RDA Dissolution Oversight Board Approves Stadium Payment Agreement and Affordable Housing Asset Transfers to City
Although the Northside Library discussion took the spotlight at the Santa Clara RDA Successor Agency Oversight Board’s Sept. 23 meeting, the board took action on several other items of business.
The first was unanimous approval for a new payment agreement covering the defunct RDA’s $30 million commitment for Santa Clara stadium construction. The new agreement reduces the interest rate to 5.5 percent from the date of the original advance through Dec. 31, and 4.5 percent on Jan. 1, 2014; with full repayment by June 2017. Payments will come from tax revenues of the former RDA funds. The resolution comes after Sacramento Superior Court judges upheld the contract in two separate decisions.
The Board also unanimously approved an agreement negotiated by the City with the state finance department to transfer to the City of Santa Clara affordable housing assets held by the defunct RDA. These assets are part of the $350 million in real estate and cash that the county is attempting to appropriate as “clawbacks” under the RDA dissolution law.
The assets returned to the City include several senior housing developments; HomeSafe housing for domestic violence victims; Bill Wilson Center Quetzal House; City-owned land that has been designated for Habitat for Humanity and other low- and moderate-income housing developments (including senior apartments on the much-contested BAREC site); and services to low- and moderate income residents, including the city’s first-time homebuyers program.
Finally, in a 5-2 vote, the Board approved the current Repayment Obligation Schedule (ROPS) for the shuttered RDA with amendments requested by the county. The changes principally concerned repayments for obligations that were subtracted from prior ROPS and legal fees for defending the Successor Agency against county lawsuits – a subject that provoked an hour of discussion.
“If you have to be named [in a lawsuit], do you not have to be defended?” said Board Member Pat Mahan, representing Santa Clara Mayor Jamie Matthews.
When County Attorney James Williams – who, to date hasn’t been subject to the same time limitations as other speakers from the public side of the dais – launched into a lengthy legal explanation of why the ROPS shouldn’t include the city’s legal costs, Mahan interrupted him, asking “I’m sorry Mr. Williams, you’re from what agency?”
“The County,” he replied.
“Then you’re our plaintiff,” Mahan returned. “And, in that case I’m not asking you, I’m asking our attorneys. Because you don’t have our interests in mind – you’re the one suing us.”
City Council Tells Ulistac Supporters: No Plan to Put Soccer Park in Natural Area
Although moving the Santa Clara soccer park to the Ulistac Natural Area (UNA) was not on the agenda – and no plan to do so has been approved, considered or even proposed – at the Sept. 24 meeting the Council heard lengthy public commentary on the subject.
The youth soccer park was built on Tasman in the early 2000s, long before there was any anticipation of the new stadium that is now going up across the street. The anticipated activity at the new stadium will very likely make the soccer park difficult to use. Hence, in its 2013-14 strategic plan, the Council included identifying other possible sites for the park. The stadium development agreement includes a proviso that if the park must be moved, the 49ers will underwrite the cost.
At the Council’s Sept. 13 study session, five alternative sites were discussed for the park. One of them was using some of the UNA land. “No decisions have been made,” said City Manager Julio Fuentes, noting that the Council’s open study session was held in response to community requests to be involved in public decisions early on. “We’d like to schedule another session…and have folks come out and tell us how they want us to plan their community, because it is their community.”
While some Council members are open to considering the Ulistac land for the park, Council Member Teresa O’Neill asked that the open space be taken off the list of relocation possibilities.
“It’s a unique asset [and] as soon as we can, I think it’s prudent to take it off the list.” O’Neill also asked the public to be active partners in finding a new site for the soccer park. “If you know a property that would be appropriate for redevelopment in this way please let us know as soon as possible.”
“I was pleased with how many people came out,” says Mayor Jamie Matthews. “Their input was valuable. People expressing themselves – that’s what democracy is all about. And we understand and appreciate the passion of those who have dedicated their time to Ulistac.”
SCU Move of Eastlake Victorian to Bellomy St. Gets Go-Ahead
The Council also approved rezoning that clears the way for Santa Clara University – as part of its construction of a new Art & Art History building – to move the Eastlake Victorian at 741 Franklin St. to 961 Bellomy St. for renovation and reuse as a residence. The house is currently in the city’s inventory of historic structures. The Bellomy Street property is currently a parking lot that is shared with a two family home next door, and the zoning permits another multi-family house on the lot.
The renovation will provide six bedrooms in the restored house, and 13 parking spaces. “This is a perfect context for this particular home,” said project architect Sal Caruso, who has worked on many historic restoration and renovation projects in Santa Clara. “There are several other homes from the same period on the street.” As long as the “structural integrity” of the building was maintained, the project conformed with federal mandates for historic properties, explained Planning Director Kevin Riley.
Historical & Landmarks Commission members spoke against the rezoning, claiming that the move would increase traffic and parking demand on the street – despite having discussed and approved the rezoning (3-2, with two members absent) at its Aug. 1 meeting. Some The Planning Commission approved the change on Aug. 28.
If the City doesn’t enable the project to go forward, SCU can move the house to another city, sell it to someone else – including the City of Santa Clara, which would have to move it at City expense – or even demolish it.
Objections from the H&L Commissioners and Old Quad residents focused on parking and the fact that students would be the likely residents of the house. Mahan voiced concern that historic homes were, increasingly, becoming effectively student rooming houses. One example is the Morse Mansion, which, after being used for offices for many years, became a sorority house.
Matthews replied that the overriding goal had to be preservation of historic structures. “We have an opportunity to preserve something historic, instead of building something new.” And O’Neill pointed out that discussing zoning changes with reference to who’s going to live there came perilously close to bias.
However, the City Attorney brought the discussion back to the point: the zoning change. “The proposed action before you is the zoning change, not any proposed use when the zoning change is approved.”
In other business:
- The Council appointed Samuel Orme to the Senior Advisory Commission, and Michael Hyams and J.L. “Spike” Standifer to the Historical and Landmarks Commission.
- A Franklin Mall business owner asked that parking spots in front of Franklin Mall be returned back to 24-minute from the current 2-hours.
- The owner of 2121 Laurelwood Rd. requested that the property return to its original light industrial zoning, after a proposed office development failed to materialize. U-Haul is the prospective client for the site. The matter was referred to staff.
- Refinancing of 1997 bonds will save the city $2,575,000 in interest payments.
Requiescat in Pace
The Sept. 23 meeting was adjourned in memory of SCPD volunteer, former U.S. Marine, and long-time Boy Scout leader Lawrence Turley.