Finger-pointing and vitriol were in abundance during the Santa Clara City Council’s discussion of enforcing the weekday curfew for Levi’s Stadium.
Tuesday night’s meeting centered around an informational report discussing the 10 p.m. curfew for weekday, non-NFL events and how the Council/Stadium Authority Board should proceed in regards to that City policy.
“We have to do a better job protecting the neighbors,” said Council Member Kathy Watanabe. “And the 49ers have to do a better job managing the stadium and following the law.”
In 2010, the Council set the 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday curfew, but placed a parameter that allowing events to go past the curfew was the purview of the City Manager.
Still, many wore green armbands and held neon green signs that read “Follow the Law.”
Many made reference to 49ers President Al Guido’s comments claiming the stadium recently lost a bid to bring pop star Ed Sheeran to Levi’s Stadium because of the curfew; Guido claimed the concert would have brought roughly $850,000 to the Santa Clara.
Council Member Teresa O’Neill gave a presentation suggesting that the City conduct a variety of surveys to gauge residents’ sentiments toward extending the curfew.
Vice Mayor Dominic Caserta took issue with the process by which O’Neill came to give the presentation. He said that, although he was not trying to “indict” O’Neill, he was unaware then-City Manager Rajeev Batra gave her the task of coming up with solutions to public outreach regarding the curfew. The original motion had included the scheduling of community meetings, which Batra in turn cancelled because of Mayor Gillmor’s concerns that the meeting fell so close to Labor Day and also because the Stadium Authority was not invited.
The problem, Caserta said, was that Batra was too “sheepish” in the endeavor. He said former City Manager Julio Fuentes, former Finance Director Gary Ameling, and former City Attorney Richard Nosky occasionally disagreed with the Mayor, and they no longer work for the City.
The discussion tore open old wounds, with many rehashing the soccer park fiasco where advocates claimed the 49ers reneged on an agreement to refurbish youth soccer fields before trying to reclaim the fields for parking.
Caserta called the opposition to his comments a “political vendetta that has nothing to do with following the law.” He said he is looking out for residents by ensuring the stadium has high-quality events that draw crowds and generate money for the City.
Council Member Patricia Mahan, who is a lawyer and was on the Council when it enacted the curfew, agreed with Caserta, saying that the intent of the ordinance was always to allow the City Manager to have discretion on whether to allow events to go past 10 p.m. Those events, she continued, add a lot of money to the City’s general fund.
“There are benefits, and there are burdens. That is just the way it is,” Mahan said. “We have to sort of grow up and little bit and realize.”
Jim Mercurio, manager of Levi’s Stadium, said that he cannot control the routes of artists and that promoters will not come to Levi’s Stadium if Council imposes regulations as it is proposing.
“I promise you, you will not have any additional concerts Sunday through Thursday with an additional curfew,” he said.
He said the 49ers remain committed to working with the Council to find a solution that balances the needs of the residents while bringing top-notch talent to the stadium.
While some members of the public supported extending the curfew, others were vocal about opposing it.
“If money is more important than quality of life, then the City could open a bordello and name it after one of the Council Members,” said Council mainstay Howard Meyers.
Hosam Haggag, another public meeting mainstay, said the 49ers are not a “trusted partner,” saying that the team has given the City the “bait and switch” on a variety of items—use a community room at the stadium, the curfew for the U2 concert in May, and use of the creek trail during games. He called Caserta, Mahan and Council Member Pat Kolstad a “disgrace” and said they are “doing the bidding of their 49er overloads.”
Harbir Bhatia, who is the vice chair of the Santa Clara Cultural Commission, but spoke as a resident, said the Council’s antics were not “respectable behavior.” She said it was “putting [its] dirty laundry out there,” adding that it was “embarrassing.” She said that O’Neill’s plan to obtain some analytics from residents living near the stadium should prove fruitful and that she hopes whatever those numbers show, the Council will “be ready to act” on the resident’s wishes “irrespective of opinion.”
The Council unanimously approved having the City Manager’s office conduct public outreach and return to the Council with solutions regarding the curfew issue at its next meeting.
Another much-discussed item was the Council’s decision to move forward with the Mission Library renovation despite the bid coming in $1.5 million higher than City employees expected. The renovation, which adds patio space, four study rooms and upgrades the community room, was originally set to cost $1.9 million.
However, the addition of energy efficient windows earlier this year added $323,000 to the cost. Then, various other additions totaling $264,000 brought the engineer’s estimate to $2.65 million. The lowest acceptable bid put the project cost at $3.84 million.
Leonne Broughman, a Santa Clara Library Board Trustee, said the board supports moving forward with the Mission Library project without adjusting the scope of the renovation, recommending that the Council accept the lowest responsible bid.
Members of the Library Foundation & Friends showed support of the Council accepting the bid even though it was high.
Tracy Wingrove, the board’s executive director, said the board has “already begun raising money” and that she is “sure” it can raise $300,000 to help cover some of the renovation cost.
Keith Stattenfield, who vice chairs the Charter Review Committee, said that area of Santa Clara “deserves a better library.” He said the library is “not what it needs to be” and that libraries nowadays help “give people a leg up.”
Mahan said she believes the Council can “cobble together the budget,” it just “needs to get creative.”
The Council voted unanimously to have the City Manager return with a report on the budget impact of allowing the project to move forward with the high bid. Construction is slated to begin in March 2018 with completion in April 2018.
As a followup to a couple study sessions on California’s legalization of the recreational use of marijuana, the Council also voted to move forward on instituting a moratorium on the production of the drug until the City Manager’s office can sort out details.
Ruth Shikada, acting City Manager, called the policy a “temporary ban” until City employees can determine the logistics of how to develop an ordinance that regulates the drug’s commercialization.
She said the City Manager’s office will contract with a consultant in October to draft an ordinance. Then, the consultant and City employees would conduct community outreach to help set parameters for what types of commercial businesses the City will permit to sell marijuana, where the businesses can be located, what the licensing requirements are and a whole slew of other details not specified in state law.
In the absence of such regulations, the law would default to California state law, which would in turn prevent the City from regulating it. Establishing a local ordinance, Shikada said, gives Santa Clara “more authority” and “enhances responsibility.”
Shikada said the ordinance will also aim to also identify revenue streams. While the City can impose fees to cover costs, City Attorney Brian Doyle said any tax that aims to generate revenue for the City must come before the voters.
Kirk Vartan, a San Jose resident and Santa Clara business owner, said the Council needs to “be sensitive” and “take the stigma away” from marijuana.
“We need to get this out of the closet,” said another San Jose resident and Council mainstay Scott Lane. “For some reason, liquor gets a pass, but everybody freaks out about cannibis.”
The ordinance would go into effect in April 2018.
Contracts and proposals
The Council also approved renewing a three-year, $1.25 million contract with Golder Associates for landfill maintenance and approved another $699,000 for street repairs.
Finally, the Council voted to approve combining two parcels—hosting a data center with some manufacturing and office space—on a 12.6-acre site at 1700 Richard Ave. and to allow a historic designation, or a Mills Act, to the home located at 1494 Homestead Road.
The next City Council meeting will be held 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 10 at City Hall, 1500 Warburton Ave.