The Santa Clara City Council approved moving forward with a revised application for a housing project in the old Moonlite Lanes location, essentially saying the proposed general plan amendment for the development will likely jibe with the El Camino Real Specific Plan.
Prometheus, a San Mateo real estate developer, proposed a 158-apartment rental complex at 2780 El Camino Real last year—a proposal that met with heavy public opposition. Since then, the Council has enacted a “gatekeeper” policy. This policy that brings projects already in the works that are seeking a general plan amendment back to the Council to determine whether they are likely to fit with the Council’s plan to redevelop El Camino Real.
Tuesday marked the first time a project under the purview of the “gatekeeper” policy has come back to the Council. However, the general plan amendment sought by Prometheus would be to reduce the density to medium density housing.
John Moss, executive vice president with Prometheus, brought back a proposal for a general plan amendment, specifying that the development would be a three-story—as opposed to the originally proposed six story—complex with 58 for-sale townhomes. Moss said outreach on this project has shown a high degree of public support.
The Council supported the amendment, voting unanimously to approve the project moving forward.
Vice Mayor Dominic Caserta called the alterations a “yeoman’s effort.” Council Member Patricia Mahan said the construction of for-sale homes will “add stability” to the region.
Still, not everyone supported the project.
Kirk Vartan, a San Jose resident with a business in Santa Clara, called the project “disingenuous to what the community needs,” saying that more high-density housing is the answer.
Mark Apton, a Santa Clara resident, said the Council needs to halt housing completely.
Still, Council mainstay Deborah Bress said those who advocate more high-density housing, people like Vartan, hardly ever live in such developments.
“We don’t need more housing; we need more affordable housing,” she said. “If people are so fond of stack-and-pack, how come they aren’t living in them?”
The Council also approved adding three positions: Chief Operating Officer, Chief Stadium Authority Officer and Assistant City Manager. The Council’s approval was necessary because the salaries for the new positions were outside the normal salary scale.
These new positions will add $260,000 yearly to the budget. With benefits, the Chief Operating Officer will collect $475,000 a year, the Chief Stadium Authority Officer $440,343 and the Assistant City Manager $460,000. City Manager Rajeev Batra did not sign off on the new positions. Elizabeth Brown, human resources director for the City, said the law did not require the City to open the position to city employees, and that the position requires a “higher level of decision-making.”
Caserta and Mahan opposed the motion. Caserta said opening the positions to City employees “might not have been required, but [not doing so] is hardly transparent.” He said the Council just gave the new City Manager an “obscenely generous” package; now, the Council is being asked to go outside the norm for these positions. The decision, he said, is likely to create “rancour among the rank and file” at a time when morale is at an “all-time low.” He called the endeavor “Council-matic interference.”
Mahan said approving higher salaries creates a “parity issue.”
“We can’t be spending money we don’t have,” she said. “That is just fiscally unsound.”
The rest of the Council supported the motion, although they removed the names of the two candidates to be appointed to Chief Stadium Authority Officer and Assistant City Manager—Scott McKibben and Manuel Pineda respectively—by the City Manager from the motion.
Council Member Teresa O’Neill said these new people will “become models” for other City employees. They will “empower the City to move forward,” she added.
“[They will] create a culture and a method of operation so that the employees will feel more fulfilled in their jobs and produce results, a return on investment,” she said.
The Council also voted unanimously to reject all bids received for pavement resurfacing this year. The City received three bids which came in 61.5, 83, and 100 percent above City employee estimates.
A public works contract for the San Tomas Expressway and Monroe Street Community Garden at 2355 Naglee Rd., project—an amount not to exceed $3.7 million—saw Council approval. Goodland Landscape Construction was the lowest responsible bidder.
The project is slated to see completion in the summer of 2018.
Petition for Litigation
The United Councils for Sensible Development also presented a petition to the Council to study San Jose’s development of urban villages along Steven’s Creek Boulevard.
The written petition called for a special study session to assess San Jose waiving developer fees and its evaluation of “protected intersections.” The petition called for the Council to consider litigation against San Jose for the impact on Santa Clara.
Steven Scharf, a Cupertino City Council Member, spoke in favor of litigation, saying that “writing letters to San Jose doesn’t have any effect.”
However, Council mainstay Vartan said litigation is “not the way to build bridges.” He used the word “disingenuous” to describe the idea of suing San Jose.
Mike O’Halleran, a Santa Clara planning commissioner, echoed Vartan’s words, saying he hoped the two cities can work together to find an amenable solution.
Caserta said the Council hears these concerns and will “roll up our sleeves and fight for you,” a comment that drew applause from the audience.
The Council will hold a special study session before its next meeting 5 p.m. Sept. 12 at City Hall, 1500 Warburton Ave. The regular Council meeting will begin at 7 p.m.
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