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Mayor Says Levi’s Community Room Fee ‘Exorbitant,’ Application Process ‘Bureaucratic’  

A pilot program for the community room at Levi’s Stadium failed to move forward after concerns about the room’s location continued to surface.

At its meeting Tuesday night, the Santa Clara Stadium Authority Board heard from Ruth Shikada, Assistant City Manager, who presented the program for the second time. The six-month program would aim to determine the demand for the room’s use and better establish cost-saving measures.

The agenda item also sought $25,000 from the discretionary fund to match a grant from the 49ers to help subsidize costs associated with the room. According to documents Shikada provided to the board, the cost of putting on a meeting—which would include costs for security, guest services, possible engineering, janitorial and the setup and teardown of the room for a minimum of four hours—would be roughly $2,500 a meeting.

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However, Jim Mercurio, Vice President of Stadium Operations at Levi’s Stadium, said he doubted that the cost for the room would ever approach such a number. He added that the team is committed to “doing things right for those who want to use the room.”

As presented, the process for renting the room would place multiple requirements on the groups requesting its use. The group would need to be certified business or able to prove at least half of its members live in Santa Clara to qualify to use the room.

Council mainstay Deborah Bress took issue with the requirements calling them “crap,” and adding that Shikada’s presentations are always “skewed against the community.”

“We keep getting information on why it won’t work instead of how it will work,” she said. “Stop putting up roadblocks.”

Once a group has requested the 3,375-square-foot room, the City Manager’s Office would check with the 49ers Management Company (ManCo) to determine whether the reservation conflicts with any stadium events where access to the room would be limited.

“To me it seems like a lot of work to have a meeting for a few hours,” Council Member Debi Davis said. “The need is there. We are bursting at the seams.”

Mayor Lisa Gillmor called the application process “bureaucratic” and the cost associated with renting the room “exorbitant.”

Meetings held during normal operating hours would be the best option since, Shikada said, they offer the best opportunity to reduce costs since stadium employees will already be in the stadium.

A main point of contention for the board and members of the community was the room’s location: the “bowels” of the stadium without direct outdoor access. When voters approved building the stadium, a dedicated space had yet to be identified for the community room.

Hosam Haggag, another Council mainstay, said the City “got played” and allowing the pilot program to proceed as presented would be an “acknowledgement of how we got scammed.”

However, Council Member Pat Kolstad called the pilot program a “great idea” and said he wasn’t going to waste time “trying to refute inaccuracies.”

“It doesn’t say it is cast in concrete,” he said. “Things change as the needs of the community change.”

Kolstad’s comments drew guffaws and derisive laughter from Bress, who at one point said, “You have got to be kidding me,” causing the mayor to bang the gavel and threaten to throw Bress out if she continued her comments from the audience.

In the end, Kolstad instead recommended, following some insights from City Manager Deanna Santana, that the board bounce the item back to the City Manager’s Office to look into alternative locations. That motion passed unanimously.

Measure J Audit

The board also heard briefly regarding the Harvey Rose & Associates audit concerning Measure J compliance at the stadium.

City Manager Deanna Santana told the board that of the 37 audit recommendations, 10 are complete and 14 are “partially” complete.

Santana said she would return on Jan. 22 with a more detailed timeline for the recommendations and financial reports.

Closed Session

In a closed session meeting prior to the Stadium Authority meeting, the Council approved making Brian Doyle—who has been serving as “Interim” City Attorney since Richard (Ren) Nosky quit amid his review earlier this year—to full-time, permanent City Attorney.

An employment agreement will come before the Council on Dec. 19.

Council Member Patricia Mahan and Vice Mayor Dominic Caserta were absent.

The next Stadium Authority Board meeting will take place Jan. 30, 2018 in the Council Chambers at City Hall, 1500 Warburton Ave. in Santa Clara.

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