The Santa Clara City Council has decided to allow up to five curfew exemptions per year at Levi’s Stadium.
The topic came up at the Council’s Tuesday night meeting, where City Manager Deanna Santana brought the item back to Council with options regarding the curfew. The curfew at the stadium has been contentious over the past few years with the stadium manager attributing the City’s massive loss of revenue to non-NFL events to it.
Prior to the dispute, the City was seeing an average yearly influx of roughly $2.5 million to its general fund from non-NFL events. With a massive deficit looming because of the pandemic, the Council told Santana to return with options on how to maximize revenue at the stadium. Santana said any Council action needs to consider the City’s 26% reduction in employees due to COVID-19.
“The advance planning of understanding when events are planned or being considered helps us with understanding when there is going to be peak demand for limited City resources,” Santana said.
Further, since the stadium manager has previously made use of the revolving loan fund to pay fines for violating the curfew — money that essentially belongs to the Stadium Authority — Santana said instituting stiffer fines is not likely to curb the violations.
Although the discussion was lengthy, the crux of the dichotomy among opinions on the Council remained the same. Mayor Lisa Gillmor said the stadium manager first needs to ameliorate what the City claims are labor law violations and failure to uphold its financial responsibility to book money-making events.
Since no independent party has confirmed the stadium manager’s claim regarding the curfew being responsible for the nosedive in revenue, Gillmor pointed out that anyone who believes that is simply taking the stadium manager’s word. She pointed to the Taylor Swift concert, which lost $1.7 million.
“We terminated the management agreement for good reason. They are not good managers. They are not capable of booking money-making events,” Gillmor said.
Meanwhile, political ally Kathy Watanabe remained concerned about noise.
Other Council members pointed to airport noise, saying it ellipses noise from the stadium. Councilmember Anthony Becker called the noise issue a “red herring.” He and others said the real problems near the stadium are parking, traffic and other “disruptive behavior,” not after-hours noise from concerts.
The majority of the Council saw those problems as the heart of the matter, saying conflating it with the curfew issue was counterproductive when the Council could be solution-oriented toward enabling the City to again draw revenue from non-NFL events.
Becker moved that Santana exempt five days a year between Sunday and Thursday from the curfew, extending the allowable time to 11 p.m. instead of the usual 10 p.m. Requests for exemptions in excess of five days will come to the Council.
Santana warned the Council that Becker’s motion altered the conditions of approval and would necessitate a planned development zoning amendment. Becker maintained his motion.
Watanabe suggested a not-so-friendly amendment to Becker’s motion.
“Let’s change the curfew in your districts, for Districts 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6,” Watanabe said. “Let’s see how your constituents react to having noise at eleven o’clock, twelve o’clock at night. You want to ruin my district. You want to ruin the constituents’ quality of life in District 1? Well, let’s see how the constituents in Districts 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 appreciate having the curfew changed in your districts too.”
The motion passed 4-3, with Watanabe, Gillmor and Councilmember Kevin Park voting “no.”
Study Session Focuses on Safety Concerns
During a study session, the Council also opted to search for funding for two items that both have safety as a central element.
The first was looking into establishing a quiet zone — an area where trains are prohibited from sounding their horns.
“I’ve talked to residents recently who will not open their windows because they know that, at 2:30 in the morning, they are going to get woke[n] up by a freight train coming through,” said Watanabe, whose district — District 1 — includes the City’s northside.
Micheal Liw, Assistant City Engineer, told the Council that Union Pacific has five crossings throughout the City. In order to establish a quiet zone, the City needs to study parameters set by the Federal Railway Administration that look at, among other things, collision history, also called risk index, for each crossing.
Doing so would require hiring a consultant, doing public outreach and establishing a plan, he said. Capital improvements are often required to ensure the same level of safety should the Council establish a quiet zone.
While comparing Santa Clara to San Jose is difficult, Liw said, because each crossing has its own risk index, San Jose estimated it would cost between $19 and $32 million to upgrade 14 crossings within its borders. Although putting the quiet zone in place would take roughly two years, Liw said a funding source has not been identified, especially since the total cost is unknown.
Kicking the process off would cost $300,000 to hire a consultant and get the ball rolling, he said. The Council voted unanimously to refer the item to its goal-setting session in February and look into securing grants, possibly ones associated with the federal infrastructure bill, to fund the project.
City Council Discusses Establishing Vision Zero Policy
The second study session item was to establish a Vision Zero policy. Vision Zero is a traffic management plan put in place in Sweden in 1997 with the goal of ending severe injuries and fatalities caused by traffic collisions.
The data-driven plan differs greatly, Liw said, from conventional thinking about traffic collisions. It assumes deaths can be prevented at a low cost, integrates human failing, aims to prevent fatal and severe crashes as opposed to simply limiting collisions and is systems-focused instead of placing the responsibility on people individually.
The plan would require the City to hire a consultant, conduct community engagement, establish a task force, prepare a plan, put a strategy in place, develop a project and make regular updates. In addition to data collection, an action plan would also require public outreach, media campaigns and education, Liw added.
The City has already made strides toward the goal with its Bicycle Plan update in 2018 and Pedestrian Master Plan in 2019.
Similar to the quiet zone, the total cost is unknown, but to get the process started would cost $315,000. For comparison, Liw offered costs for similar projects in the area. Fremont’s establishing five protected intersections cost $6 million; San Jose improving 14 corridors is estimated to cost $20 million; San Francisco improving 1.2 miles of road and 13 intersections cost $19 million.
Gillmor called the issue “something we can’t ignore.”
“People are getting hurt … some people are losing their lives,” Gillmor said. “We have drivers who are distracted, constantly distracted. So, any of our traffic calming measures that we can do, they are all good.”
The Council voted unanimously to have the City Manager’s office return with a funding request in January and to make the topic a priority at its goal-setting session.
Consent Calendar Spending
The Council passed the following items in a single motion via the consent calendar:
- A $105,000 purchase order for Applied Computer Solutions for Cisco SmartNet license renewals;
- A three-year, $115,207 contract with Motorola Solutions to upgrade the NICE Local Logging Recorder System, including maintenance and support.
The next regularly scheduled meeting is Tuesday, Dec. 7 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