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‘Affordable’ Monroe Development Gets Overhaul, City Announces Candidate Forums

A housing project that drew the ire of prospective neighbors at the start of the year is now being lauded as a remedy to issues of rent affordability in Santa Clara.

At its meeting Tuesday night, the Council and the public alike seemed to do a 180 on the housing complex at 2330 Monroe St. — a property that the dissolution of the redevelopment agencies mandates has an “affordable housing” component. During a community outreach meeting in February, many stridently opposed the homeless housing complex that featured 200 micro-apartments slated to be built by Cupertino-based developer Sobrato.

However, since then, Sobrato has backed out, and the project has changed hands. It has morphed into a hybrid housing complex, one that sets aside 20 percent of its 55-to-65 apartments for people with developmental disabilities. The remainder will house people with incomes ranging from 80 to 120 percent of area median income; 80 percent of area median income, according to Santa Clara County Housing and Urban Development, is $66,150.


The new developer, Freebird Development Company, has worked extensively with the public to craft a project that fills Santa Clara’s need for less-expensive rentals and give neighbors something they can get behind, said Jonathan Veach, the City’s HUD manager.

“The plan is to build a project we can all be proud of,” said Robin Zimbler, founder of Freebird.

Council Member Teresa O’Neill called the overhaul a “good design,” and Mayor Lisa Gillmor said the project was “night and day from a year ago.”

Nobody spoke against the project.

The Council unanimously approved authorizing City Manager Deanna Santana to enter into an exclusive negotiating agreement with Freebird for future consideration.


Audit Updates

Klynveld Peat Marwick Goerdeler (KPMG) issued the City the highest possible opinion — an unqualified or “clean” opinion — following its audit of Santa Clara Stadium Authority.

Angela Kraetsch, the City’s finance director, told the Council that from the 13 non-NFL events, the City saw $5.2 million go into its general fund last fiscal year. Further, the City reduced its outstanding debt by $47 million during fiscal year 17-18.

City Manager Deanna Santana said KPMG “tested the financial statements for accuracy and completeness.”

“It doesn’t mean the auditors have gone through every granular level,” she said. “Until we can go through the granular level, I am reluctant to say the information is accurate and complete.”

The financial audit is the latest chapter in the 49ers vs. the City saga, one that saw the Mayor and her cohorts — most vocally Vice Mayor Kathy Watanabe and Council Member Debi Davis — lobbing accusations at the Stadium Management Company (ManCo) claiming it is not handing over adequate documentation that shows the stadium’s finances.

Jim Mercurio, vice president of stadium operations at Levi’s Stadium, has denied having an adversarial attitude, citing a reluctance to make some documents public because they contain security and proprietary information. He has said he has provided all documents requested previously by auditors.

Another audit, this one on tourism improvement district (TID) finances, has stalled because of a lack of essential paperwork.

While documents from the Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) came in Tuesday, Santana said they did not come in time to complete the audit of the TID, which is a $1 per room hotel tax.

However, Nick Kaspar, president and CEO of the Santa Clara Chamber of Commerce, said the documentation submitted earlier by CVB employees was simply in the wrong format. With the performance audit also being conducted at the CVB, getting auditors the correct format took another seven business days.

Kaspar expressed a willingness to cooperate with auditors.


Candidate Forums

Acting City Clerk Jennifer Yamaguma cleared up what she called a “false narrative” surrounding the November election that has caused “quite a bit of confusion.”

Such “clarifications” became necessary when exchanges between Suds Jain, a member of the Citizens Advisory Committee, and Yamaguma became public. These exchanges revealed that the City did not intend to sponsor candidate forums or hire an ethics consultant as it had done in years past, prompting media coverage, including editorials and articles in the Santa Clara Weekly.

Although she did not address how such reports were inaccurate, Yamaguma told the Council that the League of Women Voters has since agreed to host two forums. The two forums will split time between the mayoral and city clerk candidates (6:30 and 7:45 p.m. respectively Oct. 11) and candidates for districts 2 and 3 (6:30 and 7:45 p.m. respectively Oct. 17).

Bob O’Keefe, a candidate for City Clerk, said the information Yamaguma presented was the same information she gave him when he pulled his papers in August.

“I don’t think there is a conspiracy to cancel forums,” he said.

Mario Bouza, a Council candidate for district 2, said he wished the Council would have “started the ball rolling sooner.”

The Council voted unanimously to look into hosting forums for the two ballot measures up for a vote: one taxing the recreational use of marijuana and the other — now irrelevant because of a court mandate — establishing districts in the City.


City Contracts

The Council approved a contract with the firefighter’s union that gives a Step 5 Firefighter II a 2.5 percent pay bump over the survey average.

Prior to the outset of the meeting, Santana and City Attorney Brian Doyle also introduced seven new City employees. These positions include a new human resources director, assistant city clerk, city auditor, purchasing manager, communications director, deputy city attorney and assistant finance director.

Mayor Gillmor commended Santana for “filling gaps” in the City’s employees, saying that the City is now going to “run like a well-oiled machine.”

The Council deferred an item discussing gifts to the City and elected officials to its Oct. 2 meeting.

Council Member Debi Davis was absent.

The Council meets again at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 18 in the Council Chambers at City Hall, 1500 Warburton Ave. in Santa Clara.


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