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City Desk: May 13, 2015

The May 6 City Council meeting and study session brought forth several pending development projects and an array of sensitive issues facing the City.

Packed with an unusually heavy load of nine agendized items, the 5 p.m. study session’s depth was questioned by Council Member Lisa Gillmor. “Fifteen minutes is not enough time for each item. Some of these items could take the entire two hours themselves,” said Gillmor. Mayor Jamie Matthews responded, “We will get through what we can and re-agendize what we don’t tackle.” City Manager Julio Fuentes said each item was intended to provide a brief introduction and overview.

The study session, which extended nearly one hour longer than the scheduled two-hours, piggybacked into the scheduled 7 p.m. Council meeting. Included were presentations on several redevelopment projects, discussion on a minimum wage ordinance and an update on closure of the Creek Trail on major event days.

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Development Projects in a Nutshell

Two El Camino Real shopping centers – a drive-thru restaurant at 2277 El Camino Real at the corner of Los Padres, and 2205 El Camino Real -a strip mall at Scott Blvd. – were brought forth. The 2277 site is currently vacant, and the developer proposes bringing in a Starbucks drive-thru, Five Guys Burgers & Fries and a UPS Store. The 2205 parcel currently houses a Skechers outlet as well as several other established tenants. “We’ve realized that the Los Padres corner has become a site of blight,” said architect Paul Guzman, representing the developer. The strip mall is slated for an overall facelift in the next couple of years, but the developer plans on painting the building and adding more landscaping to improve the aesthetics in the short-term. Both redevelopments intend to include Mission-style architecture.

City Ventures shared its vision for a 40-townhome development at 1525 Alviso, near De La Cruz Blvd. The Mission-style project will include green features such as solar panels, built-in wiring for electric vehicle charging stations, energy-efficient appliances and drought-tolerant landscaping. Nestled at the De La Cruz off-ramp, the plan follows the City’s General Plan with 10 percent of the units being Below-Market-Rate. The three-story, three and four bedroom homes will range from 1,700 to 2,000 square feet. Each home will have a two-car garage and the development will include 2,500-square feet of green space. The current market site value of the land is $2 million. The projected site value of the proposed project would be $25 million. The property currently serves as a junkyard and storage.

Gateway Village (Kohl’s Site)

After being told to come back to Council with plan modifications, the Gateway Village project (3610, 3640 and 3700 El Camino Real) brought back a revised plan for review.

The revised plan increased retail from 86,500 square feet to 100,600 square feet and reduced the overall number of residential units. The added retail space came by replacing apartments on the ground floor with live/work units. In addition, the developer addressed concerns of neighbors at the abutting townhouses by redesigning the residential component to present only the ends of building wings to the south, rather than the long face of the building, as had been prior.

Westfield Valley Fair Mall Expansion Plans Unveiled

Early drafts of expansion plans for Westfield Valley Fair were presented.

While some of the leases are locked in or controlled by Macy’s, plans for the shopping center include a 10-screen luxury movie theatre on the Santa Clara side with reserved seating, gourmet food and an upper level lounge with alcohol service. In addition, Pilch, an upscale bath/kitchen retailer, and other tenants will be situated in a combined 24,000 square feet of retail space beneath the theater. According to Westfield, the Santa Clara side currently averages about $64 million in sales tax revenue each year – Westfield expects that after the updates, renovations and expansion, that figure could increase to as much as $234 million per year. The theater, operated by ICON Theatres, would open sometime in the spring or summer of 2017. Overall, retail space on the Santa Clara side of Valley Fair will increase by 57,000 square feet. The theatre would be situated at the former Old Navy site.

According to Westfield, 2014 was a record year for sales at Valley Fair, and the mall was rated in the Top 10 in the U.S.; mostly that Westfield says due to, “re-inventing to meet demands of consumers.” Another addition will be Din Thai Fung, a popular Taiwanese dumpling restaurant that sees two-to-three hour waits at its other locations.

Creek Trail Closure Update

Santa Clara Police Chief Mike Sellers provided an update regarding concerns by residents about the closure of the Creek Trail on event days. Currently, the Trail is closed on all event days with attendance figures over 20,000, a plan designed for the safety of residents only. “The Creek Trail was not designed for large volume,” said Sellers, adding “we are trying our best to keep the Trail open, but our number one priority is safety for our community … So far the plans we have taken have been successful.”

According to Sellers, the Creek Trail is opened as soon as possible following events at the stadium and traffic advisories are distributed approximately 48 hours prior to each event.

According to the staff report, “statements have been made that the temporary closures of the trail are in ‘violation’ of the 2009 Draft Environmental Impact report, the 2013 Final Environmental Impact report and the Traffic Management and Operations Plan. While the trail closure is, arguably, a changed circumstance for purposes of CEQA, the closure, by itself, does not require additional environmental review.”

The report further adds, “While the SCPD has attempted to accommodate various community requests, its first priority is public safety. The current Creek Trail design runs directly within the secured inner perimeter during large-scale events. This creates a serious security breach and Department of Homeland Security has identified this area as being high-risk. SCPD has allowed limited Creek Trail access to ticketed guests and kept the detour open for the general public.”

Quick Takes

The Santa Clara Women’s League presented a check for $20,000 to the Santa Clara Senior Center Health and Wellness program. Most of the funds were raised from Showtime.

Items pulled for discussion from the Consent Calendar included an approval for per diem dispatcher and an approval of an agreement for professional services to provide an organizational staffing assessment of the police department. The dispatcher position would be to help service stadium events. SCPD has 19 full-time dispatchers, and not all want to work stadium events, though they will have first right of refusal.

The contract to provide an organizational staffing assessment of the police department will address the police department’s workload, efficiency and will compare the City with others that have stadiums. Sellers said it is a self-audit that will help ensure efficiency.

More Super Bowl 50 Event Funding

The City Council approved an agreement with Pyro Spectaculars North, Inc. for an amount not to exceed $60,000 for fireworks and production services for events leading up to Super Bowl 50. Council Member Teresa O’Neill asked how the City’s sponsorship efforts were going. Assistant City Manager Sheila Tucker said that as of the meeting, no sponsorships had been inked for City Super Bowl-related events, though the City’s fundraising contractor has met with several potential sponsors and the City is working on a second tier for potential sponsors.

Gillmor also asked where the City was on fundraising efforts. Fuentes said the core of the events was to “provide something for the residents.”

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