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City Begins Eminent Domain Process To Secure Easements For Energy Needs

The Santa Clara City Council took the first steps in the eminent domain process to acquire four easements needed to install 82 utility poles and 2.4 miles of transmission lines throughout the City.

The City needs the easements as part of an upgrade to its electric utility infrastructure near the East Loop where many key industrial areas are located, said Manuel Pineda, Chief Electric Utility Officer. The project, which the City estimates will cost $25 million, will update aging infrastructure, increase reliability and shift electric loads to that area as the City’s energy needs grow.

Silicon Valley Power (SVP) has already secured 15 of the 37 easements needed, but it voted Tuesday night to secure four more, located at 925 Walsh Ave., 1401 Martin Ave., 800 Mathew St. and 2908 Lafayette St.

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In order to start the eminent domain process, the Council needed to adopt what is called a resolution of necessity. Such a resolution declares the City has been unable to negotiate for property needed for public use and is starting the process of having the government force the property owner to sell.

Negotiations with the property owners have been ongoing for between three and seven months for each property, Pineda said.

SVP offered owners of the Walsh Street property, PSB Northern California Industrial Portfolio LLC, $618,000; it offered Diana Alman, owner of the Martin Avenue property, $32,100; it offered Jitendra and Shashi Patel, owners of Mathew Street property, $21,900; it offered Dollinger Lafayette Associates, owner of the Lafayette property, $22,600.

The hearing dealt with whether acquiring the easements maximized the public good while minimizing private harm, was necessary for the project and offered fair market value for the easement.

However, two of the property owners disagreed with the City’s assessment.

The daughter of Shashi and Jitendra Patel told the Council the easement would cause “significant disruption” to her parent’s business, Clover Machine & Manufacturing. She said SVP has not communicated why the proposed option was the “least disruptive.”

Further, Micheal Dollinger, one of the owners of 2908 Lafayette St., said erecting the power lines will reduce the value of his rental property.

“I am very familiar with leasing and what tenants want. I can tell you honestly that they don’t want power lines or power poles in front of their business,” he said. “They just will not rent except at a very reduced rent, and the net result is I will have vacancies I cannot fill and a reduced rent in the building if I can.

The value of the property will go down.”

If the City wants the easements, he suggested it buy the building, which, he said, an appraiser he hired estimates to be worth $5 million.

The Council approved all four resolutions of necessity unanimously.

Pineda said the entire eminent domain process takes roughly two years, but the City would be able to build once it has an order of possession, which typically takes seven to eight months. In the meantime, he said, SVP will continue to negotiate with the property owners to reach a resolution without invoking eminent domain.

Six more easements needed for the project will come before the Council Dec. 15.

 

Tasman East Specific Plan Making Headway

The Tasman East Specific Plan also saw progress as the Council approved two agenda items related to it. Instead of extending Calle De Sol, the Council opted to extend the promenade located on the development.

In addition, the action also amended the transit neighborhood zoning district, allowing for non-residential uses on the first three floors. Further, mostly because of concerns surrounding coronavirus, the Council decided to allow for other traffic calming measures within the project.

Originally, said Reena Brilliot, Planning Manager for the City, the City planned to issue Valley Transit Authority smart passes to reduce residents’ need to drive. However, in the wake of the pandemic, she said other measures — such as the development of community shuttles or rent subsidies — could have the same effect.

On a related note, the second item established an infrastructure impact fee structure. Michael Liw, Assistant Director of Public Works, said the goal of the Nexus study is to establish an “equitable distribution of common infrastructure costs” for the 4,500 apartments set to reside on the 45-acre site.

The fees work out to $6,731 per new apartment. Those fees will fund the roughly $30 million in infrastructure costs including sanitary sewers, storm drains, pavement repairs and traffic improvements.

The fees will likely be adjusted for inflation as the development comes online, Liw said. Developers will have the option to fund infrastructure needs to avoid the fees.

 

No Pay Increase For City Manager, Attorney

City Manager Deanna Santana and City Attorney Brian Doyle will not be able to get cost-of-living wage increases for two years starting this year or merit-based wage increases starting next year.

 

Consent Calendar Spending

The Council approved the following spending via the consent calendar:

  • A $227,524 contract with Mott MacDonald, Inc., for the Lafayette Street underpass at Subway Pump Station
  • A $416,347 contract with Alta Planning + Design for “design professional services” for the Pruneridge Avenue Complete Streets Plan
  • A 3-year $581,250 contract — with up to seven 1-year extensions and budget amendments — with HouseKeys, Inc. for administration services for the Below-Market Purchase Program
  • $230,912 with “specific vendors” for the purchase of radiation detector, rope rescue gear, stadium personal protective equipment and 2-Way CAD/24-7 Link
  • $10,800 to the Silicon Valley Business Journal for two eblast campaigns to promote non-NFL events at Levi’s Stadium

The Council meets again Tuesday, Dec. 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 1(669) 900-6833, via the City’s eComment (available during the meeting) or by email to PublicComment@santaclaraca.gov

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