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City Desk: June 24, 2015

City Desk

Commemorative Statue Commission Goes to Bay Area Sculptor Linda Serrao

At the June 23 City Council meeting, it is expected that the City will announce the award of a sculpture commission to Bay Area artist Linda Serrao for a bronze work that will celebrate Super Bowl 50, to be played at Levi’s Stadium. The permanent sculpture will stand in front of the city’s Tasman Blvd. parking garage, where it will be accessible to the entire community.

Serrao’s proposal was unanimously chosen by the Santa Clara Cultural Commission, after three submissions were chosen for consideration by a panel of representatives from the Cultural Commission, the Triton Museum, Santa Clara University’s de Saisset Museum and the City Librarian.

The Commission selected Serrao’s design because it embodied the concept of Santa Clara as “the Center of What’s Possible,” according to the agenda report. Serrao’s specialty is bronze work and she has extensive experience with public art commissions. The piece will be cast in the Bay Area.

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2015-16 Capital Improvement (CIP) Budget Gives Big Boost to Parks & Rec

This year’s $75 million CIP budget incudes a $7 million increase for the City’s Parks and Recreation facilities, including Steve Carli, Townsend, Henry Schmidt and Bracher parks. In addition to park rehabilitation, the budget incudes replacement of the synthetic turf at the Youth Soccer Park as well as $5 million for new athletic fields, although the locations for these have yet to be identified.

Money is budgeted for engineering and design of the new International Swim Center/International Swimming Hall of Fame/Community Recreation Center (“ISCCRC”). However, the City doesn’t yet have the money to build it.

“When this project started it was at $60 million,” observed Council Member Teresa O’Neill. “We’ve added a theater, a gymnasium, community space. We have a lot of “scope creep.” It may be we [should] go do what we said we’d originally do [rebuild the existing swim center].”

“That’s one reason the swim center is very attractive,” said Council Member Lisa Gillmor, “because it is a new recreation center. It will be more useful to more residents than just the swim center.”

Libraries are also getting some attention. Renovation of the Mission branch library is in the plan, as well as equipment and software replacement, and energy-saving upgrades at the Central Park and Northside libraries.

The CIP budget also includes $3 million in improvements to Levi’s Stadium, which are funded through Santa Clara Stadium Authority revenues (2015-16 Proposed Budget, page 1-2 CIP Fund 875.)

Gillmor wanted to know why this was going through the general fund. “Why isn’t this all together in the Stadium Authority … I can’t be assured we’re not spending operating funds on the stadium because of the co-mingling of funds. I’m looking for a way to completely separate them.”

Gillmor has been arguing for a cleaner division between the Stadium Authority and the City; including conducting all discussions and business pertaining to Levi’s Stadium at Stadium Authority meetings, which are scheduled to follow the regular Council meeting.

Currently the Council holds a joint City Council/Stadium Authority session to handle stadium business. Gillmor contents that this blurs the perceived boundary between the City and the Stadium Authority (an independent legal entity).

This year’s budget also includes completion of Silicon Valley Power’s Phase Shifting Transformer – saving Santa Clara millions in transmission costs – improvements at the El Camino/San Tomas and El Camino/Lafayette intersections, and improvements to pedestrian and bicycle facilities.

RDA Dissolution: Finally Some Victories for the City

Last week Santa Clara wrote a $23 million check to satisfy the County’s clawbacks of former RDA assets – including money spent to build the Northside branch library. That wasn’t enough however. County officials and taxing entities wanted “prejudgment interest” on that money, too, claiming it was “damages” they should have had years ago.

Sacramento Superior Court Judge Christopher Kruge denied the demand; writing that “…given the complex nature of redevelopment agency dissolution, it is not unreasonable to expect that the Legislature would have provided for prejudgment interest if it had intended it to be awarded … it is wrong to assume that this silence is an invitation to treat the outcome of the review of redevelopment agency transactions as akin to a garden variety injury occurring on a date certain …. If the Legislature (had) meant… to authorize Prejudgment Interest … it could have easily used explicit language to that effect.”

Two million dollars of that will come back to the City, while about $9 million will go to the Santa Clara Unified School District.

There’s also news in the Convention Center property dispute with the County. Bond documents stating that when the Convention Center construction bonds were paid, the property would be unconditionally owned by the City – “in fee.” The WEEKLY requested a copy of the document, but hasn’t received it as of press time. “We are not returning the convention center,” said City Manager Julio Fuentes at the June 16 Council meeting. “We own it.”

Related Companies’ City Place Development Term Sheet Approved Unanimously

Last week the Council unanimously approved a term sheet for City Place Santa Clara, the 9.1 million square foot (sf) proposed development on land that is currently the municipal golf course and the still-undeveloped Tasman frontage on which Montana Development Group has had an exclusive negotiating agreement for four years. Related has made a deal with MDG and is now the sole developer. A draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) is expected later this summer, and construction of the first phase on Tasman is estimated to start in 2017, according to Related VP Steve Eimer.

Related has been working on the proposal for about two years. The project has some significant challenges, because the real estate is landfill – the former City dump. Related’s design will build the entire development on platforms. Related has already proved the concept in its $20 billion Hudson Yards project, a new neighborhood in New York City built over a working railroad.

The final development, to be constructed in eight phases, includes 1.5 million sf of retail, restaurant, and entertainment; 700 hotel rooms; 1,360 residential units; and 5.7 million sf of office space. Currently the State Dept. of Toxic Substances’ won’t approve residential development on the landfill, although Related is exploring what might be possible with state officials.

The 99-year lease stipulates initial ground rent of $750,000 at contract signing, and $1 million at project opening. This will grow to $1.5 million at the fourth anniversary of the project’s opening. The rent increases three percent a year for the next 42 years; except for 10 percent increases in years 25 and 35. After that, the rent will increase annually by three percent or the consumer price index increase, whichever is less, with periodic 10 percent increases and fair market rent adjustments in years 20, 45 and 70.

The potential lease revenue could reach between $119 million and $168 million annually according to he City’s economic/fiscal consultant, Keyser Marston Associates, adding up to $11 to 17 billion over the life of the lease. Property, sales and hotel taxes could add up to an additional $15 million a year for the City.

The City was moving too fast, the infrastructure implications hadn’t been considered and people didn’t have information on the project, some members of the public said.

“We had a public meeting about a year ago at the library looking at the infrastructure aspect of this,” Council Member Teresa O’Neill told him. The meeting she referenced was November 2013. “We had a meeting where we had police, fire, public works, planning … Those discussions have begun … [and] we are looking at these issues.” City place, she said offered a unique opportunity to address traffic congestion and commute stress by allowing people to live close to where they work.

Requiescat in Pace

The meeting ended with a moment of silence for the six students who died last week in a Berkeley balcony collapse.

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