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Number of Tasman East ‘Affordable Units’ Falls, So Does Their Cost

The Santa Clara City Council will allow the developer of a Tasman East project to offer fewer below-market-rate apartments in exchange for lowering the rents on the reduced number of apartments.

Located at 2310 Calle Del Mundo, the housing complex will now offer 30 apartments at “very low” income rates, i.e., 50 percent area median income, instead of 80 apartments at 100 percent area median income.

The developer, Zaen Partners, proposed the change previously, but Mayor Lisa Gillmor said she had questions about how doing so would affect the City economically as well as the impacts it would have on future development.

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Jonathon Veach, the City’s Housing Director, updated the Council Tuesday night. He called the request a “unique proposal”

He told the Council the change would not negatively impact the Tasman East Specific Plan and would generate $3.6 million for the City over the life of the development. Additionally, he said, it addresses one of the City’s biggest housing deficits.

“We need to create a lot more low and very-low units,” he said.

In addition to diversifying the City’s housing portfolio to provide “deeper levels of affordability,” Veach said the change “provides a pathway” to create even more very-low income apartments.

Gillmor said Veach’s presentation answered any lingering concerns she had.

“It would be good public policy for us to do this,” she said. “It makes sense for us to start chipping away at our requirements for low and very-low incomes.”

The changes passed unanimously.

 

User Fee Schedule Aims to Reduce Subsidy

The Council also reviewed the second phase of a three-phase plan to restructure the user fee schedule in an attempt to reduce $22.4 million in subsidies.

During a special study session prior to the Council meeting, Kenn Lee, Director of Finance, told the Council that the user fee schedule takes a “bottom-up” approach that aims to “analyze gaps” in the schedule.

According to the report conducted by Matrix Consulting, the City recovers 52 percent of operating costs. Roughly $12 million of the annual subsidy comes from the Recreation Department, which only recovers 11 percent of its costs.

In order to reduce the subsidy, the City needed to start looking at achieving full cost recovery in as many departments as possible. However, the Council had previously discussed allowing some departments — such as Parks and Recreation —  to operate at lower cost recovery because of their benefit to the public.

Materials presented at the meeting show that Santa Clara achieves lower cost recovery than most neighboring cities. While some departments saw decreases in user fees, many will see a modest increase when the new schedule rolls out.

City Manager Deanna Santana said phase three of the fee schedule will likely be discussed at the Council’s Dec. 19 meeting.

 

City Wants to ‘Activate’ Park/Library Space 

An upgraded gazebo will be the centerpiece of an effort to tie the Mission Branch Library and City Plaza Park together.

Andrew Crabtree, Director of Community Development, presented recommendations to the Council that came out of public meetings with contractor Project for Public Spaces.

Those recommendations aimed to “create desirable destinations,” he said. The idea is to emphasize activities in the park and make physical improvements that encourage people to see the two locations as integrated.

Vice Mayor Patricia Mahan said although the library is a “vibrant place” the area surrounding it, with its dying grass, is not.

Upgrading several aspects of the area, which include the improved gazebo, will strive to change that; however, that will require spending money. Exactly how much money is unclear.

“In order to really activate that park … we need to start investing in it,” Gillmor said.

Jonathon Evans, Vice President of the Old Quad Residents Association, said the permitting process for holding events is too slow, saying that too much “red tape” gets in the way. If the City wants groups to hold events in the area, it should make that process easier, he said.

Crabtree said the Library Board of Trustees and the Parks and Recreation Committee approved the plans and that his staff will return with concrete costs for the upgrades closer to the budget.

Council Member Debi Davis was absent. The Council meets again Tuesday, Oct. 29 in the Council Chambers at City Hall, 1500 Warburton Ave. in Santa Clara.

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