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Affordable Housing Projects Forefront of Council Discussion, City Deliberates on Pot

Adding housing — specifically below-market-rate housing — to the City was the centerpiece of the Santa Clara City Council’s most recent meeting.

A housing project for the poor and 3-home project in the Old Quad got the nod Tuesday night while another building will offer “affordable” condos.

The Council approved a $5 million loan to the developer of a 5-story complex containing 144 micro-apartments for the poor. The 1.08-acre site is located at 2904 Corvin Drive and is part of the Lawrence Station Plan Area. It will house 80 residents who earn 30 percent area median income and 64 who earn 60 percent area median income.

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The less expensive apartments will be earmarked for those who were formerly chronically homeless or have special needs. County vouchers tied to the project will allow those residents to pay 30 percent of their income.

Rent on the apartments is $698/month and $1,315/month respectively; they are 285 square feet. The development will have 65 parking spaces.

Allied, the developer, is a subsidiary of Abode, who bought the land with $9.5 million in financing from Housing Trust Silicon Valley in September 2018. Abode will be providing onsite services for its residents with special needs.

Jonathan Veach, the City’s housing director, said leveraging money from Measure A (a 2016 affordable housing bond initiative) was key to the project.

“These units could have easily been market rate units,” Veach said.

Council Member Raj Chahal called the project an “ideal” one, saying it was the “right kind of investment.” He said he hopes such projects will send a message to other builders as to what kind of projects are viable in the City.

Veach said construction is slated to take 18 months; it is scheduled for occupancy in the summer of 2021.

Another apartment building in the Lawrence Station Plan Area will also designate 52 of its 286 condos as “affordable.” Council approved, via the consent calendar, an affordable housing agreement with Shac LS Apartments LLC for 3560 Rambla Place, Building B. Forty-seven of condos will be designated as “moderate income,” or 120 percent area median income, and five will be “low income,” or 80 percent area median income.

Area median income, according to the U.S. Census Bureau in 2017, is $106,761, meaning rent on a one-bedroom “moderate income” condo is $3,233/month and rent on a “low income” condo comes out to $2,135/month.

Council’s approved a planned development zoning for an Old Quad project on the corner of Lewis and Madison Streets. The decision will split the parcel into three, allowing for the construction of three houses.

Andrew Crabtree, community development director, said the project is consistent with the General Plan. Assessments by the Historic Landmarks Commission, Planning Commission, members of the community and other City employees determined the single-family home there has no historical significance, he said.

Designs are intended to be in keeping with the single-family aesthetic of the neighborhood and preserve some of the historic elements, Crabtree said.

“I am really excited to see this development going forward,” said Council Member Kathy Watanabe. “This is definitely a big improvement over what is presently there. It will make a great change to the neighborhood.”

 

Decisions on Marijuana Sale Still Up In the Air

Money from marijuana taxation has been lower than state estimates. Consequently, Ruth Shikada, assistant city manager, came before the Council seeking direction on how to proceed with the City’s policy on the drug.

“There is still a significant black market,” Shikada said. “It is a lot cheaper, still, to buy it in the black market rather than to do it openly because there still is a lot of taxes associated with that.”

Although the state is looking to make changes to marijuana policy to reverse this trend, including lowering the tax rate, Shikada said her department was looking for direction from Council on a variety of areas. These areas include operational parameters for sellers, how many retail licenses to issue, what the selection process for approving applications is and how frequently to collect taxes.

Shikada recommended disallowing pot sale in businesses that use volatile chemicals and have outdoor cultivation, issuing three retail licenses and not limiting other licenses, limiting sale to all industrial areas and collecting taxes quarterly. She sought direction on other policies.

Regardless of the Council’s decision, Shikada said extending the moratorium, which is set to expire in June, is necessary.

Council Members Chahal and Karen Hardy both said they wanted more information before giving direction, specifically on why other cities are disallowing the sale of pot.

Chahal said he wanted more data on the operational side of things before starting down a path to put concrete policies in place.

“We don’t want to do something for revenue, and it’s a wash,” he said.

Council Members Debi Davis and Watanabe said they would prefer to allow sale of the drug in only heavy industrial areas as opposed to all industrial.

Public opinion on pot sale was split.

Todd Dickson, president of Lumenous Device Technologies Inc., called the proposal “nonsense.” As a manufacturer of medical devices, he said allowing pot sale in industrial areas will “undermine” his presence and confuse consumers, causing them to conflate his business with businesses that sell pot.

“We are known by the company we keep,” he said.

Sean Kali-Rai, a Bay Area advocate for the decriminalization of pot, said he favored expanding the areas where businesses can sell marijuana because it is “extremely difficult to find pot properties.”

Three other members of the public said they too supported expanding the allowable areas where businesses can sell pot.

However, others opposed the sale altogether.

Dwight Christiansen said he favored a higher utility rate for pot sellers and that he was “unsure what would motivate the City Council to bring drugs into the community.”

“I hope it is not just for money, because there is a word for those would do anything for money without regard to moral consequences,” he said.

Rob Jerdonek said the City should ban pot, saying that allowing it will “flood our City with recreational drugs accessible to our youth.”

 

Council Approves Spending $3.71 million for City Services

With a single vote, the Council approved spending $3.71 million, mostly for infrastructure maintenance contracts.

An agreement with SEL Engineering Services to the tune of $387.074 will provide “protection engineering support services for substation upgrades.”

A 5 percent increase in the salary schedule for Santa Clara firefighters required another $300,000 increase in the Fire Department’s budget. The pay increase is retroactive to Decembers last year.

The Council also awarded contracts for three signal timing projects. The first, at Homestead Road and Lick Mill Boulevard, went to Bear Electric Solutions, Inc. That contract cost $873,295. The second and third, one for Lafayette Street with a contract total of $772,856 and another for Agnew Road and De Le Cruz Boulevard for $786,053, went to Daleo, Inc.

A telephone services contract went to Packet Fusion, Inc. That contract, which is 5 years, is not to exceed $326,670.

A new position — Electric Program Manager to Manage and Support the State and City Goals to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions — also saw approval. That position, according to documents in the Council packet, will cost the City $273,000/year.

Council Member Hardy attended the meeting via telephone. Vice Mayor Patricia Mahan was absent.

The Council’s next regularly scheduled meeting is Tuesday, March 5 in the Council Chambers at City Hall, 1500 Warburton Ave. in Santa Clara.

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