Santa Clara is closer than it has ever been to having a new downtown.
At its Tuesday night meeting, the Santa Clara City Council awarded the contract for a Downtown Precise Plan to Philadelphia-based consultant Wallace, Roberts & Todd (WRT). The $578,346 contract runs for three years with an option for City Manager Deanna Santana to extend the contract for another three years and “increase maximum compensation in the event that additional services are required.”
Dan Ondrasek, Co-chair of civic group Reclaiming Our Downtown, called the situation a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.” His group “applauded” the City’s effort to rebuild the downtown, a project which has repeatedly fizzled over the years.
“This has been like climbing a mountain,” he said. “This is the City’s eighth attempt, but we have never been this far.”
Andrew Crabtree, Director of Community Development, said the City is looking to “harness energy from engaged community members” and “funnel” it into the effort. The “best-case scenario” would yield a functional downtown in “4-to-5 years,” he added.
The site is bound by Benton Street, Homestead Road, Lafayette Street and Lincoln Avenue.
“This has been tried before, and it failed because this is private land,” said Council Member Karen Hardy. “I want to make certain we don’t make the same mistakes we have made in the past.”
Manuel Pineda, Assistant City Manager, acknowledged the problem with the property being mostly privately owned, saying the City cannot dictate to property owners what to do with their land.
The Council unanimously approved the contract. The task force that selected WRT meets again Oct. 30 to discuss the next steps.
City Lags In Low-Income Housing Goal
Santa Clara still needs more than 1,000 low and very low-income units before 2022, when the state will release new housing need numbers for the next 5 years.
Crabtree told the Council that the Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) sub-region has become “infeasible.” However, he said that Santa Clara is likely better off not being part of a sub-region where cities pay one another to incentivize constructing housing.
“I firmly believe that we here in Santa Clara are committed to producing affordable housing,” Crabtree said.
Still, even with all the new development slated to come online before 2022, the City still falls short on its housing needs by 1021 units, 712 of which are very-low income (0 to 50 percent area median income) units.
Crabtree told the Council that “for the most part, jurisdictions do not meet their numbers.”
The Council voted to direct Crabtree’s department to work with the RHNA task force on a collaborative.
City Attorney Denies Brown Act Violation
City Attorney Brian Doyle called the accusation that the Stadium Authority Board violated the Brown Act “silly,” “ridiculous” and “preposterous,” adding that it would be a “waste of the court’s time” to pursue.
ManCo’s attorney, Jonathan Bass, with Coblentz, Patch Duffy & Bass, sent a letter to the City alleging that the Stadium Authority Board violated the Brown Act — which guarantees the public’s right to attend and participate in public meetings — when it authorized Doyle in a closed session to serve the Forty-Niners Management Company (ManCo) a notice of termination of its authority over non-NFL events.
To remedy this, the Council “ratified” the issuance of termination, allowing for public comment. No representative from ManCo attended the meeting. Three members of the public spoke against the ongoing feud between the team and the City.
“The animosity can be destructive,” said Reginald Swilley. “[ManCo has] been a great partner. It is my hope that you guys work collaboratively. Whatever the problems are, you can solve them together.”
Doyle again pointed to ManCo’s litigation against the City as an indicator it isn’t interested in playing nice.
Vice Mayor Patricia Mahan abstained from the motion, saying she found it inappropriate to show approval or disapproval since it is now a matter for the courts. The motion still passed.
Employee Survey Shows Communication At City Hall Needs Improvement
Results from an independent employee survey show that City employees feel the City could be more receptive to new ideas and improve communication between departments.
The anonymous survey, conducted by Oakland-based EMC Research, shows that roughly 31 percent of City employees disagree that the City’s goals and priorities are communicated well internally. Further, according to the survey, only about 52 percent of employees believe the City is open to new ideas.
Although interdepartmental communication isn’t great, the survey shows that employees largely believe their direct supervisors are open to feedback, communicate well with them directly and are responsive to concerns (96 percent, 96 percent and 94 percent agreement, respectively).
Still, roughly 37 percent of employees believe they do not get to have input in major decisions even if they overwhelmingly (92 percent) know what is expected of them.
Only 58 percent of employees said they felt well-informed about the issues facing their department; that number dropped to 56 percent when the question broadened to include issues outside the respondee’s department.
The margin of error for the survey was 4.09 percentage points; 575 employees — or 45 percent of City Hall employees — took the survey.
Mayor Lisa Gillmor called the survey a “really good snapshot in time” and a “wonderful tool.”
“We are always trying to improve our service to the community we serve, and this is how we do that,” she said.
Santana said her office has already begun addressing some of the “low-hanging fruit” in the survey by improving interdepartmental communications and establishing focus groups.
Consent Calendar Spending
The Council also approved some high-dollar projects with one motion by way of the consent calendar.
- $225,500 to Charles Electric for electrical support services
- A purchase order to RWG, USA for turbine engine overhaul services for $844,635
- $474,000 to Nexant, Inc. for specialized commercial and industrial operational optimization program third party energy efficiency program
The Santa Clara City Council meets next on Tuesday, Oct. 22 at Santa Clara City Hall.