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City Cracks Down On Street Racing, Impartiality On Measure C Debated

By putting a few new measures in place, Santa Clara hopes to curb street racing.

Street racing came up during the Santa Clara City Council’s Tuesday night meeting. Council Member Kathy Watanabe brought the issue before the Council last year because, she said, it had become an issue in her district.

Since then, the police department has been working with Matrix Consulting to get an idea of the scope of the problem and begin to develop solutions. A study by Matrix showed there are a few “hot spots” of racing within the City, most notably on Lafayette Street and Calle De Luna and along El Camino Real.


John Scruggs, Manager at Matrix Consulting Group, said the majority of the problem stems from impromptu, as opposed to organized, street racing. Most of the complaints — 73 over six months — about the racing have been related to noise.

However, Scruggs said, according to the results of an online survey of 275 people and in-person interview, he believes the problem is going unreported.

“Most people don’t call the police because they believe it to be ineffective,” he said.

Despite many business owners being aware of the problem, 82 percent of them told Matrix it had not interfered with business.

The Council adopted all the recommendations from Assistant Police Chief Dan Winter in an effort to curb the crime. Those recommendations included enacting a street racing ordinance, lobbying the state to allow speed cameras, using overtime to ramp up enforcement, using social media to inform people of the danger of street racing, and two measures already being used by the police department: assigning an officer to specifically deal with street racing and training officers in street racing enforcement.

City Clerk Updates Council On Dark Money 

City Clerk Hosam Haggag informed the Council of another alleged dark money violation by the 49ers. While detailing Monday night’s town hall where he discussed dark money, Haggag told the Council that the team submitted a $30,000 amendment to expenses it incurred to conduct a telephone poll opposing the City’s ballot measure to switch the City to three districts.

Haggag had sent letters to the team after becoming aware of the poll, which he said was designed to sway voters on Measure C. Under the City’s dark money ordinance, spending more $100 to influence the outcome of an election must be disclosed. The subsequent filing from the team, Haggag said, showed it was behind the poll.

The amendment to the filing comes after the final deadline, Haggag said, and brings the team’s total to oppose Measure C to more than $647,000.

Some, including Council Member Raj Chahal and Vice Mayor Karen Hardy, pointed to another survey from the Police Officers Association (POA), saying it, too, was designed to sway voters but did not come under the same scrutiny.

That survey, Haggag said, was not the same since it disclosed who was conducting it and was not intended to sway so much as gather information. He added that he did not want to get into an “academic” or “technical” discussion about how to define whether something is impartial. The state’s Fair Political Practices Commission is responsible for that.

Still, some quibbled with that assessment.

“What this is looking like is a billy club to beat someone with,” Hardy said, referring to the dark money ordinance.

Chahal disputed the contention that the POA survey was not trying to sway voters.

Others agreed. Council candidate Anthony Becker called the dark money violations a “witch hunt” against the 49ers, claiming that the City is not impartial in the materials it claims are “educational” and instead is interested in convincing voters to support Measure C.

Kevin Park, a one-time Council candidate, said considering the City supported a previous measure to split the City into fewer than its current six districts, it isn’t a stretch to suggest it might be advocating for Measure C. By reducing the number of districts from six — as mandated by the court ruling against the City is its California Voting Rights Act lawsuit — elections are more like at-large elections, he said.

“This isn’t actually about dark money. It is about power and trying to control the power,” he said.

Haggag and City Attorney Brian Doyle brought up that no one officially contested Doyle’s impartial analysis, something anybody has the right to do.


Santa Clara County Assessor Opposes Split Roll Measure

During special orders of business, the Santa Clara County Assessor Larry Stone, railed against a ballot measure to reform a more-than-40-year-old law that halts property tax increases until an owner sells. The proposed law would create a “split roll,” keeping residential property tax static while taxing commercial and industrial properties based on market value.

Stone, an opponent of 1978’s Prop. 13, said the new reform, dubbed Schools and Community First, would be “impossible” to make work.

“Whenever a government attempts to do something that is impossible to do, it creates cynicism,” he said. “Promises are only good if they can be achieved.”

Not only would it not generate the purported $12 billion in revenue, it would create such a backlog in the Assessor’s office, likely skyrocketing the number of appeals from roughly 2,000 to nearly 25,000 a year, Stone said.

Although Stone said Prop. 13 reform is needed, and the current ballot initiative is “well-intended,” it is “seriously flawed.”

Jessica Vollmer, organizing director for Working Partnerships, opposed Stone’s analysis, saying Schools and Community First “levels the playing field.”

The ballot measure will appear on the November ballot this year.


Council Aims To Make City More Walkable With Pedestrian Plan

The Council also approved a pedestrian plan for the City.

Craig Mobeck, Director of Public Works, said the goal of the plan is to make the City more walkable by making the City safer, more comfortable, more convenient, more comprehensive and accessible to people of all ages and abilities.

The Council only approved the plan but not funding for any of the projects, which would amount to $194 million spread over 382 projects, 79 of which Mobeck called a “priority.” Those projects would include, among other things, improvements to sidewalks, crosswalks traffic signals and curbs, Mobeck said. He did not have a specific timeline for all the improvements, saying much of it depended on grant funding.

Mobeck said the goal is to get the percent of people who walk as a primary mode of transportation from 3.7 percent to 8 percent in the next eight or nine years.


Consent Calendar Spending, Weed Abatement

In addition to approving the fire department’s contract with the county for weed abatement, the Council also approved the following spending in one motion via the consent calendar:

  • A $797,677.10, 5-year contract with Dasher Technologies, Inc. for the Blade Center replacement project
  • A $6 million transfer from the RDA successor agency fund to loan ZAEN Partners the money to “support the construction of 150 affordable housing units located at 2302 Calle Del Mundo”

The Council meets again Tuesday, March 17 in the Council Chambers at City Hall, 1500 Warburton Ave. in Santa Clara.


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