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Downtown Precise Plan Moves Forward Despite Concerns Around Historic Preservation

The Santa Clara City Council will consider a ballot measure that would make Council Members full-time salaried employees. Senior Housing, Levi’s Stadium

Preserving Santa Clara’s historic homes was the most prominent concern while discussing the Downtown Precise Plan.

During a study session Tuesday night, the Council heard details of the plan, which has been in the works for several years.

Jim Stickley, a consultant with San Francisco-based design firm WRT, told the Council that the plan is designed to be “affordable, adaptable and authentic.”

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The plan presented aims to restore the street grid while allowing for streets that accommodate a variety of modes of transportation. Further, he said, varying building height so that buildings decrease in size as they approach single-family neighborhoods was a priority.

He said the plan allows for flexibility in occupancy, allowing for retail or office space as is appropriate. Roughly half the square footage will be devoted to residential.

However, exactly how much density will exist is dependent on whether developers make use of certain federal bonuses geared toward adding more low-income housing. The two-to-six-story base height could swell to as high as nine stories while petering off to between six and eight stories near the university and transit center with the western edge topping out around five stories.

With bonus development, the square footage of the plan could swell from 1.5 million to 2.36 million.

Peter Winch, also with WRT, said the plan “codifies the things that are important while still leaving flexibility.”

Part of that codification would be instituting form-based code — a land-use regulation that strives to foster homogeneity.

“The intent of this plan is that we really want these residential and historic buildings to remain here,” Stickley said.

Still, members of the Council and public alike were concerned with the lack of concrete protections for historic homes that would fall into the new footprint of the plan. Councilmember Karen Hardy said it “horrified” her.

Many members of the public said they thought the plan was a good step and took little issue with it save the lack of assurance that Santa Clara’s historic homes would be preserved.

“They are part of our fabric. They are what makes the Old Quad the Old Quad,” said Janet Stevenson.

But Andrew Crabtree, community development director, told the Council that nothing it approved Tuesday would change its ability to put such provisions into the plan in the future.

The Council approved accepting the plan 5-0, with Mayor Lisa Gillmor and Councilmember Suds Jain recusing themselves due to conflicts.

El Camino Specific Plan Draws Public Ire

A proposed project located at 1601 Civic Center Drive crystallized concerns with the El Camino Real Specific Plan. The Council had previously given City employees direction to return with a lower density proposal after myriad criticism.

Crabtree told the Council it essentially had two options: hire a consultant and fund the change to the tune of $900,000 or maintain its existing general plan designation at a cost of $50,000.

However, a tide of public criticism made clear the anxiety around adding high-density housing near existing neighborhoods, a frequent criticism to any new development.

Still, Crabtree said the plan does not do anything to expedite the Charities Housing Project at Civic Center Drive or add anything to its consideration. The intent was to follow the Council’s previous guidelines to limit the area’s story limits.

The Council continued the item to its next meeting.

Clerk Claims Council Is Aiming To Undermine His Authority 

Whether a request from a council member was “problematic” was also at issue. A motion to defer three written petitions from Jain to the Governance Committee caused City Clerk Hosam Haggag to challenge the Council’s authority to even place the item on a future agenda.

The item in question was to agendize hiring an ethics consultant for upcoming elections. Haggag, the City elected clerk and elections official, told the Council it was “inappropriate” for it to even defer the item since it is under his purview as the elections officer.

Despite Haggag’s protest, the Council still passed the motion 5-2, with Councilmember Kevin Park and Vice Mayor Raj Chahal voting “no.”

Consent Calendar Spending

The Council also approved the following spending, in one motion, via the consent calendar:

  • A five-year $3.5 million agreement with Power Systems Professionals Inc. for as-needed electrical equipment repair.
  • A five-year $666,167 contract with US Digital Designs, Inc. to provide services for the purchase, installation and implementation of a fire station alerting system.
  • An $237,386 extension to an agreement with Woodard and Curran, Inc. for sanitary sewer hydraulic modeling as-needed support through June 30, 2023. New contract total is $1.21 million.
  • A $25,594 purchase order to Cvent for event diagram software subscriptions for Levi’s Stadium.
  • A three-year $200,000 purchase order with Kelly-Moore Paints for paint and supplies at Levi’s Stadium.

The next regularly scheduled meeting is Tuesday Oct. 19 in the Council Chambers at City Hall, 1500 Warburton Ave. in Santa Clara.

Members of the public can participate in the 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

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