Following two decades of delays and redesigning, Santa Clara’s innovative Agrihood opened on six acres of the former UC Bay Area Research and Extension Center (BAREC) on Winchester Blvd. That’s some of the good news featured at the 2023 Santa Clara State of the City event.
The bad news is that although City revenues are up, expenses still outpace income, and the City continues to operate in the red.
The event was presented in the Wilcox High School theater on Sept. 27 and featured multi-cultural performances. The theme, said Mayor Lisa Gillmor, was the City’s diversity. The audience included officials from other cities.
“I am proud of our efforts to promote equity and inclusion,” said Gillmor. “Everything from our commitment for an all-inclusive magical bridge playground to…numerous happenings year-round for our cultural commission and Parks and Recreation. There are efforts underway to bring back our diversity, equity and inclusion task force to begin their listening sessions with the community.”
Gillmor also noted the Silicon Valley Power, Mission College and Santa Clara University sustainable futures scholarship program, this year’s Art & Wine Festival, a plan to designate Portuguese and Korean cultural districts in the City and the upcoming Parade of Champions.
City Hall and Community Recreation Center hours are fully restored and the Senior Center is now open 52 hours a week. Gillmor promised that the libraries would be back to pre-pandemic hours in late October.
The mayor also spoke about the City’s new police and fire recruits and new public safety initiatives.
“We are getting our public resources safety officers back into the schools with a new program that echoes the D.A.R.E. program [that reflects] the commitment to increasing awareness on substance abuse prevention and building bonds with our students,” said Gillmor.
Santa Clara is the only Bay Area city that has increased its population this year and isn’t facing a glut of empty commercial real estate. Gillmor attributed this to the City’s low electric rates — almost half PG&E’s — which make the City attractive to business.
“Many global headquarters here like Nvidia [and] Intel continue to expand,” she said. “We believe the future is bright for big business in Santa Clara.”
Turning to the chronic budget deficit, Gillmor noted many positive trends. The higher business tax approved by voters last year will also begin to improve the City’s financial picture. And with Levi’s Stadium events packing hotels, hotel tax was showing healthy growth.
“It’s been a tremendous year for us,” she said.
“[Ed Sheeran] had more concert goers than any other,” she continued. “It was unbelievable, the number of people there.
“Our football team is doing really well,” she said, predicting “a Super Bowl in the future. It might not be in Santa Clara, but it could be somewhere else. So, Go Niners!
“And we have more good news,” she continued. “Santa Clara will be preparing for the 2026
Super Bowl 60 and the World Cup…These events have been a bright light coming out of the tunnel.”
Gillmor also promised “to our protect our Northside residents and neighborhoods to continue to address safety concerns, mitigate noise and ensure that the stadium complies with all of its obligations.”
Gillmor noted that the City still faces nearly half a billion dollars in unfunded infrastructure needs.
“Many city-owned facilities are over sixty years old,” she said. “The City’s fire stations and libraries are aging…You’ve all heard about the international swim center that needs replacing.”
The program wrapped up with three performances — the S.E.S. Portuguese band and classical Korean and Indian dance.
“As a fourth-generation Santa Clara,” Gillmor said, “I’m humbled and extremely proud to be part of this community, which weaves together the incredible folks of diverse backgrounds and ethnicities. I am constantly in search of ways to improve our community in the journey to help build a healthy and more vibrant community.”
State of the City has Taken Different Forms
The format of the 2023 State of the City presentation and last year’s event have been quite different from events in the past.
The State of the City in 2016 — the Super Bowl 50 year — was a promotional video for Santa Clara in five 3-minute segments, featuring then-Mayor Jamie Matthews.
In 2018 and 2019, the State of the City took the form of townhalls in community spaces like the library and senior center, and repeated in several locations throughout the City. The city manager gave the body of the presentation; which was informational with detailed discussions of City finances and initiatives, and Q&As.
In 2020, the State of the City went virtual, with three sessions in the same townhall format as previous years.
The next year, 2021, remained virtual but replaced the townhall format a single presentation by the mayor.
In 2022, the event was once again in person, but retained the 2021 format and held in a darkened theater. The event wasn’t live-streamed.
You can watch the 2023 State of the City on the City’s YouTube page.