Santa Clara is moving into the third phase of its 2010 General Plan and at its April 9, 2019 meeting the Santa Clara City Council officially moved ahead with the Specific Area Plan for the Patrick Henry Focus Area.
Part of the larger North City Vision Plan, the focus area is bounded by Mission College, Calabazas Creek, the Union Pacific railroad tracks and Great America.
Currently home to office parks, the area is designated to become an urban neighborhood — 85-100 dwelling units per acre and building heights from 5 to 25 stories — with neighborhood retail and amenities.
The first step is developing an Environmental Impact Report (EIR), explained Community Development Director Andrew Crabtree, and a draft EIR will be available in the fall, with a draft specific plan coming next winter. Council will review the plans in Spring 2020. No construction will begin until at least 2022, according to Crabtree.
Mayor Lisa Gillmor said that her priorities were addressing how the several Northside development plans will integrate with one another and the rest of the City, the challenges of delivering City services in an area that has never been residential, and parking.
“I know a lot of times they want to cut down parking in new developments,” she said, “but until we have a decent transportation system, until we solve the transportation problem we still need to have parking.”
Council Member Teresa O’Neill differed. “This is a place to do something radical and say that we’re not going to put in 500,000 parking spaces,” she said. Maybe “if you move to this part of Santa Clara there’s not going to be parking.”
“You may not need [parking] if the parks are there, the jobs are there,” she continued. “You may only need to Uber, or have a Zip car or leased car. This is the place to do some experimenting if we have the right infrastructure. If you just say we’re not going to have parking spaces…you’re going to fail.”
Convention and Visitors Bureau Reconstitution
The Council also approved a plan to re-organize the City’s defunct visitor’s bureau.
Assistant City Manager Ruth Shikada presented the Council with two organizational options.
One is direct control where the City contracts directly with two separate organizations — the Convention Center Manager and Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB), the same organization as the former CVB. The other is a separate City Authority, with an independent board, to manage both the CVB and the Convention Center contracts.
The Council chose direct control, which entails establishing a new non-profit entity with a board of directors, a CEO, and four additional staff.
“We should start with option one,” said Gillmor, with a future goal of a separate authority “that would have more authority and oversight at some point.”
“I have to agree with the Mayor,” said Council Member Debi Davis. “We had a problem we took rid of it [and] …we’re kind of majorly behind an 8-ball. We have to do our due diligence. I don’t think we’re experts up here.”
Davis also said that the City needed to fund the new entity to some degree, although the staff recommendation was that the new CVB be financed initially with existing Tourism Improvement District (TID) revenues and reserves. “We pulled the rug out from under them.”
“We did send out an RFP,” said City Attorney Brian Doyle. “We were soliciting the public on that issue. The critical thing we needed to concentrate on was keeping the Convention Center up and operating.”
The Council approved the direct oversight plan with a nine-member board and an interfund loan complementing the current TID revenues and reserves to allow the new entity a $1.5 million budget. The ultimate plan for a new CVB, said Shikada, would be a $3 million budget with a staff of 10 that would enable regional and industry vertical marketing. This would likely entail increasing the per room night fee to $3 or $4.
The City is working with former San Jose Convention Center manager Dan Fenton to develop the new plan, noted City Manager Deanna Santana. In January, the City renewed its contract with Fenton’s company Jones Lang LaSalle Americas, Inc. for $350,500.
Council Moves to Reactivate Street Closing Ordinance to Combat Illegal Racing
Over the last year street racing and sideshows — automotive stunts — have become a growing Northside problem. The racing occurs almost every weekend according to Council Member Kathy Watanabe.
Watanabe requested the Council devote additional resources to the problem and reinstate a 2004 ordinance that allowed the police department to close specific Northside streets.
Before passing an ordinance, Doyle told the Council, public hearings were required and area businesses and residents must be informed of the proposed street closings. Closing streets was “not something you can do in the short term.”
Santa Clara Police Chief Mike Sellers said that enforcement was difficult because racers have police scanners and scatter when police are on the way. It was important, Sellers said, to consolidate information “to find out the date and time we’re getting these calls. There’s technology, cameras we can use” to attack the problem.
In the interim, Sellers said, the police department will focus on prevention and enforcing existing vehicle code. “If needed, we’ll deploy additional overtime to address street racing.” He said would work closely with the City Manager to “drill down into the data” and develop solutions.
As Oakland’s former City Administrator, City Manager Santana said she knew ways to address street racing. Oakland is notorious for street racing, where it takes over intersections, draws huge crowds and sometimes results in accidents that kill uninvolved pedestrians and motorists.
Santana noted, however, that police overtime is already constrained. “We need to have our options open” including private agencies. “We need to get some order around priorities,” she said. “You’re [the Council] going to need to weigh in about the 50 other priorities you’ve put on our plate.”
The Santa Clara City Council meets again on Tuesday, April 23 at 7 p.m in Council Chambers.