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City Desk: Apr. 16, 2014

VTA Public Transportation Plan for Levi’s Stadium To Go Live for First Game

VTA plans to run full service for the first stadium event, the Earthquakes soccer game on Aug. 2. “We want to make sure we have plenty of capacity out there for the first games,” VTA Deputy Director of Operations and Planning Jim Unites told the Santa Clara City Council at last week’s meeting, in his overview of the transit agency’s bus and light rail plans for the stadium, and coordination with Caltrain and other regional transportation systems.

VTA’s plan is part the overall framework for all types of stadium access in the Transportation Management and Operations Plan (TMOP) that the Council approved last November.

A big VTA focus is “customer friendly” fare collection, Unites reported, including: a single fare from Caltrain, mobile app for paying fares using a smartphone, and promoting the regional use of the Clipper Card (the reloadable smart card for paying Bay Area transit fares and tolls).

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“This is a big initiative for VTA this year,” Unites said. “It’s one of our top priorities our board chair has set out for the coming year and a significant amount of effort and resources are being put forward to serving the new stadium. We’re developing a plan that we can scale for all kinds of events.”

VTA is planning a significant amount of additional service for stadium events, including almost doubling the light rail trains operating and providing additional bus service. The agency will also add about 70 additional employees for event days and is working on several projects to improve stadium access from public transportation.

Initial estimates are that 20 to 25 percent of stadium attendance (12,500 to 16,600 riders) will be using public transportation, and VTA is working with the 49ers to promote taking mass transit to the stadium.

One of the biggest challenges VTA faces is that Caltrain doesn’t serve the stadium directly. This necessitates a plan for moving people smoothly from the Mountain View Caltrain station to VTA light rail.

“We do anticipate a lot of riders coming down on Caltrain,” said Unites, “and we’re planning on additional service, like what we provide for Giants baseball service to San Francisco.” The transit agency is also planning express bus service from the Fremont BART station, and a connection for the Highway 17 Express bus to light rail at Diridon station. (To see Unites’ full presentation, visit tinyurl.com/vtastadium.)

Five community meetings are scheduled to discuss the stadium transportation and access plans. The meetings will be led by SCPD, and all are from 7 to 8:30 p.m:

  • April 29: Great America Training Center
  • May 7: Don Callejon School
  • May 19: Lick Mill Park Building
  • June 2: Kathryn Hughes Elementary School
  • June 25: Santa Clara Youth Soccer Park Community Room

Mini-Dorm at 2325 Park Takes Center Stage at Council Meeting

Last week’s Council meeting saw a new chapter in the continuing controversy about single family house conversions to what are now being called mini-dorms in neighborhoods near Santa Clara University.

This latest chapter erupted over 2325 Park Ave. in the College Park neighborhood. The property was sold in October 2013, and the new owners received construction permits over-the-counter to remodel the two-bedroom house into a six-bedroom house (which was subsequently changed into five bedrooms and a family room).

Neighbors discovered the plan, they say, when the house was advertised on the website Zillow as a 6BR, 3BA house for rent for $8,000/month. The listing was subsequently removed. But neighbors brought their complaints to the Council, first on March 28 and again last week. The story also got TV airtime on NBC Bay Area News.

“There’s no intention for a single family dwelling,” said one neighborhood resident at Tuesday’s meeting. “These are intended for an income stream”

Under current law, the remodel is perfectly legal and doesn’t require Planning Commission or Council review because it doesn’t involve increasing the size of the house or changing the zoning. “The code doesn’t give us any room to go further” in reviewing the project, said Santa Clara Planning Director Kevin Riley.

The owners are real estate developers David LeBaron, Mark DeMattei, and Eric Fox. Click Home Realty owner Myron von Raesfeld, the buying agent, will be the property manager. This is the same consortium that owns the Morse Mansion – the 1892 Queen Anne mansion is California Historical Landmark #904 and on the National Register of Historic Places. The mansion was rented to a sorority about five years ago and is reportedly occupied by about 10 SCU students.

Although it was not on the agenda, the discussion was timely. At the April 22 Council meeting, the City Attorney’s office will provide a general report on regulation of second units and boarding houses.

“Presently we lack a really comprehensive method to bring these situations to the Planning Commission and subsequently to the City Council,” said City Attorney Ren Nosky, “We’ll be looking at ways to comprehensively regulate boarding house in a legal manner, through the issuance of a use permit as opposed to over the counter.”

General Plan Update Launched

At Tuesday’s meeting, the Council appointed Members Debi Davis and Teresa O’Neill to supervise a study to update the 2010 General Plan for 2015 through 2022. The project will review the existing Housing and Land Use sections, and revise them based on current and projected housing needs.

The review will include current demographics, the state of the city’s existing housing, as well as housing costs, affordability, and market conditions – including overcrowding and overcharging. It will also analyze special housing needs; for example, senior citizens, people with disabilities, and extremely low income families.

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