Two Santa Clara City Council Members came under heavy fire for failing to appoint someone to the Council’s vacant seat.
At Tuesday night’s meeting, the Council entertained reprimanding Council Members Patricia Mahan and Pat Kolstad for what many saw as an attempt to subvert the process to fill former Council Member Dominic Caserta’s seat. Following Caserta’s resignation amid allegations of sexual harassment, the Council opted to appoint someone to his seat instead of waiting until the November election.
Mahan was vocal about her opposition to an appointment. Many members of the Council and public alike accused her and Kolstad of turning the multi-round voting into a farce, claiming they intended to sabotage the process before even hearing from the candidates. While Mahan apologized for the “backlash” and “chaos” caused by her actions, she said she was “very comfortable” with what she did even if some of the vitriol directed at her was “hurtful”.
“At the end of the day, there was no one candidate we all agreed on,” she said.
The censure policy enables any Council Member to admonish the actions of another Council Member or launch an investigation into censure. While admonishment is little more than the Council saying it decries another Council Member’s behavior, a censure is a claim that the Council Member in question broke the law or city policy. Neither carry a penalty.
The discussion started as public petition submitted by Teresa Sulcer, who claimed the censure policy — put in place because of Caserta’s alleged actions — should be enacted when a Council Member “does not act in the best interest” of Santa Clarans. She said the role of a citizen is like a “guard rail” to create a “safe space.”
Several of those up for appointment during the marathon session June 13 were present.
Suds Jain, who serves on the Planning Commission, said although he was passed over because of the Council’s inability to agree on a candidate, censuring Mahan and Kolstad “adds to the divisiveness and nastiness.” Jain also read comments from another applicant, Kevin Park, who called the situation “unpalatable” and said censuring is “fifth-grade bickering.”
Still, not everyone agreed. Hosam Haggag, another prospective appointee, said he got a letter when he applied for the appointment thanking him. That letter, he said, had two signatures on it “that shouldn’t have been there,” referring to Kolstad and Mahan.
“They already knew what they were going to do,” he said. “They are not going to change their behavior; the slap to the face of the residents has already been done.”
Following a request from Sulcer to pursue an admonishment hearing instead of censure so members of the public could voice their concern, Mayor Lisa Gillmor called for a motion to hold such a hearing. Further, Gillmor suggested, the Council should reserve the right to launch an investigation into censure should anything come out during those testimonies. She described an “outrage,” saying there was “a lot of information coming forward about pre-meditation.”
“I see, at this point, no acknowledgment of remorse or harm,” she said.
In 1995, then Council Member Lisa Gillmor was outspoken against censure of a fellow Council Member who failed to disclose $13,000 in campaign expenditures, calling it a “black mark” on the City and claiming it damaged his reputation. She called the situation “kangaroo court.”
However, Mahan maintains that she had gotten several letters and comments urging her to vote against the appointment, that she followed the process set forth by the Council and it was mere happenstance that the Council was unable to agree on a candidate.
The Council voted 4-1 to hold an admonishment hearing at its Aug. 21 meeting. Kolstad was the lone “no” vote. Mahan abstained.
Environmentals Try to Halt Data Center Construction
A data center to be located at 2305 Mission College Blvd. came to Council for appeal following the Planning Commission upholding the development.
The 15.7-acre plot used to host 4,000 to 5,000 employees of defense contractor General Dynamics, but after the company needed less than the 495,610 square feet, it moved. Now, a 30-employee data center with four generators aims to set up shop.
But complaints from the California Unions for Reliable Energy claim the noise and pollution would exceed the necessary guidelines.
However, Andrew Crabtree, Director of Community Development, said the project meets City guidelines. Like all projects, he said, it is predicated on the notion that should the project need additional licensing from the state, it would go through the state to obtain that licensing before beginning construction.
Vice Mayor Kathy Watanabe said she had “concerns” about the impact on neighbors.
The area is zoned industrial.
The Council denied the appeal in a 5-1 vote, with Watanabe voting “no.”
Nexus Study Increases Impacts Fees
Impact fees for developments were also broadened.
Most notable was the increase in the hotel fees, which rose 77 percent from $400 per room to $708 per room. Residential and retail will now also have to pay the fees, which aim to offset the burden on infrastructure because of a development. Multi-family homes will pay $519 per unit, single-family homes will pay $1,169; retail stores will now pay $450 per square foot.
So-called “affordable housing” and retail with less than 50,000 square feet are exempt from the fee schedule, which will now be updated yearly.
Craig Mobeck, Director of Public Works, said the City has $37 million in unfunded infrastructure liability and the new fee schedule is about everyone paying their “fair share.”
Deanna Santana told the Stadium Authority Board that her office was able to work out the details for the 2019 College Football Championship to be held at Levi’s Stadium.
The Forty Niners Management Company (ManCo) complied with all the Board’s requests. The Board all but demanded that no money from the City’s general fund be spent on operations for the game, which was slated to cost roughly $12 million. ManCo also agreed to double-time for public safety costs and full audit rights.
Mayor Lisa Gillmor called the agreement “precedent-setting.”
The Council meets again 7 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 21 in the Council Chambers at City Hall, 1500 Warburton Ave. in Santa Clara.
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Update: A previous version of this article mistakenly said the Council would hold an admonishment hearing on Aug. 23 but the hearing will actually be on Aug. 21. We apologize for the error. Thank you to those who found the error.