Fees for use of public buildings came under fire after the City told one local nonprofit it needed to pay more than $17,000 to host its yearly fundraising event.
Each year, the Santa Clara Women’s League puts on its Showtime event — a three-day performance of melodrama and entertainment acts — to raise money for the Senior Center’s Health and Wellness Program. The event usually raises between $15,000 and $17,000.
Now, because of the City’s updated fee schedule, the group is being charged to use the Senior Center and Community Recreation Center where it will hold the showcase. Although the City is able to use grant money to wave the fee, the yearly limit for each community group is $10,000, requiring a special exception from the Council.
Essentially, the Women’s League would pay $17,000 for use of the two buildings during its performances. Through a “grant,” the City would reimburse the group. Then, the Women’s League could give the money it raised from the Showtime event back to the City.
“It is hard to understand why this has to happen, considering the money is going to the City,” said Emily Adorable, past president of the Women’s League.
Many in attendance, including several members of the City Council, said Tuesday night that it “shocked” them how much using the buildings would cost. By law, the City can only bill to recover its costs.
City Manager Deanna Santana and City Attorney Brian Doyle both said the goal of the fee schedule was to be “fair” and “transparent.” It would not allow City employees to waive fees without Council knowledge, avoiding what Doyle called “super-secret handshake deals.”
However, newly appointed Vice Mayor Patricia Mahan took issue with how the fee schedule has been enacted, saying when she voted for it she never intended situations like this to arise.
“I fundamentally disagree that an organization should have to pay to raise money for the City,” said Mahan. “These are people who are taxpayers who have paid for these their facilities time and again through their taxes.”
Although nobody criticized him, Doyle said he “felt” criticized for enacting the schedule when the City has a “lot of unwritten traditions” that complicate matters. He said if the fee schedule is too high, or certain groups need reconsideration, that can be adjusted by adjusting the schedule.
Mahan said such a revaluation — which groups get special consideration, under what circumstances for which buildings, etc. — would be beneficial.
“I think we used a sledgehammer to swat a gnat,” she said.
The Council unanimously approved the Women’s League grant application for the full amount.
Scooter Rentals Eliminated in Santa Clara
The Council placed a moratorium on electric scooters and bike share programs until the end of the year.
“The point of the moratorium is to say ‘please don’t start a business in Santa Clara until we have figured out how to regulate it,’” Doyle said.
Although unable to prevent those who start a ride outside Santa Clara from entering the City, the scooters will not accept riders from Santa Clara once inside the City boundary.
Kirk Vartan, a San Jose resident, said preventing the scooters from being accessed in Santa Clara is “kind of chopping them off,” which isn’t adding to much-needed transportation solutions in the area.
According to the ordinance, the use of motorized scooters without government regulation poses a “safety hazard.”
Mark Fatooh, a government spokesman for Bird Rides, Inc., confirmed that his company is working with City employees to establish parameters for the scooters’ use in Santa Clara.
Council Strengthens Smoking Restrictions
A new ordinance will impose even more stringent limitations on where people can smoke.
Although state law already prohibits smoking in nearly all public buildings, Santa Clara will now prohibit it in public buildings with outdoor seating. Further, the new limitations apply to multi-family apartments and requires a copy of the ordinance be attached to every lease agreement that qualifies.
Ruth Shikada, Assistant City Manager, said is roughly 40 percent of Santa Clarans live in multi-family apartments.
The ordinance bans smoking in parks and extends the distance a smoker must be from a building’s doors or windows from 25 to 30 feet. It also codifies enforcement of the statewide tobacco ban for anyone under 21.
While no member of the public spoke against the increase in regulations, several implored the Council not to pass enforcement on the age limit.
“How can we penalize kids for falling under the sway of Big Tobacco?” said Carol Baker, chair of the Tobacco-Free Coalition.
Council Member Debi Davis called the situation a “serious issue,” adding that police “aren’t going to actively go after these kids,” calling the over-21 rule a tool “not to penalize, but as a tool to emphasize why [smoking] is not cool.”
The new regulations mandate that property owners post signs informing tenants they cannot smoke anywhere except a designated outdoor common area that is not in conflict with the other regulations. These new regulations also apply to marijuana and vape products.
The total cost of increasing the regulations is $11,884 a year, a cost Shikada said the City Manager’s office anticipates will be covered by a $30,000 grant.
The Council unanimously approved the ordinance.
City To Subsidize 13 Condos and Townhomes
Habitat for Humanity plans to develop a .69-acre parcel located at 3575 De La Cruz Blvd., turning it into “affordable” condos and townhomes.
Habitat for Humanity was one of two bidders that made offers on the property, said Jonathan Veach, the City’s Housing Manager. The other bidder, a nearby church, simply offered the City $500,000 to buy the land, which, Veach said didn’t fulfill the City’s desire to add to its below-market-rate housing.
The development will require a $1.3 million subsidy from the City. However, Habitat for Humanity claims tax credits “may be available to reduce” that burden, according to the group’s proposal. The remainder of the $8.6 million construction cost will be paid by grants and the sale of the homes.
The three-story condos and townhomes will be priced at 60 to 120 percent area median income; according to the proposal, they will be priced $310,630 and $510,360 respectively.
The parcel will require rezoning before it can be developed. The Council unanimously approved directing City employees to enter into exclusive negotiating rights with Habitat for Humanity.
Dangerous Intersection Gets Signal
After a woman was killed and another man critically injured, the City has decided to install a High-Intensity Activated Crosswalk Beacon (aka a HAWK beacon) at the intersection of Kiley Boulevard and Malabar Avenue.
The item appeared on Tuesday’s consent calendar as a contract with the Mini Cooper dealership, the employer of the man struck by an SUV at the intersection at the end of 2015. The Council authorized spending $27,600 from the General Fund stabilization reserve to have the signal installed.
The Council’s next regular meeting is at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 29 in the Council Chambers at City Hall, 1500 Warburton Ave. in Santa Clara.