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El Camino Gets Zoning Overhaul to Meet Housing Needs

At its most recent meeting, the Santa Clara City Council rezoned part of El Camino Real to help meet the state’s housing mandates. It also discussed rediscussing youth sports fees for the use of City facilities and looked at selling new seat licenses for Levi’s Stadium. 

Housing allocations handed down by the state prompted the Santa Clara City Council to adopt new zoning designations along El Camino Real.

At its Tuesday night meeting, the Council rezoned 17 parcels along El Camino to bring the parcels into what Reena Brilliot, community development director, called “conditional compliance” with state housing mandates.

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The rezoning of the parcels is part of Regional Housing Need Allocation (RHNA), a state-mandated work plan that sets each city’s portion of housing construction. Santa Clara’s portion of this state mandate for the most recent eight-year cycle is 11,632 housing units.

Although Brilliot said the parcels were set to be rezoned as part of the El Camino Specific Plan, the City has opted to accelerate the change in light of the state “very strongly” suggesting it.

The rezoning changes the parcels to regional mixed-use. All the properties are high-density areas. The change brings them into compliance with the general plan.

“Rezoning is a very positive thing. It gives people development standards that are known, that are concrete, and it allows them to develop without utilizing state law,” Brillot said. “Today, state law allows people to develop to residential build-out without rezoning. So, essentially if someone wanted to come in and put housing in, in any of the sites I just listed, they wouldn’t need to rezone, but here the City is providing concrete standards.

The majority of the parcels are on El Camino Real near the intersection of Lawrence Expressway, with a few lying a bit farther to east. The state urging the rezone is because it wants cities to maintain a 15% to 30% “buffer” for RHNA goals, Brillot said.

Council Member Kevin Park, who sat on the general plan steering committee some 15 years ago, expressed skepticism at the notion that state mandates will improve matters.

“The general plan says, ‘This is what we would like to do,’ but the zoning kind of tells people, ‘This is what you can do,’” he said. “I feel like we have a general plan where we are never going to be consistent with the general plan … It is like we have a problem, the state has a solution; now it’s worse.

The rezoning allows the City to be recertified by the Department of Housing Community Development. The Council unanimously approved the rezoning as well as updating its housing element.

New Field Seats Coming to Levi’s

The Council also approved adding new Stadium Builders Licenses (SBLs). SBLs give fans the right to purchase season tickets at Levi’s Stadium. The sale of SBLs helps pay down the Stadium Authority Board’s debt on the stadium.

Chuck Baker, assistant city manager, presented to the Board the stadium manager’s request to add 24 field seats to the SBL portfolio. The increase would bring the total of field seats to 94.

He said the City estimates the additional SBLs, set to sell for $17,500 apiece, will generate roughly $650,000. When questioned by Council Member Kathy Watanabe about the “parity,” Baker said he wasn’t exactly happy with it.

He elaborated.

“If we don’t sell the SBLs, then we are responsible for the cost of those tickets; we are responsible for the costs of managing those seats,” Baker said. “So, they are going to get that revenue. We get the cost. That is the way it is structured, unfortunately. So, when we have the opportunity to sell SBLs, we take it.”

Mayor Lisa Gillmor disagreed with Baker’s assessment that the Board would be on the hook for SBL costs. She called the sale a “big giveaway to add onto other giveaways.”

“What I see here is a disparity between what we are getting for our SBL and what they are charging for tickets. It should be more even,” Gillmor said.

While Park said he understood what Gillmor was getting at, he didn’t miss an opportunity to chirp at her about how stridently she opposed the SBL sale.

“If you know a good deal, I feel like maybe you should buy those seats, buy those tickets and sell them yourself,” he said.

The Council approved the sale of SBLs in a 4-2 vote, with Gillmor and Watanabe voting “no.” Council Member Raj Chahal left the meeting early.

Fee Schedule Issue Gets Re-opened

The Council will reconsider its adoption of the municipal fee schedule, at least the portion of it that deals with youth sports fees. After a lengthy discussion last month where the Council exempted youth sports from field fees, it opted to reconsider the item.

At Tuesday’s meeting, the Council reconsidered the reconsideration. A misunderstanding of City procedure created confusion as to the proper way to proceed with the item. After a short recess, Council Member Anthony Becker returned with new information that contextualized the matter. By then, however, many public members who had turned out to hear the item had left the chambers.

Watanabe, who voted for the motion, pushed for the reconsideration, saying she had many complaints from residents who thought youth sports were being exempt from fees.

Linda Pascoal, president of Santa Clara West Side Little League, said the move was “questionable at best.”

“This type of collusion is not transparent nor the way the public’s business should be conducted,” she said. “Transparency is a foundational value for ethical government practices.”

Park pointed out that there were several good reasons the item went the way it did. First, as City Manager Jovan Grogan informed the Council, an examination of field use fees for youth sports was already slated to return to the Council. Second, given that the fees have already been paid for the year, groups were in no danger of needing to pay soon.

Given that, Park said, the Council thought it wise to not hurry matters since tinkering with policy from the dais rarely gets good results.

Still, the Council all agreed that the situation should have been handled better and agreed unanimously to consider the portion of the fee schedule relating to youth field fees again.

City Attorney Glen Googins told the Council that the item would likely return at its next meeting but, failing that, should be ready for discussion by its June 4 meeting.

Consent Calendar Spending

  • A $230,402 contract with Clean Harbors Environmental Services, Inc. for emergency diesel fuel cleanup services at the Laurelwood storm pump station.
  • A $2.7 million contract with Teichert Construction for street pavement maintenance and rehabilitation.
  • A $229,866 agreement with Bellecci and Associates, Inc. for parking lot rehabilitation at Bowers Park.
  • A five-year, $1.5-million licensing agreement with HSI Workplace Compliance Solutions, Inc. and Focus Learning Corporation training services at Silicon Valley Power.
  • A $350,000 contract with Riverwood Grove Associates for electrical panel upgrades.
  • A $137,500 contract extension to an agreement with HDL Companies for additional tax administration services. The total contract amount is now $387,500. Approval of this item allows the city manager to increase the maximum compensation by an additional $536,240 for a total maximum compensation not to exceed $923,740.
  • An $104,250 purchase order with PCP Motorsports for five Kawasaki Side-by-Sides, plus upfitting costs and installation.

The next regularly scheduled meeting is Tuesday, May 28 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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1 Comment
  1. Jim 3 weeks ago
    Reply

    To be more in line with the “zoning overhaul”, the name of the area the project involved need to be changed to “El Canyon Real”.

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