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Santa Clara City Desk: September 18, 2013

For anyone questioning the relevance of the “boring” details of legislation to everyday life, last week’s City Council meeting provided an illustrative lesson. About half the business of the one-and-a-half hour meeting addressed issues that were created by ABx26, the 2011 law shutting down California’s half-century redevelopment program.

RDA Dissolution Delivers Win for Lawyers

Regardless of the eventual outcome of the current disputes over redevelopment assets and obligations following in the wake of the dissolution of California’s RDAs, there’s one group that indisputably will benefit from the legislation dissolving the half-century program: lawyers. The city’s current legal bill looks to top $500,000 by the end of this year to defend itself against county litigation.

At last Tuesday’s Santa Clara City Council meeting, the Council approved $328,000 for legal services to defend the Successor Agency to the Santa Clara RDA – one and the same with the City of Santa Clara – against county lawsuits over asset “clawbacks” under the RDA dissolution law for the current ROPS (Recognized Obligation Payment Schedule) period – from July through December.

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“I move approval to defend ourselves,” said Council Member Lisa Gillmor – a sentiment that received her colleagues’ unanimous approval, not to mention a few chuckles.

To date, $209,000 has already been spent on legal bills defending against county litigation over former RDA obligations, cash and agency-managed city property. Putting that expense in perspective, that’s about four times the roughly $50,000 the Council appropriated on Sept. 10 for a feasibility study for a proposed – and long overdue – renovation of Santa Clara’s famed George Haines International Swim Center.

Council Asks RDA Dissolution Oversight Board to Act to Protect Northside Library and Convention Center

The City Council also adopted a resolution asking the Oversight Board to declare the Northside Library and the Santa Clara Convention Center public assets and ratify the city’s ownership of them.

The facilities are currently in the dispute in the now two-year long unwinding of California’s redevelopment program. The Board’s insisted at its Aug. 16 meeting that, in the words of its chair, Gilroy Mayor Don Gage, it had “no authority to do anything except make recommendations” and “this particular item is out of our hands.”

No so, the city says. The oversight board does in fact have has the authority to transfer ownership of assets used for public purposes – for example schools, parks and local government – to the city, according to the legislation dissolving the redevelopment program (Health and Safety Code Section 34181(a).

“By statute, any [RDA] asset that is being used for a public purpose can be transferred to the entity that is using that asset,” explained the city’s RDA attorney Karen Tiedermann. “Libraries are part of the statutory language. They are considered governmental assets.”

With respect to the Convention Center, Tiedermann continued, “the CC was developed primarily to attract business and tourism to the Bayshore North. It has functioned in that capacity and the city has used it in that capacity since [the beginning of] its existence with subsidies and operating funds and we would like the oversight board to consider that.”

Stadium Commitment Payments Approved

One RDA dissolution dispute that has been resolved is over the defunct RDA’s $40 million commitment for construction of the new Santa Clara stadium. Despite attempts by the county to “clawback’ the $30 million advanced by the 49ers stadium construction company, StadCo, originally at 5.73 percent, the Sacramento Superior Court ruled that it was a legal obligation. Voters approved the expenditure in 2010 as part of Measure J.

Last week the Council approved a payment schedule for the obligation – “First Amendment to Cooperation Agreement to Assist Publicly Owned Stadium and First Amendment to Predevelopment Funding Agreement” – that reduces the interest rate to 5.5 percent from the date of the original advance through Dec. 31, and further reduces it to 4.5 percent on Jan. 1, 2014; with full repayment by June 2017. The payments will be made from tax revenues of the former RDA funds.

Record Year For Library Donations

The Santa Clara City Library Foundation and Friends received over $80,000 in donations this year, making 2013 a record year. Five corporate donors gave over $40,000 of that amount.

Kaiser Permanente and Mission City Community Fund continued their longtime signature investments in the library’s Health & Wellness Collection and adult literacy program, respectively. KeyPoint Credit Union sponsored the 2013 Summer Reading Program, Texas Instruments supported the library’s Brainfuse online live math and science tutoring program, and Cisco Systems provided significant support for the new Northside Library.

Contract Approved With Fire Management

In closed session, the Council unanimously approved a 2013-2014 contract – Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) – with Employee Unit 9B, unrepresented fire management. The MOU includes no wage adjustments, 40 unpaid furlough hours the first year (56 unpaid furlough hours for 24-hour shift employees) and no furlough hours the second year. The city will continue to pay the employee-only Kaiser medical insurance premium and any increases in the city’s employer pension (PERS) contribution will not affect employees.

Requiescat in Pace

The Sept. 12 meeting adjourned in memory of Patrick Hall, the husband of retired City employee Betty Hall and step-father of retired Fire Dept. employee, Scott Pence.

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