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City Desk: June 3, 2015

Growth, Not Soccer Fields, Dominates City-School Liaison Committee

Some assumed that last week’s Santa Clara City-School Liaison Committee meeting would be another hot meeting, since “soccer parks,” “athletic facilities,” “joint use” and “49ers” all appeared on the agenda. Instead, the conversation concerned the impact of the City’s current development on the district. Some people have moved because of the cost of living, according to Superintendent Stan Rose, but a growing school population is inevitable. The district forecasts that in the coming school year about 200 charter school students will return to mainstream classrooms.

City Council Member Lisa Gillmor noted that while developers say there will be few new children living in the roughly 4,500 new housing units currently under construction or on the drawing board – almost entirely one and two bedroom apartments, only about 10 percent are for-sale housing – “then I talk to people and [they tell me] they’re living there with their kids.

“We’re going to see a shift in how people are living,” said Gillmor. The people who are buying single family homes are not young families with children. They’re living in apartments because they can’t afford to buy a house.” Council Member Teresa O’Neill noted that more families will be sharing houses and apartments because of escalating prices.

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One historical example of such a shift happened in the Rivermark neighborhood, she said. When Rivermark was developed, it was projected to be largely a community of young, childless professionals, and the new school, Don Callejon School, was planned accordingly. After people moved into the new homes and apartments, enrollment far exceeded developers’ projections. The district now does demographic studies annually.

The district collects some development fees to fund new school construction, but state law limits them. Based on square footage of new residential construction, districts can levy fees covering up to 33 percent of new school construction costs. For commercial development, that fee drops to six percent of those costs. The gap is filled by state grants and local add-on parcel taxes.

The picture may be changing, said SCUSD Board President Albert Gonzalez. “The governor is pushing to get the state out of the school building business except for those in ‘low assessed value’ areas. Districts are [being] left to tax residents. There’s talk of raising the limit on development fees.”

Mayor Jamie Matthews asked if it was possible to add some new development fees that would be “more reflective” of the real costs of building new schools.

“You can ask for anything you want,” replied City Planning Director Kevin Riley. “You can add a condition of approval,” as was the case when Rivermark was built, “or add a standard fee upfront.”

Whatever the plan, “the window is now,” Gillmor stressed. The California School Boards Association is promoting a $2 billion school construction ballot measure. Pressure needed to be put on state representatives, added SCUSD Trustee Noelani Sallings.

The Committee also agreed that any offers made by the 49ers to SCUSD are completely separate from any City business with the team. In other words, no agreements that the 49ers will do X for the school district in return for Y from the City. SCUSD is considering the 49ers April offer of $3 million for athletic field improvements, and is preparing to evaluate the conditions of school district athletic fields – which everyone agreed were “very beat-up” – and costs of needed renovation.

At the meeting it was also noted that the proposed Montague Park renovation adding a soccer field, would bring needed improvements to the park – including rebuilding the community center and playground, upgrading tennis and basketball courts, and adding traffic lights – much sooner than planned.

New Faces on Santa Clara City Commissions

Last month the Santa Clara City Council filled 15 vacancies on City Commissions.

Nine new Youth Commissioners were appointed for the 2015-2016 school year, joining the six Commissioners who will serve another year. Any Santa Clara resident between 12 and 19, not working for the City, can serve on the Youth Commission. Youth Commissioners don’t have to attend Santa Clara Unified schools.

Priya Cherukuru was appointed to the Historical and Landmarks Commission. Cherukuru is a Capital Projects Manager for the County, former County Historical Heritage Coordinator and member of the Architectural and County Site Approval Committee and has degrees in architecture and urban planning.

Former chair of the Library Board of Trustees, and founding member of the Santa Clara Library Foundation and Friends, Nancy Toledo was appointed to the Senior Advisory Commission. In addition to her service to the library, Toledo was a City Year board member and a volunteer facilitator for Diversity Workshops given by the National Conference of Christians and Jews.

Willie D. Brown, an attorney with the San Jose Water Company, and Carolyn McAllister, a retired USPS manager, were appointed to the Civil Service Commission.

Brown is a business and contracts attorney as well as a former financial analyst and USAF veteran. He has served as a Student Trustee at West Valley-Mission Community College District and Student Senator for the Associated Students of the University of California. Brown is also on the board of the non-profit Lincoln Law School in San Jose, member of the St. Clare School’s Advisory Committee and was the founder of LAUNCH Mentoring, a program training and supervising UC Berkeley students as mentors for at-risk Oakland high school students.

McAllister served on the City’s Senior Commission; has volunteered at the Santa Clara Women’s League, Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts, Montague PTA and Senior Center Travel program; and is the co-editor of the Northside Residents Association newsletter. She’s also a credentialed Spanish teacher.

The Council also appointed Sudhanson “Suds” Jain and Michael O’Halloran to the Planning Commission.

Jain is a retired engineer, and has served on the Santa Clara Citizens Advisory Committee and currently serves on the boards of the environmental non-profit Acterra and Kona Kai Swim and Racquet Club. He has volunteered in many local schools; served as a middle school robotics coach, launched the Wilcox High School robotics team and maintained computers at Washington Open and Discover Charter School, where he also taught algebra. Jain’s core concern is protecting the environment and fighting climate change. He’s a graduate of the Master Gardeners of Santa Clara County program and is working with City officials to establish a Santa Clara community garden.

O’Halloran, also a retired engineer, is currently completing a term on the Parks & Recreation Commission. He has served on the board of the South of Forest Neighborhood Association and has been a Boy Scout Troop mentor. O’Halloran also led two efforts to change school district boundaries to include the South of Forest neighborhood in Santa Clara Unified.

On July 7, the Council will interview candidates for a vacancy on the Parks & Recreation Commission, which meets the third Tuesday of the month at 7 p.m. in the staff conference room (across the hall from the Council Chambers). Applications for the P&R seat are due July 1. Commission meetings are open to the public. For applications and information, visit http://santaclaraca.gov/index.aspx?page=378.

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