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City Hires New City Manager

Santa Clara's City Council hired a new city manager, received a report on concert noise levels and formed a Levi's Stadium relations committee.

After firing its previous city manager without cause, hiring an old guard city employee to keep the ship on course and a year-long search, Santa Clara is finally getting a new city manager.

At its Tuesday night meeting, in a 4-1 vote, the Santa Clara City Council approved hiring Jovan Grogan. Grogan will start at the beginning of May. His $405,506 salary is lower than the $448,000 salary the City was paying the previous city manager, Deanna Santana in 2020.

Grogan will be eligible for a 2% cost-of-living increase in 2024 as well as merit-based bonuses at the Council’s discretion.

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An Ivy League graduate, Grogan has worked as San Bruno’s city manager since 2018. He has also worked as the deputy city manager in Berkley and Concord. He earned his bachelor’s degree in urban and regional studies and his master’s in city and regional planning in 2009, both from Cornell University.

Council Member Anthony Becker was the lone “no” vote, calling government salaries like the one Grogan commanded “unsustainable.”

He blamed previous City Councils for creating the problem, adding that he vowed to reduce government salaries run amok during both his mayoral and council candidacies. He said the rejection of Grogan’s contract was “not personal,” but to “make sure residents are taken care of.”

“We are in a deficit. We need to make drastic changes now,” he said.

Those most vocal about the folly of firing Santana, Council Member Kathy Watanabe and Mayor Lisa Gillmor, were absent.

Coldplay Concert Exceeded Acceptable Noise Levels

The Council also got a report on noise levels from the Coldplay concert at Levi’s Stadium last year. An informational report prompted by a public petition revealed that the concert, held in May, exceeded the allowable noise level.

Policy has set the acceptable decibel level at 60, a level on par with a vacuum cleaner. Information from four noise monitors — which filter out nearby jet noise and average the noise level each hour — near the stadium showed the concert exceeded the allowable noise level by nine decibels.

Studies of the noise levels for the Weeknd and Elton John concerts show that the former also exceeded the allowable level by three decibels. The Elton John concert did not exceed the limit.

Council Member Anthony Becker said the trend is an indicator that, after the pandemic and the curfew put concerts on hold, the stadium manager is “working out the kinks.”

Ajay Thadhlani, one of the petitioners, said he had little confidence the issue would not arise again, considering he has no insight into why the noise level was so high. He found the Council’s comparisons of noise “lame.”

“We don’t start vacuuming at 10 p.m. when we are trying to sleep,” he said.

Still, Andrew Crabtree, director of community development, said working with the stadium manager to understand what went awry is a better solution than imposing fines since the fines are “modest” and “not a deterrent.”

Becker went on to say that returning to the old curfew after the Council approved allowing up to five exemptions a year, something supported by a majority of residents polled near the stadium, “is not going to happen.”

“It is not like [concerts happen] all the time. It happens once in a while,” he said. “We can’t stop noise from happening…we have to book events.

The Council unanimously noted and filed the report.

Committee to Give Public a Voice for Stadium Issues

On a similar note, the Council formed a Neighborhood Stadium Relations Committee to help ameliorate strife regarding issues arising from Levi’s Stadium. The structure of the committee is based on the Neighborhood University Relations Committee, discussing policy issues.

Meetings will be held on the northside and will consist of three Council Members. Ruth Shikada, assistant city manager, said the item will need to return to the Council to iron out several details.

Santa Clara Police Chief Pat Nikolai said the police department will be unable to attend the meetings due to his department being stretched thin.

Shikada estimated that the committee would cost roughly $160,000 a year to fund.

Many council members saw the expenditure as worthwhile.

“If we are going to spend money, we should spend money on improving people’s quality of life,” said Vice Mayor Kevin Park.

Park called the claim that the committee puts public safety at risk a “scare tactic.”

Council Member Suds Jain, who brought the item to the Council, noted that the police chief is a political position, something Council Member Anthony Becker echoed, adding that the Council is “damned if we do; damned if we don’t.”

Despite the issue being “highly political,” Becker said he was confident the committee would be a boon.

“Using a little tough love and elbow grease I think this City is going to get things done,” he said.

The motion passed unanimously.

Consent Calendar Spending

The Council approved the following spending via the consent calendar:

  • A $128,425 agreement with O’Dell Engineering, Inc. for engineering for Warburton playground rehabilitation.

The next regularly scheduled meeting is Tuesday, Feb. 21 in the Council Chambers at City Hall, 1500 Warburton Ave. in Santa Clara.

Members of the public can participate in the City Council meetings on Zoom at https://santaclaraca.zoom.us/j/99706759306; Meeting ID: 997-0675-9306 or call 1(669) 900-6833, via the City’s eComment (available during the meeting) or by email to PublicComment@santaclaraca.gov.

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1 Comment
  1. Buchser Alum 1 year ago
    Reply

    I wonder if the rest of the council majority bloc is going to get tired of Becker putting on a show of being a deficit hawk from the safety of knowing his vote can be symbolic. I wonder if they have all resigned themselves to Becker becoming mayor in four years. If one of them decides to run it will be amusing to see the person they endorsed in 2022 for approving the “unsustainable” salaries of the city attorney and manager.
    .
    Did Becker bother to state what salary would be sustainable and who we might be able to hire for that salary?
    .
    David: was there any detail on why the commission will cost 160 thousand dollars to fund? That seems like a high number even if it must include overtime for Shikada and higher salaries for the three council people who are members.

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