In a Thursday continuation of its June 8 meeting, the Santa Clara City Council approved increases in residential developer park fees and adopted garbage rate increases to cover the additional City costs for the contract.
Developer Park Fees Upped 1st Time Since 2017
The Council approved, 4-3, increasing the residential development fees for new parks, with Mayor Lisa Gillmor and Council Members Karen Hardy and Kevin Park opposed. The fees are based on the costs of acquiring land for parks — by state law the money raised can only be used for building new parks and some improvements in existing parks.
The last time the fees were adjusted was in 2017. Meanwhile, land prices have increased significantly.
“If we look at 2016, in the 95050 zip code [the land value] was $3.315 million,” said Council Member Suds Jain.
“In 2020 it was $4.7 million. That’s an increase of 42 percent over the four years. When we are phasing in something over four years…you’ve lost a tremendous amount of money. It hurts our residents because they don’t get the parkland that we want.”
Developers and real estate industry groups oppose the increases, saying that higher fees would adversely affect development plans. “Residential construction… sitting on the sidelines in this economic environment will likely be impossible for the foreseeable future,” said Dennis Martin of the Building Industry Association.
These groups said the same thing when the fees were first imposed in 2014. Santa Clara’s neighbors have been levying these fees for decades, and, as a result, have more parkland per resident than Santa Clara.
As the economy comes out of the pandemic, it wasn’t the time to increase fees, said Park. “I feel like this is the time we should stay even though that would cost us money,” he said.
“I just want to remind people,” said Gillmor, “the higher the fees are, the higher rents are, the higher the sales prices.”
Garbage Rate Increases, Study on Clean Up Alternatives
Since it was proposed in 2020, Vice Mayor Raj Chahal has vehemently objected to the underlying contract with GreenWaste Recover for separating recyclables and food scraps from residential garbage, the driver for the rate increase. State law requires Santa Clara to reduce organics in landfills by 2022 or face fines.
The cheaper alternative is providing residents with a separate receptacle for the food got a thumbs-down from participants. Although the GreenWaste contract was signed last year and new rates approved, Chahal has been pushing for reconsideration and renegotiation.
Thursday night, City Manager Deanna Santana reported that GreenWaste wouldn’t agree to renegotiation, so that door is closed. The only question before the Council was increasing fees to cover costs or subsidizing the increase from the general fund. The rate increase was slated to take effect last year, but was postponed.
The final vote was 4-3 to increase the rates, with Chahal and Council Members Park and Anthony Becker opposing. The Council also approved $75,000 for a consultant to develop alternatives to the current annual Clean Up Campaign to comply with state laws, with Park and Becker opposing.
The Santa Clara City Council meets next for a Special Meeting on Tuesday, June 15.