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Old Quad Home Finally Gets Appeal, Hotel Tax Needs Administrator During Santa Clara Convention and Visitors Bureau Audit

After more than a decade, additions to a Santa Clara home have finally gotten the green light.

The Santa Clara City Council upheld an appeal to turn a basement into livable space and add an attached garage. Located at 1593 Lexington St., the one-story single-family home is zoned as multi-family. The renovation was originally sought to make the home a 10-bedroom house. However, in 2014, the Planning Commission denied that proposal.

Andrew Crabtree, Director of Community Development, said since then the owner, Fawzy Ismail, has been working “in good faith” with City employees to adjust the plans. Crabtree recommended approval to the Council.

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After the Planning Commission’s denial, the Council delayed hearing the appeal to an uncertain date. Meanwhile, in light of the City’s new regulations on historic properties and rules governing the detached garage — deemed an “accessory dwelling unit” — Ismail was revamping the project. To bring the basement up to code, the entire house is to be raised 16 inches.

Despite Crabtree’s recommendation, three members of the Council raised objections to the amount of changes. Mayor Lisa Gillmor said “years going by is not the spirit of an appeal.”

“I am thinking it should be a new application,” she said. “It seems like a new project.”

Council Member Debi Davis and Vice Mayor Kathy Watanabe expressed similar sentiments. Davis said she would “really like this to go back for review.”

Several members of the public spoke about how good a neighbor Ismail has been since moving into the neighborhood more than a decade ago.

Unlike the typical home looking to add more living space, the Lexington Street property is being expanded to accommodate Ismail’s family, not to add more tenants.

Council Member Patricia Mahan was the first to speak out against considering the project anew, calling it nothing more than a “continuation, albeit a long one.”

“I just don’t see why we want to put these homeowners through an additional expense. I don’t see why I would want to give them more grief and start over,” she said. “I don’t see any reason to deny these homeowners. It would be a shame to deny these homeowners.”

Hosam Haggag, a Council mainstay and City Clerk candidate, said he experienced similar “racism” when trying to remodel his home.

Davis thanked Haggag for “reminding” her about the project. Apparently swayed by the testimony, Davis changed her position.

“We want to build a community,” she said.

The Council voted unanimously to overturn the Planning Commission’s denial, upholding the appeal.

 

Convention and Visitors Bureau Audit

City Manager Deanna Santana said she expects the relevant documents of a financial audit of the Santa Clara Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) by Thursday. The financial audit — distinct from the performance audit being conducted by Jones Lang LaSalle Americas Inc. — is examining the fiscal oversights at the CVB.

Those documents, she said, will better allow the Council to “understand lessons learned moving forward.” The audit will cost $155,000, up from $83,600 — this is in addition to the $179,000 the City is paying for a performance audit.

Issues on how to put in place the City’s tourism improvement district (TID) tax, which brings $1 to the City for every hotel room rented, were also addressed. Because of the City’s recent freezing of CVB services — or as Santana euphemistically put it: “corrective actions” that “released [CVB employees] from their duties” — administering the tax will require some finagling.

Since CVB employees handle collecting and disseminating the money, Santana asked the Council for permission to collect the TID beginning in September but to hold off releasing the money until November until she can “put a pay structure in place.”’

However, Santana said the City can “make this work” until then.

 

Wind Energy/Bills and Claims

John Roukema, Director of Public Utilities, also detailed a 20-year power purchase agreement with Viento Loco to secure wind energy from New Mexico.

The $20 million a year agreement would begin in December 2021, adding wind to Santa Clara’s energy portfolio. Roukema said doing so makes the wind “as if it were a California resource.” He said the addition of wind energy “complements the solar very well.”

“We are very excited about this,” he said.

On the consent calendar, the Council also simply noted and filed a financial report that approved the $2.4 million the Stadium Authority paid to the City’s general fund.

The Council meets again 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 11 in the Council Chambers at City Hall, 1500 Warburton Ave. in Santa Clara.

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