The Santa Clara City Council has appointed a Charter Review Committee to consider allowing voters to decide whether to appoint the City’s police chief and city clerk.
At its Tuesday night meeting, the Council approved selections for the committee and directed its scope of work. That scope included adding possible qualifications for the positions should it decide to have them remain elected as well as considering — should they change to appointed positions — whether the Council or the City Manager would appoint them.
The seven-member committee is made up of eligible voters from each of the six districts and another at-large member. The commission is composed of Satish Chandra (District 1), Chiragkumar Patel (District 2), Christine Koltermann (District 3), Daniel Huynh (District 4), Jeff Houston (District 5), Clysta Seney (District 6) and Joyce Davis (at-large.)
Mayor Lisa Gillmor and political ally Kathy Watanabe voted against the motion. Gillmor said she wanted to give the committee a “wide berth.”
“I want to give them the authority to listen to the public and come back with an informed recommendation on these items,” Gillmor said. “I think they have heard everyone’s opinion on what they think, but I don’t think we should be guided too closely … I think we should let them do their work. They know what to do. They are intelligent people.”
All the committee’s meetings will be public with public input on the ballot measure in August and September. Should the committee opt to put the issue to the voters, the item will show up on a special March 2024 ballot.
The Council also appropriated $430,455 — $180,00 of which for a March election — to support the Charter Review Committee and related ballot measures, should they both occur.
Council Member Kathy Watanabe opposed the motion. She made a classic “won’t-someone-please-think-of-the-children” plea, saying that the appropriation is squandering money that could be used more productively, for instance for the swim center. She said it was “unfair.”
“Where is the wisdom in this decision that is being proposed tonight? How is the action in the best interest of our people, how is it in the best interest of our youth and how does this put the residents’ needs above all?” Watanabe said. “It doesn’t.”
Council Member Anthony Becker called Watanabe’s comments a “red herring,” adding that council members shouldn’t “be using children to make political points.”
Gillmor also opposed the motion, leveraging an appeal to tradition fallacy, saying that it has “never been done” and is “unprecedented.” She sardonically thanked Council Member Suds Jain for explaining his reasoning for introducing the item, saying it is “so evident” that he is worried that the Council will lose a member — referring to Becker’s indictment — so he wants to “squirrel away” the money.
As a cherry on top of her plea, Gillmor further called the action “financially irresponsible” and “highly unethical.”
Nevertheless, the Council approved the appropriation in a 5-2 vote.
Pilot Program Aims to Squash Illegal Street Vendors
A state law has hampered Council’s ability to curb illegal vendors at Levi’s Stadium on event days, but the Council has nonetheless kicked off a program aimed at mitigating the problems they cause.
SB 946 ties cities’ hands when regulating street vendors, prohibiting them from criminally prosecuting violations of their city code. Not only does the law prevent cities from limiting vendors, but it also only permits them to fine vendors who operate illegally.
Further, the law allows for up to 80% suspension of those fines if the person fined is unable to pay.
“Without criminal enforcement, the tools to deal with bad actors and the actions that can be taken out in the field, by code enforcement or police department, against violators are highly limited,” said City Attorney Glen Googins. “And with a prescribed, limited fine schedule, the repercussions of being in violation in these types of rules are of relatively minor consequence.”
However, the law provides exceptions under its “time, place, manner” provision for situations that impair health, safety or welfare. Under this umbrella, the Council has adopted a pilot program to get a better handle on the situation.
Capt. Luis Martin told the Council that, on event days, the stadium is rife with various hazards. Some such concerns include foot traffic congestion spilling into car lanes, improper trash disposal, unhealthy food handling, use of propane tanks in highly concentrated areas, hot cooktops without proper clearance or fire extinguishers and illegal alcohol sale.
The topic has been a pet complaint of Howard Gibbins, a hot dog vendor who has frequently spoken at meetings urging the Council to act.
Martin said the program will tackle the problem from various angles, including progressive enforcement starting with guest services, escalating to security and finally to police. The program will run from August through January 2024 in preparation for the event season.
The Council approved the program unanimously.
Planned Development Rezoned
The Council also rezoned a planned development to its original industrial use. Three parcels that used to host Off the Wall Soccer will be the new site of a semiconductor manufacturer at 700 Mathew St. near Lafayette Street. The new business, Quality Metal Spinning, will make interior remodels and exterior upgrades to the site.
Council Member Raj Chahal said with so many developments shifting to planned development in recent years, it is a nice change of pace to see a planned development return to an industrial use.
The Council approved the change unanimously.
Swim Club Still Sore About Swim Center Closing, CVRA Plaintiff Defends Becker
Advocates from the Santa Clara Swim Club again flooded public presentations, imploring the Council to find an expedient solution to the closing of the Santa Clara Swim Center.
A boiler malfunction caused the swim center to close roughly three months ago, displacing the club.
City Manager Jovan Grogan updated the Council on the repair, saying just a few days ago maintenance crews discovered “additional complications” while working on the boiler. While City employees are working to fix the problem, hope that the swim center will reopen this summer is likely misplaced.
Much of the swim center’s equipment was built in the 1960s. The “significant deferred maintenance” had led to “significant challenges,” Grogan said. City employees are working to find suitable alternatives in the short-term while prioritizing raising money for a new swim center in the long-term.
In a departure from many recent public comments, Wesley Mukoyama defended Council Member Anthony Becker who stands accused of leaking a confidential grand jury report. Public comments in recent weeks have seen commenters calling for Becker’s resignation.
Mukoyama, who initiated the California Voting Rights Act suit against the City that mandated district elections because they disenfranchised minority voters, accused the mayor of “colluding” with an “overambitious” district attorney.
“Stay strong and diligent,” Mukoyama told Becker. “Do not back down from the mayor and mob-minion petitioners asking you to do so. Remember, you are innocent until proven guilty.”
Becker has championed marginalized people during his tenure as council member, Mukoyama said, including homeless people, the elderly, minorities and LGBT people.
Consent Calendar Spending
- A $598,398 purchase order with Hitachi Energy USA, Inc for electric transformers.
- A $2.36 million purchase order with Trayer Engineering Corp for electric switches.
- A $497,610 purchase order with Elster Solutions LLC for electric meters.
- A $494,110 contract with Bellecci & Associates, Inc. for creek trail pavement maintenance and rehabilitation.
- A $1.5 million amendment with Electrical Consultants, Inc. for additional services related to Silicon Valley Power’s system expansion plan through Dec. 1, 2025.
- An additional $30 million for services related to SVP’s system expansion plan, including general consulting services with Advisian Worley Group, TRC Solutions, Inc. Leidos Engineering LLC, Flynn Resource Consultants, Inc. and EN Engineering LLC and plan implementation with Burns & McDonnell Engineering Company, Inc., TRC Solutions, Inc., ECI, AECOM Technical Services, Inc. and Stantec Consulting Services Inc. The total amount now stands at $80 million.
- A $750,000 agreement with Santa Clara Methodist Retirement Foundation – Liberty Tower for elevator upgrade.
- A $100,000 agreement with Rebuilding Together Silicon Valley for the administration of the City’s Minor Home Repair program subject to the availability of Community Development Block Grant money.
The next regularly scheduled meeting is Tuesday, Aug. 22 in the Council Chambers at City Hall, 1500 Warburton Ave. in Santa Clara.
Members of the public can participate in the City Council meetings on Zoom at https://santaclaraca.zoom.us/j/99706759306; Meeting ID: 997-0675-9306 or call 1(669) 900-6833, via the City’s eComment (available during the meeting) or by email to PublicComment@santaclaraca.gov.