Former City Attorney Brian Doyle made another appearance before the City Council on June 21. The Santa Clara resident asked the Council to place an item on a future agenda to ask Council Members Karen Hardy and Raj Chahal for an explanation regarding questions of non-compliance with FPPC law and regulations, the City of Santa Clara Lobbyist Ordinance and Council policy.
Hardy and Chahal attended a Nov. 15, 2021 NFL game at Levi’s Stadium. The two council members are accused of not paying for their tickets and not reporting the alleged gifts as required by law.
Hardy submitted a written explanation which Doyle called “half-hearted.”
Council Member Anthony Becker pointed out that an FPPC issue should not be discussed as advised by the City Attorney in a previous meeting.
Mayor Lisa Gillmor said it was a “community issue.”
“It seems like every visit to an event at the stadium results in something negative for our community,” said Gillmor.
Becker responded, calling the entire petition “political theater” in an election year and said people are getting “desperate.”
Council Member Kathy Watanabe chimed in, pointing out Becker bought “nose-bleed” seats to a 49ers game but received A-List treatment. Becker called it “classist” for Watanabe to call out the type of seats he purchased simply because he’s working class.
City Attorney James Sanchez recommended that the Council not address the item until the legal claims by Doyle are settled.
“I will tell you as your City Attorney, when there is already pre-litigation activity and a claim filed, I’m going to be very cautious and advise the council not to engage in public discussions regarding that matter and that’s what I’ve advised the Council,” said Sanchez.
Doyle responded, saying, “All of the actions of which I’m filing my petition occurred after I was terminated so I have no idea how this could possibly do with my litigation if I do indeed decide to file any litigation.”
Gillmor agreed, saying there is no pending litigation from Doyle.
Despite her protests, the Council voted 5-2 to defer the petition until the litigation involving Doyle is resolved. Gillmor and Watanabe voted “no.”
During public comment, Doyle said he has submitted three petitions, none of which have anything to do with any litigation, but he was denied each time. Doyle is upset about transparency and says the Council “retaliated against me” by denying his petitions.
Water Rate Increases
The drought has forced Santa Clara to increase water and sewer rates much more than initially anticipated.
During the meeting, the City Council unanimously approved the 2022/23 rate setting process.
Residents will see a 9.6% increase in charges per HCF (hundred cubic feet) of water. That means rates will rise from $6.69/HCF to $7.33/HCF.
Recycled water rates will increase by 10.2%. City staff says even with the increase, recycled water is still much more affordable than water.
Sewer rates will increase by 5.2% for single-family homes ($2.29/month) and 0.4% for multi-family homes (16 cents/month).
City staff says that even after the rate increases, Santa Clara still has the second-lowest water and sewer rates when compared to neighboring cities.
Because of the drought, the City expects to see a drop in revenue and water usage next year as well. Right now, that drop is projected to be approximately 4%.
The new water and sewer rates will go into effect July 1, 2022.
Santa Clara FY 2022/23 and FY 2023/24 Budget
The City Council has passed the budget for the upcoming fiscal year. City staff answered questions from previous Council meetings and provided more details.
According to staff, the D.A.R.E. positions are currently open because of retention and recruitment issues. Santa Clara Police Department (SCPD) is examining the program to see if changes need to be made to help increase the ability to staff the program.
SCPD has also budgeted for active shooter training at all Santa Clara Unified School District (SCUSD) schools this year.
The budget includes plans to align library fees with the Parks and Recreation fees. Under the new fee structure, it will cost nonprofits and Santa Clara residents $20 per meeting to use library space. Non-residents will pay $90. There is a potential $30 staff charge if staff is needed to help with meetings that use library space.
During public comment, several community members asked the Council to move forward with the El Camino Real Specific Plan and approve a budget expenditure to create a study on the plan.
“We can’t push it down the road. It’s got to happen,” said Vice Mayor Suds Jain.
After debate, the Council unanimously approved the expenditure for a study under the condition that City staff return to the council at a later time with design standard and scope of the El Camino Real Specific Plan.
The Council also discussed adding a study into the potential of moving City Hall back to the downtown area. Council Member Karen Hardy called it a “political football” and requested that City staff also look at building at the front of the current site and compare it to moving downtown.
The Council voted 5-0 to approve funding a study into moving City Hall downtown with City staff using the results of a 2019 study to compare costs to building at the existing site. Mayor Lisa Gillmor and Jain abstained due to conflict of interest.
A resolution to allot funds to study traffic impact in Santa Clara passed 5-2 with Gillmor and Council Member Kathy Watanabe voting “no.” Gillmor said it was too much money to spend at a time when we have so many other community needs.
“This item is not going to fix traffic,” said Gillmor.
Jain and Chahal argued that we need to hold developers accountable to the promises they make. While Council Member Anthony Becker said the study was “critical to our quality of life.”
The Council did not vote on a resolution to provide $575,000 more to help finance a new building for lawn bowling with several members saying it was not the time to expend the extra funds.
Settlement Reached with San Jose on Existing Litigation
Council members unanimously agreed to terms with the City of San Jose over two existing pieces of litigation involving the North San Jose area development plan.
Once signed, Santa Clara will release claims against San Jose over the North San Jose area development plan.
Meanwhile, San Jose will agree to construct lane widening of Montague Expressway over the Guadalupe River, pay Santa Clara between $9.33 million and $14 million over six annual payments and defend and indemnify Santa Clara of any third-party claims related to the action.
Santa Clara will move forward with mediation with Santa Clara County and San Jose regarding county’s claims and demands of the North San Jose area development plan.
Tribute to Former Mayor Larry Fargher
The Council took a moment to remember former Santa Clara Mayor and Council Member Larry Fargher. The City will fly flags at half-staff on June 28 in memory of Fargher.
“Santa Clara wouldn’t be what it is today without Larry Fargher and his vision and his business sense,” said Gillmor. “He really had a wonderful sense of how you develop the City in the right way. We love our City today and he has left his mark on Santa Clara for generations to come.”
Fargher’s daughter also spoke.
“It’s hard to talk about Santa Clara and my dad in the same sentence without getting emotional,” said Laure Vierra Fargher. “Our mission and the Council and our City was everything to him. Thank you to our whole city for embracing our family and my father.”
Other City Council Business
Council members named Vena Sterling to the Senior Advisory Commission after one of the commission’s current members resigned.
The Council also took a moment to recognize the Bay to Brooklyn 2021 bike ride, which involved a group of local first responders who rode their bikes from the Bay Area to Brooklyn in honor of the men and women who died on Sept. 11, 2001.
Council members agreed to put a debrief of the May 19 Coldplay concert held at Levi’s Stadium on a future agenda. Some residents petitioned the Council over concerns about the noise level.
“The noise level was really really high. We’ve been living in this community for over a decade. We never came to you,” said petitioner Ajay Thadhlani. “This noise level for the concert, and we’ve had concerts before. So, the noise level was extremely high…It was extremely high.”
The Council also approved a proposed design for a new public neighborhood park at 1205 Coleman Avenue (Gateway Crossings Project). The approval included a request that the developer speak to the member of the public who wrote to the Council about his concerns and that the developer look into the feasibility of a BBQ pit.
The next regularly scheduled meeting is Tuesday, July 5 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.