The Santa Clara City Council approved two items that aim to ease the financial burden to those financially impacted by COVID- 19.
At its Tuesday afternoon meeting, the Council — who all except Mayor Lisa Gillmor attended remotely to observe social distancing — unanimously approved halting evictions until May 8. They also directed City Manager Deanna Santana to develop an assistance program for small businesses.
The renter protections are similar to those already passed in San Jose and a county-wide moratorium, also passed Tuesday.
The 45-day eviction moratorium, which is designed to protect tenants from becoming homeless because of lost wages due to COVID-19, does not include commercial rentals.
City Attorney Brian Doyle stressed that the order doesn’t alleviate tenants of the responsibility of paying rent. Upon Doyle’s advice, Gillmor abstained on the vote since she owns rental properties in the City.
Council Member Debi Davis said the moratorium is “clearly compassion.”
“This will give our residents some reassurance,” she said. “I hope people understand that these are unprecedented times, and we’re trying to level the playing field and help people.”
The moratorium transferred $100,000 from the budget stabilization reserve to the housing and community services division.
City To Assist Small Businesses Hurt By Pandemic
While no definitive plans have been made, the Council also authorized Santana to develop a plan to assist small businesses whose business has taken a dip due to COVID-19.
Assistant City Manager Ruth Shikada told the Council that businesses are more interested in grants than loans. City employees, she said, are learning details about similar programs in other California cities, such as Sacramento, which invested $1 million in providing zero-interest loans, before developing anything concrete.
Gillmor said she favors “streamlining” the process, taking the “bureaucracy” out of the process to provide a “lifeboat” to small businesses.
“We do have some small businesses that are just drowning right now, that are just suffering so badly,” she said. “It is important that if we do it, we do it right.”
The action transferred $250,000 from the budget stabilization reserve into Santana’s budget. The item is scheduled to return to the Council at its April 7 meeting.
First Phase Of Related Project Approved
Also on the agenda was approval of the first phase of the Related Santa Clara project, a massive 240-acre mixed-use development originally approved in 2016.
Because of its scope — 9.2 million square feet, 700 hotel rooms and 1,680 apartments — the Council must approve each phase independently. Phase one of the development, located 5155 Stars and Stripes Dr. near Levi’s Stadium, was originally slated to begin construction in May with completion in 2023.
However, because of what Steve Eimer, Executive Vice President with the project’s developer, Related Companies, called the “calamity” of coronavirus, that timeline has been delayed “at least a few months.”
Andrew Crabtree, Director of Community Development, detailed the project for the Council. Although 10 percent of the apartments will be designated “affordable,” Crabtree said those units will not come until later in construction. Meanwhile, 200 luxury units, with amenities, are part of the first phase.
Council Member Raj Chahal, the lone “no” vote on the item, took exception with certain aspects of the project, for instance, the 15 percent reduction in parking stalls because the development is near a transit hub.
“We have accepted every ask of the developer, but I don’t think our asks are being taken care of,” Chahal said, later adding: “The City should have made more money out of this development.”
But Gillmor handwaved those concerns, saying that Chahal needed to “educate” himself on the project. She suggested Council Members with concerns should handle them one-on-one.
The project, she continued, is “more important now than ever” as it represents a “major” and “optimistic” part of Santa Clara’s future, because it will become a lynchpin of the City once finished.
“There are few companies that can withstand a crisis like we’re seeing now, and I think they’re one of them,” she said. “We need to advance this project.”
The Council meets again Tuesday, March 31 in the Council Chambers at City Hall, 1500 Warburton Ave. in Santa Clara.