The Santa Clara City Council once again dealt with the conundrum of who polices the majority.
Four community members brought forth petitions asking the council to place an item on a future agenda to discuss the behavior of Council Member Kevin Park at the Feb. 7 council meeting.
At issue, comments Park made near the close of the meeting when he left a book titled “All My Friends are Dead” to the office of the “Special Advisor to the Mayor.” Park added Post-Its to the book so that the word “dead” was replaced by the words “termed out.”
One of the petitioners, Debbie Tryforos, called Park an “embarrassment” and said the other council members were “complicit” if they did not place the item on a future agenda.
Another petitioner, Scott Filler, said the actions had a “chilling effect” and he wondered if he would be the next person “targeted or ridiculed.”
Lee Broughman called the behavior “egregious” and begged the council to do something this time.
Council Member Suds Jain questioned the purpose of a request to reprimand or censor in general. He said he voted against censuring Council Member Kathy Watanabe in 2021, but even after censure her behavior has not changed and she still is not cordial enough to exchange basic greetings before council meetings.
“These censure votes don’t do anything. They don’t change anyone’s behavior. It’s a waste of time,” said Jain. “There are no consequences. There were no consequences to the Mayor and Council Member Watanabe when they were censured. They continued to act as they always had.”
Council Member Anthony Becker echoed Jain’s sentiments about interactions with Watanabe and gave credit to Mayor Lisa Gillmor for maintaining a cordial relationship.
He said he would vote no because we’re “wasting our time on a vendetta.”
In her comments, Gillmor called out Park for failing to do his duty while sitting in the presiding officer’s chair.
“It’s important when you’re sitting in the presiding officer’s chair that you run the meeting in a fair and an equitable manner, especially for the public and that you give the public an opportunity to say what they have to say whether you agree with them or not,” said Gillmor.
She said the other council members suffered from bystander syndrome since they simply sat by and did nothing.
Gillmor said it was “painfully” obvious that the council needed training on how to intersect with the public and said, once again, the Council is unable to police itself.
The Council voted 2-5 and denied the request to place the item on a future agenda.
Appointments to Boards and Committees
A spat also broke out over appointments to boards and committees. Watanabe introduced the issue by asking the mayor to be the alternate to the Cities Association of Santa Clara County Board of Directors since Becker removed himself.
She then used the platform to condemn what she called the “wrong, mean spirited and spiteful” actions of the council on Feb. 7 when she was removed as the rep to the Sister Cities commission.
Neither Watanabe nor Gillmor were at the meeting due to medical issues.
Watanabe felt removing her when she was not present showed no “respect” or “empathy.” She then implied that Park appointed himself as the new rep on the commission to justify annual trips he takes to South Korea.
Later in the meeting, Park defended those trips saying he takes them so his daughter can know her grandparents and family. He says he has a long-standing relationship with Sister Cities and he felt that Santa Clara’s relationship with its sister city in South Korea, Icheon, had fallen by the wayside.
Gillmor took the time to point out that she emailed council members for possible changes and no one responded. She then expressed her frustration at being removed and replaced by Park on the Neighborhood University Relations Committee.
She said it was not right to do it on “her agenda item” when she wasn’t there due to a medical emergency.
Council Member Raj Chahal pushed back saying it’s not the “Mayor’s” agenda item, but an agenda item brought every year. He said last year changes were made when she was not on the dais.
“Don’t make it political. Don’t make these personal please,” said Chahal.
Becker said it seems like a “how dare you?” mentality and that they must ask permission from the mayor. He called it “entitlement.”
Park, ultimately volunteered to serve as the alternate on the Cities Association of Santa Clara County Board of Directors and offered to step back and serve as alternate on the Neighborhood University Relations Committee so Gillmor could take her spot back.
Gillmor interrupted Park mid-gesture, saying that’s not on the agenda. Park persisted and offered to do it at a future date. Gillmor ignored the offer and pushed forth a motion on the item on the agenda.
The council appointed Park as the alternate to the Cities Association of Santa Clara County Board of Directors by a 6-1 vote. Park voted no.
Santa Clara Station Area Plan Task Force
Council discord continued when asked to fill four additional spots on the Santa Clara Station Area Plan Task Force. Despite a tight deadline, the City Council voted to push a decision to a later date.
The City has already issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) for a task force consultant. It is expected to receive replies next week. Santa Clara must respond to RFPs promptly.
City staff suggested four candidates to fill the spots. Council Member Karen Hardy wanted to know why two of the suggested candidates were not residents. Meanwhile, Jain wanted to know what the consideration was for people who may have property conflicts of interest.
City staff said it followed the direction of Council. It selected members because of their broader experience even though they may not live in Santa Clara. Conflicts of interest were disclosed.
Jain asked staff to return to Council with two candidates that council members could interview. Gillmor pointed out that this was not done when selecting the first seven people for the task force and would, therefore, be unfair. She also said eight interviews would require a special meeting.
Watanabe also opposed the plan for interviews.
“This is just wasting our staff’s time and just continuing something that really we should be voting on tonight and just be done with,” said Watanabe.
“These are really simple matters that we are complicating and making so difficult,” said Gillmor. “[We] can’t get around ourselves to get any business done…we need to get things done and this is not the way to do it. This is not the way to govern. We need to be more efficient than this.”
In spite of the dissent, the plan passed 5-2.
2319 Gianera Street
Becker asked to recall the issue of 2319 Gianera Street at a later meeting.
The property is owned by the City. At the March 7 City Council meeting, the council voted to declare the property surplus.
After some back and forth with the City Attorney for proper wording, Becker recalled the item based on new evidence regarding good faith negotiation obligations under the surplus land act.
A “Concerned Citizen” called and asked for public records on the property including who the property was purchased from, how much it was purchased for, what money was used and who was the real estate agent. The citizen says online searches resulted in what they called “suspicious” details.
Gillmor did not support the motion since there’s no new information.
The motion to recall the item passed 5-2 with Gillmor and Watanabe voting no.
BART to Santa Clara Update
The Valley Transportation Agency (VTA) returned to the City Council to offer an update on Phase II of the BART extension, which will end in Santa Clara.
The VTA addressed some of the feedback it received from the City Council during a meeting in May 2022. The transit agency has updated plans to provide native trees and exterior lighting, included retail kiosks and restrooms, found ways to improve passenger experience and access from the west side of the rail corridor and performed a pedestrian flow study.
The VTA says some of the suggestions are unfeasible because of construction constraints. A green roof is impossible because solar panels will occupy the roof of the garage. After studying the plan further, VTA determined that aligning the concourse with the Gateway Crossings paseo would not lead to the most efficient pedestrian traffic.
Other suggestions brought forth at the May council meeting were beyond the scope of VTA’s ability and would need to be addressed by the City.
VTA suggested new plans include an escalator going up to the concourse and another going down to the BART platform. Staff says it’s a more intuitive path for riders and provides equitable access to both sides of the station. The cost would be an extra $9 million to make this happen.
“This does provide equal access from the east side and the west side,” said Bernice Alaniz, BART Silicon Valley Business Operations and Communications Director. “It also, if you’re utilizing those stairs or the elevator from the west side, it gives you the opportunity to access those kiosk and services that we will be having. The elevated platform is kind of the hub of the station; that’s where all of the activity at the station will happen. That’s where all the fare gates are; that’s where the ticket vending machines are.”
VTA also asked Santa Clara to consider a cooperative agreement regarding Champions Way, since this roadway will now be the main access point to the station. VTA wants the City to make Champions Way a public right of way.
VTA is expected to start construction activities this spring, which will include preparing the Newhall Construction Yard for crews and beginning the process of creating access for the tunnel bore.
Consent Calendar & Other Business
Women’s History month was marked by recognizing the Bay Area Women’s Sports Initiative (BAWSI) – which launched in 2005 at Pomeroy Elementary School.
The council also proclaimed March Youth Arts Month in the City of Santa Clara.
The Council voted unanimously to approve the use of $1.6 million in Federal HUD funds to help Santa Clara respond to homelessness. $250,000 will be used for outreach about homeless programs, likely in conjunction with Santa Clara Police Department’s Crisis Intervention Specialists. Other funds will be used to expand the City’s tenant based rental assistance program and domestic violence support services.
Santa Clara County is reportedly out of the drought according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, but the state has not lifted the drought emergency yet. Neither has Valley Water or San Francisco Public Utility Commission. State could lift the drought at the end of April. Valley Water is still evaluating.
The Council approved the following items on the consent calendar:
- Amend the deposit agreement with Intel Corporation to increase the deposit amount by $1,783,180 to total $2,610,180.
- Authorize the City Manager to execute a second deposit agreement with Intel Corporation for engineering services associated with adding a third transformer to Juliette Substation totaling $1,702,313.
- Amend the deposit agreement with West Valley Mission Community College District increasing the deposit amount by $131,250 to total $504,000.
- Authorize the City Manager to execute a deposit agreement with Innovation Commons Owner, LLC for $787,500.
- Authorize the purchase order to Eaton Corp. in amount not to exceed $400,000 for switchgear associated with Mission College project and authorize future purchase orders to Eaton Corp. up to a maximum of $1,500,000.
- Approve FY 2022/23 budget amendments.
- Waive second reading and adopt ordinance no. 2057 regarding work at Ulistac National Area.
- Waive the second reading and adopt ordinance no. 2058 regarding sections of the City code.
- Execute an agreement with ADT Commercial for fire sprinkler testing, inspection and maintenance at Levi’s Stadium in an amount not to exceed $228,000 over three years.
- Execute an agreement with Convergint Technologies to provide fire alarm testing, inspection, maintenance and related services at Levi’s Stadium in an amount not to exceed $370,000 over three years.
- Approve cooperative agreement with Advance Stores for automotive parts at Levi’s Stadium not to exceed $25,000.
- Approve cooperative agreement with Amazon online for supplies and equipment at Levi’s Stadium not to exceed $250,000.
- Approve cooperative agreement with B&H online marketplace for audio visual products at Levi’s Stadium not to exceed $50,000.
- Approve cooperative agreement with CDW Government LLC for information technology solutions at Levi’s Stadium not to exceed $100,000.
- Approve cooperative agreement with Cintas Corp. for uniforms and brand name apparel at Levi’s Stadium not to exceed $250,000.
- Approve cooperative agreement with Grainger Industrial Supply for maintenance, repair, operating and industrial supplies at Levi’s Stadium not to exceed $200,000.
- Approve cooperative agreement with Kimball Midwest for maintenance, repair, operating and industrial supplies at Levi’s Stadium not to exceed $50,000.
- Approve $118,000 agreement with Blocka Construction Inc. to replace variable frequency drives for Levi’s Stadium cooling towers and pumps.
The next regularly scheduled meeting is Tuesday, April 4 in the Council Chambers at City Hall, 1500 Warburton Ave. in Santa Clara.
Members of the public can participate in the Santa Clara City Council meetings on Zoom at https://santaclaraca.zoom.us/j/99706759306; Meeting ID: 997-0675-9306 or call 1(669) 900-6833, via the City’s eComment (available during the meeting) or by email to PublicComment@santaclaraca.gov.