The Council upheld the appeal from the owner of a home that operated her property as an Airbnb, fostering bad blood among neighbors. Council Member Teresa O’Niell had to recuse herself from the discussion and vote.
Although the City has no regulations against operating an Airbnb — aka a short-term rental — out of a single-family home, the experience damaged the neighbors’ trust in the owner, Lei Xu.
Xu said she leased the property, located at 2892 Sycamore Way, to a tenant who listed it on Airbnb without her knowledge, but she has since removed the listing. The Architectural Review Committee approved the demolition and remodel of the home to include 5 bedrooms, 3.5 bathrooms and three points of entry.
Originally, Xu has asked for 5 bedrooms, 5.5 bathrooms and six points of entry. To many, it seemed as if Xu was still intending to use the home for short-term rentals.
Council Member Debi Davis characterized running an Airbnb as “destruction.”
“This is a very single-family kind of neighborhood,” she said. “With six entrances, to me, it looks like another Airbnb.”
Neighbor Joe Garcia said it wasn’t just the Airbnb that was a problem. He called the lawn “disgusting.”
Another neighbor, Jerie Campi, said the project has taken an “unusual trajectory,” adding that she just wants her neighborhood to return to the way it was before the Airbnb.
Other neighbors expressed concerns about privacy, but, in response to an inquiry from Council Member Raj Chahal, Xu said it was unfair of the City to ask her to plant trees to satisfy the neighbor to the south. Several other neighbors have second stories on their homes and are not being asked to plant new trees in the interest of privacy.
Mayor Lisa Gillmor expressed skepticism that Xu was unaware of how her property was being used but said she had to give her the “benefit of the doubt.”
The Council approved upholding the appeal, allowing 5 bedrooms, 4.5 bathrooms and 4 external entrances — a front door, a back door, a side garage door and a door to a first story bedroom. However, it also placed some conditions on approval — that the site be inspected in two years and that the bedroom’s external door not be lockable from the outside to prevent it from being used as an entrance.
New Vendor For Convention Center
A new food-service provider will take over at the Santa Clara Convention Center at the start of the year.
The Santa Clara City Council voted unanimously to have Levy, out of Chicago, take over for Ovation, the food-service arm of Convention Center manager Spectra. Ovation took over food service as a bridge once the previous food-service provider, Aramark, notified the City it would cease operations in July.
Ovation also submitted a request for qualification (RFQ), but the committee in charge of choosing the vendor opted to select Levy mainly due to its ability to bring in an additional $1 million/year in revenue for the Convention Center. Although revenue generation was roughly the same for both vendors, Levy’s operation costs were lower, resulting in a larger net revenue.
Part of the reason Levy is able to keep costs lower is cost-cutting measures such as having its own on-site bakery.
Joiel Alexander, Vice President of Levy, said such practices are part of the “food story.”
“It is our goal to make sure Convention-Center dining experience is on par with a restaurant,” she said.
The contract is for five years with two five-year options. Levy will provide monthly and quarterly reports.
Talks of Moving City Hall Resurface
Finding more space for City employees was also an agenda item. The Council approved a $1.97-million contract with Smithgroup to study the feasibility of securing that space. Deemed the Civic Center Concept Plan, the plan aims to reorganize and relocate City Hall.
Manuel Pineda, Chief Electric Utility Officer, said the need for City services is on the rise, and addressing the need for space is a priority. Roughly $18 million has been set aside in the capital improvement budget for the construction of a utility building, which would host, among others, employees from Silicon Valley Power.
The project will most likely need to be done in phases, he said.
Davis said she wants any space considerations to take into account the City’s need for more employees, something Pineda said has already been taken into consideration.
“We are already busting at the seams,” Davis said. “We need places to grow.”
Skip Pearson, with Reclaiming Our Downtown, said his group would like to see City relocated downtown, something that has been discussed previously.
The Council approved the contract unanimously. Pineda said he planned on returning to the Council at its Dec. 17 meeting with a presentation about the financial feasibility of the Civic Center Concept Plan.
In Other Business
The Council also approved phasing in hikes in the development fees and heard from Gary Welling, Director of Water and Sewer Utility, who told the Council that the City’s water supply meets state and federal standards.
The Council also approved paying $3.5 million from Special Liability Insurance Fund as part of a settlement from a fatal collision in 2017 at the railroad tracks near Agnew Road and Lafayette. The defendant claimed that the City failed to maintain a safe traffic crossing, creating a hazard.
Two contracts also got approved via the consent calendar:
- A $3.5-million, 3-year contract with Arini Geographics to provide geographic informational system services
- An amendment with Gallagher Benefit Services, Inc. to extend the term to June 30, 2023 and increase the total not-to-exceed amount to $135,000
Council Member Patricia Mahan had called in to the meeting.
The Council meets again Tuesday, Nov. 5 in the Council Chambers at City Hall, 1500 Warburton Ave. in Santa Clara.