Related Santa Clara groundbreaking, bonds and parcel taxes, and City rebranding were among the items discussed at Santa Clara City Council’s annual two-day goal-setting meeting at the end of January.
Unlike the last two years — which were largely informational presentations on the state of the City, needs and priorities in assigning City resources — this year the Council led the discussion.
“The residents said this was the best one, ever,” said Council Member Debi Davis on Friday afternoon, because “they could talk” and “hear from us instead of being talked at.”
Related Santa Clara Groundbreaking
The Related Santa Clara development will break ground this year and the City will start receiving land rent, per the 2013 exclusive negotiating agreement.
“This land is owned by the City of Santa Clara and it’s being developed in partnership with Related as a land lease,” explained Mayor Lisa Gillmor. “So, as it’s being developed, we’re getting revenue into our general fund.”
The City is hiring seven new employees to support the development — three engineers, and a building inspector, fire marshal, fire protection engineer and fire inspector. This is in addition to a dedicated project manager for the project, Delores Montenegro, who was hired last summer. “Our developer friends” are paying for most of the new staff, said Gillmor.
Related has submitted Development Area Plans for phases 1 and 2. These will come to Council in coming months, Assistant City Manager Ruth Shikada said. A Planning Commission study session on the project is scheduled Feb. 20.
Changes in the Stadium curfew policy — allowing additional revenue-generating events — is unlikely. Council Members Karen Hardy and Chahal requested reconsideration, but the Council majority refused to consider this, and repeated their complaints about money-losing Stadium events like high school football games.
“How is it they have all this money and we have no money?” said Davis. “The curfew – that’s their narrative. The proof of burden [sic] is theirs, not ours.
“Come to the table with us,” continued Davis. “It seems like they don’t want to talk to us….It’s adversarial all the time.”
City Attorney Doyle said he prefers to discuss the curfew policy in closed session, as it’s “an element of litigation.”
Parcel Taxes and PR
A 2020 parcel tax — additional property tax — or bond measure for infrastructure maintenance and new construction looks almost certain to be on the ballot this year; the Council and the meeting facilitator spoke about it as a given, not a possibility.
Santa Clara currently has $111.6 million in unfunded and deferred capital projects, according to the City’s 2020 budget.
This year City Hall will also launch a City re-branding project — the second in five years — on the theme “We Love Santa Clara.”
The City signed $200,000 in contracts with two agencies for these and other public relations activities, in addition to engaging Sacramento-based Townsend Public Affairs to represent the City’s interests in Washington D.C. and Sacramento.
Marketing agency Threefold Communications, which describes its work as “solutions based” branding “for thriving communities,” will lead the branding program.
The Circlepoint agency will be joining the team at City Hall to support a “creative communications strategy for a future ballot [parcel tax] measure,” according to company representative Ivy Morrison.
Circlepoint will also work on “storytelling” and “identifying influencers” and “champions …to get them to tell your stories in their own positive voices,” said Morrison.
She also noted that Circlepoint will be driving media coverage to counter “negative information that’s out there” and for “shifting the story” and “educating the media.”
This is needed, Gillmor said, because “there’s tons of misinformation out there. We need to get the facts out there.”
“You can see we have a lot of press issues,” said Davis. Earlier in the session, she described these as “media that is dysfunctional” and “bad journalism.”
Public Safety, Business License Fees
Pro-active policing targeting car break-ins — funded by $750,000 in state grants — will continue during the next year, Acting Police Chief Dan Winter told the Council.
The Council will consider opening the San Tomas Aquino Creek Trail during large Levi’s Stadium events under new police chief Patrick Nikolai, as he was introduced by the Mayor.
“That’s a promise,” said Gillmor, who, along with City Attorney Brian Doyle and the Silicon Valley Bike Coalition, has been advocating for this since 2014. The Creek Trail is closed to non-ticket holders during events, per Department of Homeland Security best practices.
Changes in City business license fees to equalize the fees for employee-owned businesses with those of similarly sized conventional small businesses, will also be considered; as will an ordinance prohibiting City contractors and sub-contractors from engaging in illegal labor practices.
The City received a traffic mitigation grant that will be used for traffic signal synchronization among other projects, Director of Public Works Craig Mobeck told the Council.
Council Member Raj Chahal proposed a free community shuttle (like Mountain View’s and Palo Alto’s), but no other Council Member endorsed it. This would be a “multi-year effort” during which staff would “have to model the sequence of events that would have to occur,” said City Manager Deanna Santana.
VTA spoke briefly about BART phase II plans and transit-oriented development. The $5.5 billion project is expected to be operating by 2030. This led to discussion of a Hudson Yards-style development above the future Santa Clara BART station.