Ever notice that some things are not as they seem?
Like a counterfeit $100 bill?
It looks good, it has all the right markings but there is just something missing. When tested, it just doesn’t spend well at the bank.
A few months ago, voters were promised a lot of changes and that Santa Clara would be the beneficiary of a more open and transparent government.
It appears that promises are easier to make than they are to fulfill.
Some of you may recall that Santa Clara was hit hard by the Great Recession. We had so few funds in our reserves that we could barely make payroll. Fortuitously, Mayor Jamie Matthews and our City Council hired an economic gunfighter from the Southland by the name of Julio Fuentes.
With guns blazing, Fuentes did what he was hired to do. He brought major developments to our City at a time when we were reeling from major financial hits.
You may also remember at that time the State did a major land grab, making Redevelopment Agencies (RDAs) illegal, and clawing back over $300 million of Santa Clara assets. These assets were pouring $14 million a year into our annual budget.
Fuentes, with the help of a brilliant City staff, turned the ship around. When he was asked to leave in February of 2016, he had pretty much made the turn; he settled the RDA property disposition and increased our City reserves from $3 million to over $50 million.
When Fuentes left, the pipeline for new development was pretty much filled. These projects, when completed, would guarantee Santa Clara new revenue streams to replace the loss of the RDA assets and in turn keep our City services at the top of the list of Bay Area communities.
At the top of this list was the Related Project on our City golf course. This project alone was hailed as the largest retail and commercial development in the history of the South Bay.
However, there has been a reversal of fortune for development in Santa Clara. Since the November elections, the new Council has abdicated Council leadership to community citizens.
Developers and new projects have met with organized opposition from residents and in the past few months, Irvine, Prometheus, Sobrato, Core and SummerHill have had major projects rejected by our Council. Many of these projects have gone through the entire and expensive application process: planning department, project review, staff committees and even the planning commission. They have complied with the City Code only to be turned down in the face of vocal and resistant residents at City Council meetings.
The $6.5 billion Related Project is on hold pending the resolution of ongoing lawsuits.
While the current climate may not impact City residents immediately, things are not as they seem. The underlying revenue streams for our City are in jeopardy. Negative development decisions will impact our ability to continue providing high level City services.
Santa Clara leadership is not as it seems. The desire to appease a few will be an expense that will affect us all.
Like a bad $100 bill, delayed redevelopment is also something you can’t take to the bank.