As part of introducing himself to the community of Santa Clara, Acting City Manager Rajeev Batra spoke at a recent Rotary Club meeting to inform residents and community leaders about where the city is right now and where it’s headed.
Appointed last April, Batra came to the position with fourteen years of experience working for Santa Clara: five years as City Engineer and nine years as Director of Public Works, where he led a department of 120 employees who oversaw infrastructure improvements and spearheaded projects such as three new fire stations, the Northside Library and Levi’s Stadium.
At the talk, held last Thursday at noon at the Bay Club in Santa Clara, Batra announced that in June, the City Council approved a $750 million budget for the new fiscal year that began in July.
The council also approved the development of City Place, a 240-acre, 9.1 million square-foot, mixed-use residential, office, retail and entertainment district that Batra called “the biggest development project in the history of Santa Clara.” Or, as he referred to it casually, “Santana Row on steroids.”
He mentioned the recent lawsuit filed by the city of San Jose against the project, but he called that “a minor hiccup,” and vowed that “we will continue to move forward.”
He struck a cautionary note, however, when he said that while already-approved development projects will continue as planned, the rate of new projects will be throttled back so that infrastructure issues can be addressed.
Toward that end, he pointed out that while the city used to spend $2 to $3 million annually in past years on street improvements, this year’s budget allocates $10 million for road work.
He also announced that Santa Clara had recently been declared the eleventh safest city in the country, which he credited with thanks to Santa Clara Police Chief, Mike J. Sellers, and Fire Chief Bill Kelly, both of whom were in attendance at the meeting.
The distinction was bestowed on Santa Clara despite the fact that a recent study found the city has the minimum number of officers per capita. In light of that, Batra said the City Council has approved fifteen new positions for the police department and five to six new positions for the fire department.
Batra added that he’d been inspired by Chief Sellers’ outreach program “Chat with the Chief,” and said it’s why he spoke at the meeting on Thursday. He plans on going out to neighborhoods to understand the needs of the community. “We can’t solve every problem quickly,” he said, “but at least we can hear what the issues are and plan accordingly.”
“My focus is community outreach and connection,” he said. “That’s what cities are all about. It’s not just development and ‘Build! Build! Build!’ Quality of life is very important.”