ajai was born, my wife quit her job to do the same for him. Despite money being extremely tight, both my wife and I, did everything we could to make sure that we could be there for our children.

 

As my wife and I raised our family, I also broke into the Silicon Valley’s high tech industry. I started off as a quality control engineer at Pantronix, a chip manufacturing company, and then later worked at BSDI, a computer hardware company in sales and marketing. Meanwhile, Daljit had the opportunity to become a preschool teacher at Wilson Preschool, where she still works.

 

After years of hard work and savings, I co-founded a small business which currently manufactures computer server hardware. I am proud to say that our business, Genstor Systems, is located in Santa Clara. Raising a family and starting a small business from scratch were tough challenges which helped instill the values of hard work and problem-solving in my life.  

Getting Involved with the City

My younger son, Ajai, always had a passion for government and community. Ever since he was in elementary school he was involved with student government and volunteerism. When he was student body president at Peterson Middle School, he decided to apply for the City of Santa Clara Youth Commission, an advisory board to the City Council on youth issues and affairs. Seeing my son’s passion to give back and improve his community, inspired me to follow suit, and I started thinking of ways I could help out in Santa Clara. After all, the community had given me so much, and it was time for me to pay it forward.

 

In 2011, I applied and interviewed for the City’s Charter Review Committee. I was appointed and worked to discuss ways Santa Clara could improve its election system. A year later, City Council appointed me as a city commissioner on the International Exchange Commission. (My son always teases me that he became a commissioner before I did!) The International Exchange Commission allowed me to help citizens of Santa Clara connect with cultures from all over the world. That’s also when I joined the Santa Clara Sister Cities Association and served as President. I got to know a lot more about our city through the Leadership Santa Clara program and Santa Clara’s Citizen Police Academy.

 

After serving on the International Exchange Commission, I applied for the city’s Planning Commission. I served on the Planning Commission for the 5 years from 2013 to 2018 and my analytical and service skills helped me to accomplish a great deal of progress for Santa Clara’s Residents. As planning commissioner I always studied my material and made analytical decisions as per the best interests of the residents, never hesitated to fight the developer’s greed.

In 2018 with your vote and support, I got elected to the city council and since then I have been serving you all to the best of my ability. As councilmember, I have always put residents' interest first. To me, improving quality of life of our residents is top priority. Here are some of highlight of what I achieved as a community leader:

 

  • In collaboration with City of Cupertino, I got approval for $8.465 Million CA State grant to start emission free shuttle service in our city for seniors and residents. This service is expected to start in 2023

  • Championed Affordable Housing for our residents on various housing projects

  • Instrumental in getting $1.745 Million grant for our small businesses during Covid-19

  •  In response to COVID-19 and its economic fallout, I helped to get approval of Emergency Rental Assistance Program worth $2.8 Million, this was to provide rental assistance to individuals and families impacted by the pandemic. 

  • Instrumental in introducing anti-eviction ordinance for our renters during tough Covid-19 times.

  • Strongly opposed the inappropriate high density project by Prometheus at Moonlight shopping center.

  • Fought hard to preserve the Old Quad neighborhood - strongly opposed the very high density development close to single family homes as proposed by the Irvine Company

  • Opposed the high density project on the corner of El Camino Real and Pierce St. The density was too much for the location as it was violating the privacy of residents on Clay Street.

  • Always considered that single family residences privacy is preserved - opposed the SiliconSage Builders project on the corner of Newhall and Saratoga. The project is too bad for the single family residents on Stanley Avenue.

  • Strongly recommended to add 300 more student housing units at Santa Clara University - this will improve neighborhood of the Old Quad.

 

My Family Today

My wife and I continue to live in Santa Clara (the only city we have lived in in the US!), and are excited to see our sons move on to the next phases of their lives. Our older son, Amar, graduated from Santa Clara University and our younger son, Ajai, graduated from Dartmouth College. They both had an all public school K-12 education, and attended SCUSD public schools. Amar and Ajai are both Eagle Scouts, and since I left the Boy Scouts troop as Scout Master, I have missed going on frequent campings, hikes, and other adventures with my sons and the rest of the boys! My wife and I enjoy walking our dog Buddy in our neighborhood, organic gardening in our backyard, and in general enjoying the natural beauty of our city and valley. My wife and I have come a long way since we landed in the United States, and it would be my greatest honor to help other Santa Clarans experience the same opportunities which I had.

Please checkout some news articles about me and my family:

https://www.svvoice.com/santa-claras-raj-chahal-honored-as-a-2017-local-hero/ 

https://www.svvoice.com/getting-to-know-raj-chahal-and-the-boy-scouts-of-americas-sikh-troop-600/

https://www.svvoice.com/chahal-family-provides-thanksgiving-meal-to-independence-network/

https://www.svvoice.com/assemblymember-kansen-chu-recognizes-santa-clara-citizens-in-2018-community-heroes-awards-ceremony/

https://www.svvoice.com/what-could-have-been-missed-city-opportunities-in-relateds-city-place/

https://www.svvoice.com/first-sister-cities-delegation-from-limerick-visits-santa-clara/

https://www.svvoice.com/ajaipal-chahal-named-youth-representative-for-sister-cities-international/

https://www.svvoice.com/ajaipal-chahal-santa-clara-high-school-alum-receives-congressional-award/