Santa Clara’s City Council added an affordable housing complex to the City’s list of below-market-rate housing, dealt with a request from the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Task Force and changed council member committee assignments including who serves on the VTA board during its meeting on Jan. 25, 2022.
The Santa Clara City Council has taken another step toward meeting its below-market-rate housing goals with the addition of a 59-unit affordable housing complex.
The .58-acre complex is slated to be located at 3941 Stevens Creek Blvd. the site of a defunct car wash and jewelry store. Of the 59 apartments, all deemed “affordable,” 46 will be designated for those earning 60 percent area median income (AMI), 6 for those earning 50 percent AMI and 6 for those earning 30 percent AMI. The remaining apartment is set aside for the apartment manager.
Santa Clara’s AMI is $151,300.
The apartments, called The Meridian, will be a mix of 10 one-bedroom, 20 two-bedroom, 24 three-bedroom and 5 four-bedroom units. The six-story development is designated community mixed-use, hosting 2,630 square feet of office space and 3,857 square feet of public space, which includes a community room and laundromat.
Reena Brillot, Assistant Director of Community Development, said the affordable housing complex project takes advantage of three state laws aimed at empowering cities to build below-market-rate housing by removing restrictions surrounding them.
AB 3194 specifies that such a development does not need to be rezoned if it does not fit with the General Plan’s designation for the area. SB 330 limits the City to objective, quantifiable development standards. AB 1736 prevents cities from imposing density maximums provided the development is within a half-mile of a major transit stop.
Further, the developer, CRP Affordable, is seeking a California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) exemption as a Sustainable Communities project. Those parameters specify that the development meets transit priorities, environmental land use and affordable designations. Brillot said the proposed affordable housing complex meets the criteria for the exemption.
Despite not being required to provide parking, the development will have 32 parking spaces, including 3 for electric vehicles. The Council voted unanimously to approve the project.
Task Force Letter Deferred
A letter from the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Task Force recommending that the City commit to maintaining its elected police chief was at issue because of its lack of public input. During the task force’s quarterly report, some of the Council took issue that the letter had not been agendized for public discussion, instead, coming out of a sub-committee made up of three members of the task force.
Neil Datar, chair of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Task Force, told the Council the item did not see public discussion because City employees stymied task force efforts to put it on the agenda.
“We wanted to take this to the public. We wanted to have full public debate and discourse and have these surveys — just like we did for Columbus Day — in order to bring you a fully thought out, diligent, public comments recommendation,” said Datar.
Because the Council will hold a future meeting to discuss which measures to put on the ballot for this year’s election, City Manager Deanna Santana told the Council she thought it best that the topic first return to Council before getting public comment. Since there “is a possibility” the Council will discuss having a measure that put the topic of an elected police chief to the voters at that meeting, Santana said it was better to err on the side of caution.
Further, Santana said, bouncing the item back to the Council was an attempt to circumvent the inevitable slew of California Fair Political Practices complaints the City “always gets.”
The law prohibits the City from funding efforts toward political ends, said Sujata Reuter, Assistant City Attorney, but, since there is, as of yet, no such ballot measure, discussion on the topic is not prohibited. However, in the interest of “best practices,” she expressed concerns about the task force moving forward with the discussion.
Mayor Lisa Gillmor and political ally Kathy Watanabe stood in opposition to the delay, both said they understood why Santana erred on the side of caution but that her concerns were likely unfounded, urging the Council to refer the letter back to the task force for public discussion.
The rest of the Council did not share Gillmor and Watanabe’s attitudes.
The lack of support did not go over well with Joyce Davis, the task force’s vice chair.
“I came into this with an understanding that people were going to have some thicker skins, that … we were going to have an opportunity to speak. When we did try, as a sub-committee, to bring that information to the larger body. That is when we were cautioned and told we should probably not be discussing this,” Davis said. “Do you or do you not want this kind of [Diversity, Equity and Inclusion] Task Force? Because if everything we bring to you — we are just getting started — so, if everything we bring to you, you are just going to say, I don’t know, ‘appreciate your initiative.’ No. No. I am not to be patted on the head and told ‘done a good job, but not here.’”
The Council voted 5-2 to defer the item until after its Feb. 8 meeting.
Committee Assignments Shift
The Council also rearranged its board and committee duties. The topic had previously come up during a past meeting when Vice Mayor Suds Jain suggested it, claiming that the distribution of duties among council members was inequitable.
Council Member Anthony Becker moved that the Council rotate the chair of various committees every year.
Mayor Gillmor voted against the motion, which removed her from the Valley Transit Authority Board (VTA) where Santa Clara now has voting power, replacing her with Jain.
“The motion to remove me from VTA is clearly a political move, clearly,” she said. “I just want to say that this will hurt Santa Clara because now we will have someone representing Santa Clara with little experience and few, if any, relationships with regional leaders.”
Becker took umbrage with the implication that Jain — an ardent supporter of public transportation, environmental advocate and Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduate — is not qualified to serve on the VTA board.
Council Member Kathy Watanabe also voted against the motion, agreeing that the shift of duties is “political.”
Consent Calendar Spending
The Council approved the following spending via the consent calendar:
- $375,000 for five electric program manager positions at Silicon Valley Power;
- $50,000, one-year purchase order with Bay City Boiler and Engineering Company, Inc. for boiler maintenance and repair services;
- A one-year, $286,310 agreement with New Image Landscape Company for landscape maintenance services;
- $30,000 with up to $10,000 in expenses to GVP Ventures, Inc. dba Bob Murray & Associates for executive recruiting services for the City Attorney vacancy;
- A $75,000 agreement with Homebase to establish the homelessness task force to support the preparation of the City plan to end homelessness;
- A $50,178 agreement with WeHOPE to provide mobile hygiene services with $5,018 for “unanticipated changes;”
- A $183,061 amendment to an agreement with E Source Companies for management of electric, water and sewer service agreements with an option for up to nine, one-year extensions;
- $500,000 worth of amendments to contracts with 4Leaf, Inc, Bureau Veritas North America, Inc., CSG Consultants, Inc., Interwest Consulting Group, Inc., Jason Addison Smith Consulting Services, Inc., Plan Review Consultants, Inc., Shums Coda Associates, Inc., Synergetic Consulting, TRB + Associates, Inc., West Coast Code Consultants, Inc. for inspection services. Total amount for all contracts $2.94 million;
- A two-year subscription to Westlaw online legal research and associated services for $46,519.44;
- A three-year, $20,000 extension to a contract with Contractor Compliance and Monitoring Inc. for labor compliance consulting services.
The next regularly scheduled meeting is Tuesday, Feb. 8 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 (669) 900-6833, via the City’s eComment (available during the meeting) or by email to PublicComment@santaclaraca.gov