Santa Clara’s mayor accused five Stadium Authority Board members of lacking transparency because they repeatedly met with the 49ers Management Company (ManCo) even though these meetings were listed on Board Member’s public calendars. The five refused to cow to demands that those meetings keep public minutes.
In an item originally on the consent calendar, Mayor Lisa Gillmor cast aspersions on every member of the Stadium Authority Board except political ally Kathy Watanabe. Gillmor pointed to meetings with ManCo as particularly ill-advised — although not illegal — since the City is embroiled in seven lawsuits with the company.
“I know some may see themselves as mediators, or, you know, trying to make things work between the Stadium Authority Board and the property manager, but that is the job of staff; it is not the job of elected officials,” Gillmor said.
She called the meetings “backdoor” where “a lot of deals are being made.” As she often does, Gillmor pointed to the 49ers’ support of every Board member except Watanabe.
But Board Member Suds Jain countered, saying if Gillmor expects to have detailed minutes for meetings with the 49ers, the public also deserves to have detailed minutes for every meeting with a lobbyist, including several developers that have supported Gillmor’s campaigns.
However, since the item before the Board was a Stadium Authority item, Gillmor said consideration of that topic would have to be taken separately. Board Member Kevin Park said he supports separating the City Council and Stadium Authority Board meetings.
Although he said he “wasn’t accusing anybody of anything,” City Attorney Brian Doyle chimed in to tell the Board that such meetings give the appearance of impropriety. Doyle pointed to the Board’s vote on the conflict of interest policy where Watanabe moved to amend the code — as the law requires — and Gillmor seconded.
“What is a member of the public supposed to think? You all met with the 49ers, and you’re all afraid to vote against them,” Doyle said.
Board Member Anthony Becker said every member of the Board should meet with the 49ers instead of fixating on “the rhetoric” that the 49ers “own Council members,” adding, “these are not closed session issues; these are public issues”
Vice Chair Raj Chahal and Park credited the meetings with the appearance of a representative from ManCo at a public meeting for the first time in years last week. Park added that it has been important to get the other side of the argument since City employees have “lost objectivity” and regularly “spew vitriol.”
Several members of the public agreed that meetings with lobbyists should keep public minutes.
Deborah Bress, a former Council mainstay who has recently become active again, criticized Gillmor, telling her not to get “so high and mighty” because she is “arrogant.” Bress claimed she witnessed Gillmor violating the Brown Act by meeting with former Council Members outside a public forum.
“Careful when you live in a glass house, careful which way you throw the rock,” Bress said. “We need a whole lot more sunshine in Santa Clara.”
The motion to have public minutes for meetings with the 49ers failed 5-2, with only Gillmor and Watanabe supporting it.
The Council also endorsed the Santa Clara County Plan to End Homelessness 2020-2025.
Ray Bramson, Chief Operating Officer at Destination: Home, told the Council that the plan is a collaborative effort between counties, nonprofits and cities across the Bay Area. While the previous five-year plan was the most successful to date, Bramson said for every person housed, three more became homeless.
This is due largely to the increase in the wealth gap as well as the scarcity of housing for the poor, he said. For every 100 poor people in the area, he said there are only 34 homes in their budget.
Kathryn Kaminiski, Director of the Santa Clara County’s Office of Supportive Housing, said the plan’s two guiding values are raising the voices of homeless people to help them share in the power of decisions made and reducing the disproportionate amount of minorities living on the streets.
The plan outlines three strategies: system and policy change, expanding homelessness prevention and increasing the quality of life for the homeless. The plan was well-received by the Council, and it approved its endorsement unanimously.
El Camino Real Specific Plan Nears Completion
The Council also heard further details on the El Camino Real Specific Plan. In a study session, Andrew Crabtree, Director of Community Development, told the Council the City is one step closer to completing the plan. The redevelopment plan, one of several throughout the City, establishes density and design guidelines along major commercial corridors.
Crabtree said his office did extensive public outreach to determine the best way to layout the 3.2-mile stretch of El Camino. The plan aligns with state guidelines, which specify that cities across the Bay Area increase housing.
The plan, Crabtree said, has three designations: regional commercial mixed-use, corridor mixed-use and corridor residential. Those distinctions delineate density — 16 to 45 residences per acre for residential, 45 to 65 for corridor mixed-use and 55 to 100 for regional commercial mixed-use — and how many stories the buildings have.
The plan reduces the 2.2 million square feet of retail by 395,000 square feet, something Mayor Lisa Gillmor decried. She said she feared residents will be “wary” of increased density on El Camino.
“When I think of the El Camino, I think of retail and business and sort of the life’s blood of our community,” she said. “It may not be what yields the highest return, but it is what this community needs.”
The El Camino Real Specific Plan makes its way to the Planning Commission in mid-April and will return to the Council shortly after.
The Council continued discussion of the sale of the Loyalton Ranch property to its next meeting. The next regularly scheduled meeting is Tuesday, March 23.
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