At the same time the Santa Clara City Council approved the $550,000 compensation package for incoming City Manager Deanna Santana, in a 6-1 vote (Caserta dissenting) the Council gave its approval for Santana to sit on the board of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group (SVLG) Foundation, the charitable arm of the influential business public policy group.
The SVLG lobbies local, state and federal government officials about business, transportation and housing policies, taking an active role in promoting legislation and ballot initiatives.
Although the Foundation is non-political, its mission includes providing “a forum for non-partisan research and analysis of public policy issues affecting the Silicon Valley region, including education, energy, environmental protection, health, housing, land use and transportation” and giving “financial and promotional assistance to charities, business and community leaders, scholars or other groups that support its mission.”
SVLG Foundation board members must also provide financial support for one of the organization’s initiatives, “through the Board Member’s organization, company, affiliation or personal resources.” The Foundation Board meets four mornings a year.
Vice Mayor Dominic Caserta and City Council Member Patricia Mahan questioned whether serving on the Foundation board constituted a conflict of interest.
“It’s a great honor to be asked,” said Mahan, “and they’ve helped our City over the years. I understand that a large part of her role is raising funds.” Even if the position didn’t legally constitute a conflict of interest, Mahan said that even the appearance of impropriety is a serious question. “One of her sole purposes would be to go into the community and fundraise,” she said.
“This would be precedent,” said Acting City Attorney Brian Doyle. “I think there’s some perception that this would be of benefit to the City. She would have to be cognizant that it could not be in conflict with her future as a City Manager. I’m sure she would be [cognizant].” The Council could “definitely express a sentiment” to the effect that City demands would take precedence over Foundation activities.
Caserta was unconvinced that Council sentiment was a sufficient bar to the risk of politicizing the City Manager job.
“Whether it was City Manager Don Von Raesfeld, Jennifer Sparacino or Julio Fuentes, we’ve never had a City Manager make this request.” Further, the incoming Manager had a huge portfolio of responsibilities awaiting her, and “any time away from this job is time away from our residents.”
Caserta reiterated Mahan’s concern about the appropriateness of the City Manager taking any role in an organization whose purpose is influencing public policy. “A big part of being a board member is raising money,” he said. “This doesn’t pass the smell test—just because of the perception. You can’t serve two masters.”
Council Member Teresa O’Neill disagreed that membership on the board constituted a conflict.
“I spent my career working for HP,” she said. HP founder David Packard founded the SVLG. “They felt that it benefited the company when its employees served outside in the community. David Packard served on the Palo Alto school board.
“In the past,” she continued, “there’s been comments that Santa Clara has been insular.” Having the City Manager serve on such boards would provide visibility for Santa Clara.
Council regular Deborah Bress said that having the discussion before Santana was on the job was inappropriate.
“This ask should be coming from her when she arrives,” Bress said, and after the City Manager finds out “if she really has time to do an outside activity.” Further, she said, “The SVLG does things that represent private businesses,” which are not necessarily in the City’s interest.
“We all sit on boards,” said Mayor Lisa Gillmor. “There wouldn’t be any difference in her serving on boards like we all do.” With the exception of Caserta, the Council appeared to accept that explanation.
Davis, Gillmor and Mahan are on the Mission City Community Fund Board—Davis is board Chair. The MCCF raises money through its annual gala to support local non-profits working in Santa Clara.
Local Regulation of Legal Marijuana
The Council voted to continue a motion temporarily banning commercial marijuana sales, after it became clear they didn’t know if that was the direction they gave staff at the Aug. 22 Council meeting.
“I recall we asked staff to go forward with allowing commercial sale, but to ban large scale cultivation,” said Mahan. “I’m not in support of having a temporary ban on dispensaries. Marijuana is legal in California. I’m not interested in banning it. We need that revenue stream. We’re in trouble financially. I don’t think our motion was to come back with a ban.”
Caserta voiced concern that the City is missing a revenue opportunity, noting the tendency of study to lead to more study rather than action. “What can we do on this dais tonight to get the ball rolling?”
The Aug. 22 meeting summary says the Council “directed the City Manager to return to Council before the end of the year with additional information and to return sooner with a report regarding a ban on commercial growth.”
In the absence of City regulation, state regulations will apply.
Parks and Street Improvements
The Council approved $385,000 to improve Fuller Street Park. The park, which opened in 1999, was planned in two phases, but there was no funding for the second phase. The new improvements will include a sport court, plaza, and picnic area. “The Northside folks are going to be really happy,” said Council Member Kathleen Watanabe.
The money for the project comes from developers’ park fees. Parks and Recreation Director Jim Teixeira explained that money from these fees is restricted by state law—the Mitigation and Quimby Acts—to building and renovating parks, and can’t be used for other purposes.
The City is also moving forward with ADA compliance work on City streets that includes removing barriers, curb modifications and pavement and traffic markings.
Council Hears Objections to San José’s Urban Villages Development Plan
Tuesday night the Council also held a study session about San José’s Urban Villages plan for the area west of Stevens Creek Blvd. Santa Clara has raised concerns with San José about the needs for coordination and cooperation on development planning and compatibility, transportation and infrastructure—including contributions from San José developers to Santa Clara infrastructure that will be affected by this intensive development on Santa Clara’s border.
Santa Clara has no jurisdiction over San José’s development plans.
The study session was held at the request of resident Curtis Kent, representing a group called “United Communities for Sensible Development.” The group is asking the City to evaluate San José’s developer fee waivers and “protected intersection” policy, and to “take legal action on the San Jose’s Environmental Impact Reports for development policies that ignore traffic and underfund transportation infrastructure.”
“Protected intersection” is San José newspeak for “un-improvable”—intersections that can’t “be modified to accommodate additional traffic and operate at level-of-service D or better,” as explained in San José’s 2005 Transportation Impact Policy. Stevens Creek Blvd. at Monroe St. and Stevens Creek at Winchester are both “protected intersections.”
The Santa Clara City Council will meet next on Tuesday, Sept. 26.