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Police Reinforcements During Soccer Game Prove Divisive

The Mayor/Stadium Authority Chair lambasted 49ers management for its handling of a soccer game after a tide of criticism from neighbors that included claims that rowdy soccer fans urinated in and tossed empty liquor bottles in their yards and jumped on parked cars.

At its Tuesday night meeting, members of the Santa Clara Stadium Authority Board were displeased with reports following the March 23 Mexico vs. Iceland game at Levi’s Stadium. Some said a roving gang of roughly 150 fans caroused the Northside neighborhood following the soccer game.

“Maybe the Police Chief, the Fire Chief, ManCo, they don’t think we have a problem, but I believe that we actually have a problem,” Mayor Lisa Gillmor said.  “It is our duty to protect […] the Northside residents from the effects of what’s happened.”

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During the game, Capt. Steve Burress called in 15 officers from California Highway Patrol, 15 from the San Jose Police Department, nine from Sunnyvale Police Department and 35 from the Sheriff’s Department in addition to pulling 15 additional officers from his own department. While several fights broke out, and despite his need to call for mutual aid, Burress said the game was not atypical.

Police arrested 24 people, cited four people and ejected 50 people. Four people needed hospitalization for non-life-threatening injuries. Attendance at the game was 64,368.  Burress said “Nothing indicated that the crowd would be a threat.” He added that the alleged “mob” did not generate a call for service.

Stadium Authority Board Member Debi Davis said people described the event to her as “total chaos.” The problem, she said, was that people were outside the stadium drinking more than five hours before the game.

“That’s not common sense,” she said. “They were coming through the magnetometers trashed.”

Alcohol sales were cut off at halftime to mitigate the situation, Police Chief Mike Sellers said.

Marshall Caldwell, who spoke on behalf of the Mission Park Homeowners Association, said non-NFL events such as the soccer games are not treated the same as NFL events and usually have a bigger impact on the neighborhoods.

“It is not acceptable for our neighborhoods to be parking lots for the stadium,” he said.

Sellers said he favors resident permit parking, but his talks with the community have given him the impression such a policy doesn’t have wide support. While police block off streets and attempt to restrict parking in the neighborhoods surrounding the stadium, so long as drivers are not parked illegally, police cannot prevent them from parking on the street.

Part of the breakdown in communication was a result of fatigue, said City Manager Deanna Santana. Both she and Sellers had “an extremely long work week.”

“We have to do better, and it showed,” she said.

Vice Chair Kathy Watanabe said soccer games attract a “different crowd” than an event such as the Super Bowl, a comment Board Member Dominic Caserta called “racist.”

Tino Silva, a Santa Clara resident, said the problem is with ManCo, who, he claims prioritizes making money over the sensibilities of the stadium’s neighbors.

Jim Mercurio, the Stadium Manager, said he would “never put public safety in jeopardy” and said such an implication was “inconsiderate and dangerous.” He cautioned against the use of hyperbolic language such as the claim that there was a “riot.”

 

Budget

Also on the docket was the approval of the stadium operations budget.

Santana said she has received “high quality” documents from ManCo.

Angie Kraetsch, the City’s Finance Director, said the budget included 14 Harvey M. Rose & Associates recommendations from the audit conducted last year.

Additional revenue from Stadium Builders Licenses (SBLs) allowed the Stadium Authority to include an additional $13.5 million in its budget. The stadium’s total revenue is $130.8 million, with $7.9 million going toward capital improvements, including the $630,000 community room.

Kraetsch estimates that the debt service on the stadium will have decreased from $654.3 million in 2014 to $343.8 million by 2019.

“Debt is really decreasing quickly,” she said.

Of the revenue, the City saw $3.2 million go into its general fund.

Board Member Patricia Mahan was absent. The Stadium Authority Board will meet again 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 24 in the Council Chambers at City Hall, 1500 Warburton Ave. in Santa Clara.

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