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Mayor Calls City North Framework ‘Vague’

The Santa Clara City Council wanted to see more specificity in an overarching plan that aims to bring citywide cohesion to a multitude of area specific plans.

Andrew Crabtree, Director of Community Development, presented to the Council Tuesday night on what he sees as the main topics in need of addressing in the plan, deemed the “City North Framework.” The City North Framework is supposed to be a sort of scaffolding that stitches all the specific plans — including the recently discussed Tasman East Specific Plan — together.

However, the broad overview left some Council Members feeling as if the plan is too vague.

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“This is not specific enough. It is not giving a strong guideline,” said Council Member Debi Davis. “There is a lot of missing components, I want to see more meat and potatoes.”

One of the main topics discussed was the plan’s ability to anticipate and mitigate traffic as so many larger residential developments come on-line. Many on the Council, including Council Members Davis, Kathy Watanabe and Raj Chahal and Mayor Lisa Gillmor felt details regarding density and building height maximums should have been included.

Manuel Pineda, Assistant City Manager, said the specific plans and the framework operate “separate but together” allowing City employees to get a better idea of how everything fits together all in “one puzzle.”

Suds Jain, a Council mainstay who also sits on the Planning Commission, said he would like aggregate metrics for, among other things, housing, jobs and parks, saying the City should “have targets.”

Council Member Teresa O’Neill said she was “heartened” by discussions about mitigating traffic.

“The conditions we have for moving people around are very painful,” she said. “This ain’t 1984 anymore.”

The Council agreed to accept the report and directed the City employees to return with a more concrete concept.

 

Freedom Circle Specific Plan Put on Hold

The City had to return $247,000 each to developers Sobrato and Irvine Company after they rescinded requests to be included in the Freedom Circle Specific Plan, which would have converted the area to high-density residential.

Greystar said it still plans to develop the 16.6-acre parcel into a mixed use development, but is now unsure what the specifications will be. It is still seeking a General Plan amendment.

Gillmor said the Council needs to do better about listening to the market’s demands.

“Developers were telling us, but we weren’t listening,” she said.

The Council opted to continue evaluating the Freedom Circle by designating it a “future focus area,” which would allow the Greystar General Plan amendment to proceed.

 

‘Koreatown’ Talk Sputters Before Getting Put on Future Agenda

Discussions to name a stretch of El Camino Real “Koreatown” didn’t gain much traction. Although nearly all of the Council said they respected the City’s “diversity,” only Vice Mayor Patricia Mahan initially supported putting the item on a future agenda.

Ken Kim, with the Korean-American Chamber of Commerce, said roughly 70 percent of the businesses in the designated area supported the notion of naming the stretch of mostly Korean-owned businesses “Koreatown.”

However, Kim did not provide the Council with the petition prior to the meeting, instead bringing it with him to present. Council Member Karen Hardy pointed to discrepancies in the presented material, saying many of the businesses Kim is claiming support from are not located in the area he wants designated “Koreatown,” and some aren’t even in Santa Clara.

Further, backlash in 2006 left much of the Council apprehensive about raising the subject.

“I need to be fair to everyone who lives in this community,” Davis said.

The Council agreed with Council Member Teresa O’Neill that Santa Clara’s “Koreatown” is unlike those in Oakland or San Francisco and perhaps the City should “do something a little more imaginative” to show appreciation for its Korean population.

With the new addition of a Korean friendship city, Gillmor said the City is “invested in the Korean community.”

The designation would put signs on exits from major highways that direct motorists to “Koreatown,” help Korean business owners have English signs and put a Korean-speaking officer on that beat.

The Council agreed to place the item on a future agenda.

 

Park Fees Set to Increase

The Council also agreed to phase in large park fee increases for developers. Going against the recommendation of Jim Teixeira, Director of Parks and Recreation, the Council opted to have City employees return to the Council with options for increasing the park fees over more than three years instead of over three years as Teixeira suggested.

With park improvement and land acquisition costs rising, Teixeira said the fees should increase between 35 and 52 percent.

However, Davis, who made the motion to approve looking into a longer-than-three-year timeline, said she worried imposing draconian park fees would interfere with Santa Clara’s swell of residential development.

“I don’t want to slow anything down,” she said. “If we have an economic downturn, that is going to affect us.”

Hardy said that “in reality” the City is “raising the cost of housing” by increasing developer fees.

Gillmor said the City is going to have to “get creative” in ways to gather fees while not discouraging development.

 

Appointments Plentiful

Upon the recommendation of the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee, the Council also voted to send a letter supporting the preservation of Freedom Bridge.

The ailing bridge is a point of contention between the Water District and the property owner, Intel.

At a special meeting Monday night, the Council appointed the following people to vacancies on boards and commissions:

  • Senior Advisory Commission: Helen Narcisco to a partial term (ending June 30, 2021) and Ana Segovia (ending June 2023)
  • Housing Rehabilitation Loan Committee: Tahir Naim to a partial term (ending June 2020)
  • Parks and Recreation Commission: Eversley Forte (June 2023)
  • Cultural Commission: Teresa Sulcer (June 30, 2020)
  • Historical Landmarks Commission: Kathleen Romano to a partial term (June 30, 2021); and Megan Swartzwelder (2023)

The Council was also unable to fill another vacancy on the Housing Rehabilitation Loan Committee and announced another vacancy on the Library Board of Trustees

The Council will hold a special meeting Wednesday, Sept. 4 but its next regularly scheduled meeting will be held Tuesday, Sept. 17 in the Council Chambers at City Hall, 1500 Warburton Ave. in Santa Clara.

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