Judging by the relative amount of time expended and public response, someone from another country would think the Envision Santa Clara plan was a home renovation involving the addition of a bedroom and a bathroom at private expense, and that the house renovation at 410 Lafayette Way involved the expenditure of billions in taxpayer dollars and would irrevocably affect the city and region for decades.
One-Third of Proposed Transit Sales Tax Would Go to Santa Clara
Santa Clara City Council’s Aug. 23 study session on transportation covered three transit subjects: the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) extension to Santa Clara, Envision Silicon Valley Sales Tax Measure, and the County Expressway Plan 2040.
Also on the agenda was mass transit consultant Thomas Rubin, former Southern California Rapid Transit District Controller and National Transit Services Director for Deloitte Haskins & Sells. Rubin is a critic of rail as a transit solution in suburban cities, saying that rail is a very expensive, inflexible mode of transportation that takes money away from “rubber” transit projects with more impact.
The Valley Transit Authority (VTA) Board has proposed a half-cent sales tax for 30 years to provide about $6 billion for the county transportation plan, Envision Silicon Valley, developed in partnership with the Silicon Valley Leadership Group (SVLG). The tax will be on the November ballot and requires a two-thirds majority to pass. The plan does not include the controversial bus rapid transit proposal for El Camino.
Much of the money, $3.8 billion, is earmarked for improvements to roads and existing transit systems. These include: $250 million for bicycle and pedestrian programs,
$750 million for county expressways, $750 million for highway interchanges, $1.2 billion for local streets and roads, $35 million for Highway 85 corridor improvements, and $500 million for upgrading current transit operations.
Improvements to existing VTA systems will provide increased bus service and improve safety and access at bus stops – upgrading shelters, sidewalks and lighting. The project also includes new programs and services for the most transit-dependent passengers: students, the elderly and disabled, and low-income riders.
Notably, the Envision plan is already exploring new models for addressing the thorniest problem of mass transit in suburban city sprawl: first and last mile connections. One program that is already being tested is an Uber-like on-demand service, according to SVLG CEO Carl Guardino.
The remaining $2.9 billion will provide funding for the 16-mile BART extension to Santa Clara ($1.5 billion) and Caltrain electrification, capacity improvements, and grade separations.
The plan offers $2.5 billion for improvements within the City of Santa Clara, said Guardino. These include widening San Tomas Expressway from Homestead to Stevens Creek; Lawrence Expressway grade separations at Reed/Monroe and Homestead; extending the San Tomas Aquino Trail from Homestead to Stevens Creek; a Tasman bicycle and pedestrian overcrossing; congestion reducing improvements at the Highway 237/Great America, 101/Trimble Rd and I-280/Winchester interchanges; and the BART extension.
“Santa Clara is getting a disproportionate share of this money,” said Council Member Patrick Kolstad. “This is not just about Santa Clara. Whatever we do in any part of the Bay Area benefits Santa Clara,” he said, adding that Caltrain electrification and the BART extension will remove tons of carbon from the air. “I hope that this Council will endorse this [tax] measure as the Chamber of Commerce has done.”
Endorsement of Measure B will come back to the Council as an action item at the end of September. You can find more information about Envision Santa Clara at www.vta.org/envision-silicon-valley/envision-silicon-valley.
410 Lafayette Way Renovation Gets Go-Ahead After 9 Hearings
At the Aug. 23 meeting the Council reversed an April decision to deny an extensive renovation project on a vacant, deteriorating 1885 house with a partially finished basement and two additions that predate the City’s building code.
The renovations would bring the house up to current building code, replace 60+ year-old plumbing and electrical wiring, restore architectural features and reinforce the deteriorating foundation, according to the project description. They would also add roughly 700 square feet to the house, expanding it from a three-bedroom/one-bath house into a four-bedroom/three-bath house.
Reconsideration of the April vote was requested by Council Member Teresa O’Neill, who missed the meeting because she was representing Santa Clara at a Sister Cities event in Ireland and subsequently attending an electrical utility meeting in Washington D.C. The agenda was published after her departure.
Actions at previous meetings can be reopened by a motion from a member of the winning side, per Roberts Rules. In July, the Council unanimously approved the reconsideration motion.
O’Neill’s request was based on her concern that the Council was going “down a path where we’re going to be sued in a civil rights lawsuit.”
Throughout past discussions, neighbors have repeatedly stated their conviction that the house is intended for an SCU minidorm – saying things such as “It’s very obvious it’s going to be a multitenant property,” “This applicant is a business, he’s in the business of running student housing,” that “R-1 zoning was intended to promote single-family environments,” and that it was unimaginable “having a home 4,100 square feet and it not being a mini-dorm.”
The California Supreme Court, in Santa Barbara v. Adamson found that granting permits or making land use decisions based on the occupants of a house was unconstitutional and violates rights to privacy and equal treatment.
“It is no longer fair to say [other] living arrangements are less valid than a family of two parents and two children,” said O’Neill. “People are adding rooms for adult children who are moving home, to care for elderly parents.” She also invited those unhappy with the Council’s decision to attend ARC and Neighborhood University Relations Committee meetings, O’Neill’s own monthly chats with constituents, and actively participate in any future efforts to craft a neighborhood preservation ordinance.
The vote to deny the appeal of the ARC’s decision passed 4-2, with Council Member Jerry Marsalli absent, and Mayor Lisa Gillmor and Council Member Debi Davis opposing. “I’m still going to vote against destroying an 1885 house,” said Davis. “It bothers me that everything is being changed.” She said the house should be kept the way it was in 1885.
Gillmor said she voted against the renovation “because of the basement. Just because it was there doesn’t mean it was habitable.”