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City’s 1998 Agreement Silent on Key Issue of Cost for Agnews Use

Whatever the city’s “original intent” was, in its September 1998 agreement with Sun about preservation and access to the 14.6-acre “historic easement” on the Agnews campus, the document is specific to the point of absurdity about who can use it when, and completely silent on the question of the costs that can be charged for using it. As it stands, Oracle cannot be charged with not complying with the 1998 contract.

The agreement makes the easement area open to public from 6 a.m. to one-half hour after sunset daily, provided that Sun/Oracle can close it temporarily for maintenance, emergencies and scheduled events. However, the space is not a park and many things that people typically do in parks aren’t permitted – for example, dog-walking, ball games and barbeques.

The contract specifically states that the auditorium isn’t available for public use on weekdays. It’s available on weekends and evenings, but according to a complicated series of restrictions and priorities.

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Groups using the auditorium must show proof of residency, and anyone holding an event must file an application with the city and show proof of suitable insurance – all of which must also be approved by the Parks & Recreation Department. There’s no definition or limitations on rental fees, beyond a requirement that rental deposits must be made in advance.

On Tuesday and Thursday evenings, and all weekends, the auditorium is available if it’s scheduled six months in advance, first to city sponsored events, second to Sun/Oracle-sponsored events and finally to events put on by other groups.

Other groups can only schedule events three months in advance, and are considered in this priority: school districts, government units, non-profit formally organized youth organizations that don’t charge admission, semi-public agencies, non-profit community service groups, private schools, special interest groups and clubs, private parties and fundraisers.

On Monday and Wednesday evenings, and the third weekend of the month, the auditorium is available if it’s scheduled 90 days in advance, first to Sun/Oracle-sponsored events, then city sponsored activities and finally other groups.

The contract makes no mention of using the auditorium for any kind of performances or by performing groups.

The original contract was signed by Mayor Judy Nadler, City Manager Jennifer Sparacino and City Attorney Mike Downey.

After 17 years and a change of ownership, and with a radically different and more developed North Santa Clara than two decades ago, the case can be made that it’s time to re-look at this agreement and those priorities – especially that given to school districts, three of which have taken positions adversarial to the city.

Santa Clara Unified is currently suing the city over redevelopment assets.

Two others, Campbell Elementary and High School, opposed district boundary changes in 2009 and 2013 because of the property tax dollars Santa Clara students deliver. Further, Campbell’s districts oppose new residential development in the west-of-Pruneridge neighborhood because, they claim, they don’t have resources to serve more Santa Clara students – and apparently, despite millions in new property tax revenues, are unwilling to make the investment to do so.

Overall, Campbell receives four percent of the districts’ revenue from Santa Clara and two percent of the districts’ enrollment. At the high school level, these numbers are truly eye-popping: in 2009, CUHSD received $600,000 for the 15 Santa Clara students enrolled.

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