The Santa Clara City Council prioritized updating the general plan, adding more “affordable” housing and public outreach.
The topics came up as part of the Council’s goal-setting retreat Jan. 26. The meeting’s aspiration was to address things from, according to Mayor Lisa Gillmor, a “very high level.”
Eileen Goodwin, with Apex Strategies, moderated the meeting, sharpening Council comments into six-month, two-year and five-year goals. With so many issues slated to see progress in the next six months, the Council’s goals are very “front-loaded,” Goodwin said.
In addition to the general plan and public outreach, in the next six months the Council aims to separate the stadium authority from the Council, establish a department of sustainability, address the City’s legal needs and fill gaps in its number of employees.
“Each Council member should have a staff member; the mayor should have two,” Councilmember Dominic Caserta said.
Further, the Council said the City should do an assessment of where the convention center fits into the City’s economy–specifically separating it from the Chamber of Commerce–and studying the feasibility of a new swim center soon.
While the Council hardly put any items on its two-year plan, Councilmember Patricia Mahan said many items will fall into place during that timeframe once items are knocked off the six-month checklist. Still, Mahan expressed concern that putting so many goals into the six-month category would put too much strain on City employees.
“Our staff are like rubberbands; they are going to snap at any time,” she said.
Infrastructure and community revitalization were also much-discussed. Although few aspects of infrastructure were deemed urgent, a survey of the Council members showed that it was the No. 1 issue that needs attention; creating more housing came in second in the Council survey.
Improving relationships between City employees and the City Council was also of importance. Caserta said he would like to see the City increase its minimum wage.
“We are still discovering things that were not done right by prior management,” Mahan said.
She also said that seeking funding sources to give El Camino Real a facelift is also important.
Despite the Council’s emphasis on adding more housing, not everyone shared that sentiment.
Deborah Bress, Council mainstay, asked how many signatures on a petition it would take for the Council to halt housing development.
“If I hear one more time that [the Association of Bay Area Governments] says we have to build more housing, I am going to throw up,” she said. “I am going to start sharpening those pitchforks and sharpening them en masse.”
She criticized the Council’s priorities, agreeing that they were “front-loaded” calling them “unachievable” “blue-sky” items.
Planning Commissioner Suds Jain said revising the general plan, specifically updating the City’s designations for historic districts and ordinances on micro-units and boarding houses, is paramount. Regularly changing zoning designations to planned developments–such as the case with the California’s Great America update–is less-than-ideal, he added.
At the beginning of the session, Hosam Haggag, another Council mainstay, said he worried the Council would place too much emphasis on the things that are important but don’t need attention immediately. At the closing public comments section, he said that “what happened is exactly what I feared.”
“Council wants to have its hand in everything. Council needs to learn how delegate,” he said.
One of the only things the entire Council agreed on was that it should meet more frequently.