The Santa Clara City Council will discuss Mayor Lisa Gillmor’s letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom where she asked for special dispensation for a real estate developer months before the company made a six-figure donation to her re-election campaign.
Council Member Anthony Becker, Gillmor’s opponent in the upcoming mayoral race, requested the item be put on next week’s agenda with a full report.
The letter, dated March 4, implored Gov. Newsom to exempt Related Companies, a New York-based developer of the biggest mixed-use housing complex proposed in the state, from prevailing wage laws by rejecting a request to classify its project as “public works.”
The request is curious given Gillmor having previously held prevailing wage in high regard during her strident accusations that the 49ers Stadium Management Company (ManCo) failed to adhere to it.
But while she claims in the letter to support the law, she seemingly believes it shouldn’t apply to Related, a company that just last month raised $690 million to help develop the area around the massive housing complex it is planning near Levi’s Stadium.
“While I fully support California’s Prevailing Wage Law, I am also concerned that the length of time the DIR (Dept. of Industrial Relations) is taking to conduct its investigation and render a decision on this project could delay this project,” she wrote in her letter to Gov. Newsom.
Earlier this month, Related formed a political action committee — funding it with $100,000 — to support Gillmor in her bid for re-election. The $8 billion project Related is planning is slated to feature 1,700 apartments and 9 million square feet of restaurants, hotels, office space and retail shops spread out over 240 acres.
And, while Related has owned exclusive rights to the land for nearly a decade, it has yet to put a shovel in the ground — or pay the City a dime in rent.
Further complicating the matter is that several council members said they were blindsided by the letter, which bore their names and was penned on City letterhead.
“I see this as nothing more than political theater,” said Council Member Kathy Watanabe, Gillmor’s political ally, of the item.
Still, the motion passed unanimously and will be discussed at the Oct. 4 Council meeting. As per the advice of the City Attorney, there was no discussion on the item.
Park Petition Blocks Low-Income Housing Project
Fairness and moral obligation were the buzz words of the night when the Council discussed a housing development for the poor. The 106-apartment project, located at 1601 Civic Center Dr., would house those earning between $35,000 and $95,000.
However, a public petition nearly a year ago proposed putting a park on the 1.4-acre parcel.
The property lies in the district of Council Member Raj Chahal, who stalled discussion of the item because of the park proposal. He, along with many others, said the issue was one of “fairness.” Chahal accepted responsibility for allowing the proposal to slip through the cracks for nearly a year but said it would be unfair to consider the low-income housing project before settling the matter of the park.
While those supporting the delay pointed to fairness, those opposing it called moving the low-income housing project forward a “moral obligation.” Many said kicking the can down the road by postponing the development was tantamount to killing the project.
“This really looks like a cynical attempt to deny the project by delaying it. Delay costs money,” said Anne Paulson. “Everybody is ready to make a decision tonight. If you want to deny it, have the courage to take the vote. Have some guts. Don’t just pretend that you are not denying it while denying it.”
Charities Properties owns the site, buying the land in 2020. So, if the City were to build a park, it would first need to buy the land. The company plans to raze the empty two-story office building there to make way for the five-story apartment building.
Complaints about the development mirror those leveled on other so-called “affordable” housing developments in the past: scarce parking, concerns about crime and building height. As always, many said while they support building low-income housing, the location is “not the right place for it.”
Still, many of the public comments — from residents and lobby groups like Catalyze SV, Destination Home and Silicon Valley At-Home — supported hearing the item, with many framing the issue as emergent.
“People can’t do anything without stable housing,” said Dontae Lartigue. “People can’t take care of their mental health without stable housing. People cannot find equitable economic opportunities without stable housing.”
William Huang cautioned the Council about getting into an “ends-justifies-the-means” line of reasoning.
In a 4-3 vote, the Council opted to consider the petition to turn the land into a park Oct. 18 and pushed out discussion of the housing development until Nov. 15. Vice Mayor Suds Jain and Council Members Karen Hardy and Kathy Watanabe voted against the motion.
Consent Calendar Spending
- A five-year, $304,587 contract with Dasher Technologies, Inc. to provide data storage.
- A five-year, $500,000 contract with HSQ Technology to upgrade the Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) system to enable fiber communication and system enhancements.
- A $980,038 contract with Woodard and Curran to update the sanitary sewer master plan.
- A $255,695 amendment to a contract with NUVIS Landscape Architecture, Inc. for parking improvements and a new entrance to Central Park; total contract amount now $404,000.
- A $10,807 purchase order with imageOne Uniforms for guest service uniforms at Levi’s Stadium.
- A $40,126 purchase order to EyeP Solutions, Inc. for a one-year software license subscription renewal.
The next regularly scheduled meeting of the Santa Clara City Council is Tuesday, Oct. 4 in the Council Chambers at City Hall, 1500 Warburton Ave. in Santa Clara.
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.