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Council Appoints New City Manager

The City Council approved appointing a new City Manager, whose new contract amounts to roughly $700,000 a year in salary and benefits, Tuesday night.

During its first meeting after a month-long hiatus, the Council approved hiring Deanna Santana, discussing the matter in closed session prior to the regular meeting. Santana’s $374,000 salary and benefits—including one year’s severance, a month of vacation, a month of administrative leave, a $3,750 monthly rent stipend and a $550 a month car allowance—amount to nearly $700,000 a year.

A native of Mountain View, Santana is a former San Jose Deputy City Manager and former Oakland City Administrator. Most recently, Santana has been the City Manager in Sunnyvale since June 2014. She hold a Masters from MIT’s School of Architecture & City Planning, two Bachelor’s Degrees from UC Berkeley in rhetoric and ethnic studies and participates in the Executive Education Program at Harvard Business School. The San Francisco Business Times recognized Santana with a 2012 Most Influential Women in Business award, the same year Congresswoman Barbara Lee honored her with a Powerful Women of the Bay Area Award.

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“Our community asked us to find somebody who is a virtual miracle worker,” said Mayor Lisa Gillmor. “She checks a lot of the boxes.”

Liz Brown, director of human resources, said Santana beat out 27 other applicants. The new City Manager, whose contract begins in October, must manage the stadium, the utilities and the City’s business base.

Council Member Kathy Watanabe called Santana a “bridge builder,” saying that as Santa Clara grows, Santana can help “bridge gaps between cities.”

“This woman works hard, and she expects a lot as a result,” she added.

Council Member Debi Davis said Santana is “approachable,” which the City needs.

However, Vice Mayor Dominic Caserta, the lone dissenter, said although he looks forward to working with Santana and is comfortable with the salary, the benefits package does not “support the values” in which he believes.

For instance, he said it makes little sense for the City to pay a housing stipend for someone who is already a homeowner. Further, the City Manager’s job is busy, leaving little time to take time off, so paying vacation and administrative leave to Santana—who will likely just cash it out at the end of the year—makes little sense, he said.

“We are a working town, and our City Manager has to be a reflection of that,” he said.

Council Member Patricia Mahan said she shared some of Caserta’s concerns; however, she added that someone managing everything Santana will be managing would earn far more in the private sector. She said she expects that the City will soon have to compensate employees in other departments comparably.

Federal Funding for Trails

Also up for discussion Tuesday was the City is matching federal grant money for improvements along the  Hetch-Hetchy, San Tomas Aquino and Saratoga Creek Trails. By contributing $3 million toward improvements along those areas, the Council would secure $10.45 million in federal grant money.

However, the appearance of the item on the consent calendar—items deemed “routine” that are voted on without discussion—raised eyebrows with several members of the public.

“Approving $3 million that has never been vetted by anyone … is not routine,” said Council mainstay Deborah Bress. “It’s malfeasance.”

Scott Lane, a San Jose resident and another Council mainstay, said the proposed improvements along the San Tomas Aquino Creek Trail, which runs through portions of Levi’s Stadium property, should be made by the San Francisco 49ers because they “created the problem; we shouldn’t solve it.”

Lane’s comment echoes several other members of the public who have expressed irritation over the trail being closed for security purposes on game days. The proposed changes would create an underpass to circumvent closing the trail or the need to go through security checks during NFL games and other large events. However, many expressed concerned over underpass flooding.

“It is like if you buy something at the store you don’t need on sale: you wasted your money,” said Suds Jain, a Santa Clara resident who sits on the Santa Clara Planning Commission.

Lawn Bowling

Members of the Santa Clara Lawn Bowlers also turned out to hear whether the Council would approve the construction of a new clubhouse.

City Manager Rajeev Batra said the Central Park master plan will determine where the clubhouse can go. With the library expansion and the proposed construction of a new swim center, he said establishing where there is space in the park for a new clubhouse or whether the lawn bowling area needs to be to be relocated will not be known until the master plan is complete.

That process, Batra said, would likely see completion in November. After the Central Park master plan’s completion, he said City employees can begin looking for funding sources for the clubhouse and include it in next year’s budget in July 2018.

Mayor Gillmor said getting the Lawn Bowlers a new clubhouse is important.

Andrew Boone, of East Palo Alto, said the Council needs to encourage physical activity for people of all ages by seeking out and supporting a variety of sports. He threw down the gauntlet on claims that the new clubhouse is a priority.

“If you thought it was important, you would have things wrapped up by the end of the year,” he said.

Marijuana in Santa Clara

Marijuana is now legal in California, subject to the same legal restrictions as tobacco and alcohol, and with its own state agency—the Bureau of Cannabis Control—gearing up to regulate it and distribute the state excise taxes on the marijuana business. But while the City of Santa Clara has no role in regulation, it does have enforcement responsibility.

During the Council’s Study Session, Fire Chief Bill Kelly and Police Chief Mike Sellers filled the Council in on the law enforcement and fire safety challenges of legal marijuana.

The City can ban outdoor growing, but not indoor growing, which creates significant fire hazards from hazardous chemicals, ventilation systems and high wattage grow lights used in marijuana cultivation, “which will most likely be done without permits,” said Kelly. This would have to be addressed in the building code. “We do not have the authority to regulate single family homes,” he noted.

Sellers reported that the police department has already gotten complaints about backyard marijuana growing, ranging from accessibility to children to odors and theft.

Sellers ticked off some alarming statistics from the legalization experiences of Washington and Colorado. In Washington, regulatory agencies have seen 30 percent—and higher—increases in the THC concentration in the plants.

In Colorado, marijuana use by teenagers (12-17) is up 75 percent, emergency room visits related to marijuana are up 51 percent for people under 18 and there has been a 153 percent increase in use in Denver’s homeless population since legalization.

“Most concerning,” Sellers said, was that 50 percent of Colorado newborns test positive for marijuana. “Young adults look at marijuana as medicine and they don’t think there are any negative effects,” he said. Sacramento has announced how it plans to distribute the marijuana excise taxes—social services, drug education and environmental programs.

The City is allowed to charge “reasonable” regulatory fees such as permits and use taxes, Assistant City Manager Ruth Shikada told the Council.

The City Council has asked the City Manager to draft ordinances for banning commercial marijuana production, regulating dispensaries and public use, and promoting drug education programs in Santa Clara.

The next Council meeting is 7 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 29 in the Council Chambers at City Hall, 1500 Warburton Ave. in Santa Clara.

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