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Civil Grand Jury Says VTA Board Needs New Leadership: City Council Sets Sights on Ad Hoc Committee to Study Solutions 

Recommendations in a Santa Clara County Civil Grand Jury report calling for major overhauls to the Valley Transit Authority (VTA) Board will require “further analysis.”

The report, issued in June, made three recommendations for Santa Clara: that the City submit a report to VTA and the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors detailing its views on VTA governance, introduce legislation to alter the VTA governance and propose legislation to have the VTA Board Chair elected to 2-year terms instead of a 1-year term.

The Santa Clara City Council’s response will inform the Grand Jury that following its three recommendations for Santa Clara might not be feasible without first forming an ad hoc committee to study their effectiveness.


“We do not know that these recommendations will cure the problem,” said Council Member Debi Davis. “Things are going in the wrong direction.”

According to the report, the Grand Jury believes the VTA Board suffers from “a lack of experience, continuity and leadership,” “inadequate time for the directors to devote to their duties,” “a lack of engagement,” and “frequent tension between the director’s fiduciary duties … and … political demands.”

Craig Mobeck, Director of Public Works, said the City “unanimously” agrees as to what the problem is, but has questions as to whether the recommendations will ameliorate the problem.

Council Member Teresa O’Neill, Chair of the VTA Board, said the Board has already commissioned a “rather robust” study looking into some of the same issues and that it is “pursuing a number of avenues.”

Part of the problem, she said, is that VTA districts, like Santa Clara’s, which also includes Milpitas and Sunnyvale, rotate a member on the Board while seven of the 12 members are from San Jose.

“It is almost impossible for us to get any kind of fair share,” said Mayor Lisa Gillmor. “Not all the problems are in San Jose.”


Tasman East Specific Plan Gets Tweaked

The Council also approved an amendment to an apartment complex set to host 4,500 apartments.

Extending Calle Del Sol between Calle De Mundo and Calle De Luna, as originally planned, proved to be a problem because it made relocating a pump station necessary.

Instead of extending the street, the project now calls for the reduction of the pump station’s footprint and the installation of a paseo. The paseo will house seating, so-called “programmable space,” which could feature various activities from yoga, music or movie nights.

Although the option is less expensive than relocating the pump station, it still requires a $45,000 budget amendment — $1.18 million total.

Davis called the idea “very creative,” adding that it “adds extra living-room space.”

Although Suds Jain, a Council mainstay and member of the Planning Commission, said he is “always in favor of removing cars from the streets,” he worried about traffic on the 45-acre development.

Any changes to the Specific Plan would go through the Planning Commission and come to the Council for approval. The Council approved the amendment unanimously.


Consent Calendar Spending

The Council also approved several big-ticket budget expenditures in one motion via the consent calendar:

  •  $685,590 for a sanitary sewer project, awarded to JMB Construction.
  • $2.53 million for another sanitary sewer project, awarded to Cratus
  • $1.4 million to extend a contract with George Hills Company for liability claims adjusting and administrative services
  • $111,221 with the County for senior nutrition program at the senior center
  • A 3-year, $384,400 contract with CPMAXIS to provide modeling, development, validation and reporting of PAGES
  • A $46,930 increase to a contract with Mintier Harnish, LP, for a zoning code update; total contract is not to exceed $248,250
  • $4.5 million for inspection and overhaul of Donald Von Raesfeld Power Plant through June 2021


The Council meets again Tuesday, Aug. 27 in the Council Chambers at City Hall, 1500 Warburton Ave. in Santa Clara.


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