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Santa Clara City Desk: September 25, 2013

Best Use of City Assets Always a Changing Target, With Several Possibilities for Soccer Park Relocation

Remember the story of Chicken Little who got eaten by a fox when she was so busy looking for the falling sky that she failed to notice the real threat?

Santa Clara City Council Member Lisa Gillmor wants to dispel the sky-is-falling rumors following a Council study session that included a discussion of five possible sites for relocating Santa Clara’s soccer park. And she wants to keep the focus on what she says is the real issue: good stewardship of Santa Clara’s assets and protecting its financial security.

In fact, the Council has recognized for a while that the soccer park was going to need a new home once the stadium opened, says Council Member Lisa Gillmor, who worked for almost two decades to build the park in the first place, and is one of the city’s most enthusiastic supporters of youth soccer. However, for practical reasons – including traffic, crowds, and parking on game days and during other stadium events – the park will be increasingly difficult to get to and use in its current location.

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The Council is considering three possible new homes for the soccer park, of which Ulistac – estimated cost, $9.9 million – is only one. The other two are Montague Park and Swim Center – estimated cost, $12 million, which includes removing the swimming pool – and the current BMX track – estimated cost, $10.3 million. The BMX site is currently part of an exclusive negotiating agreement with Related Company, which is currently conducting a feasibility study for developing a new entertainment district.

“We have to be team players and look out for the greater good of the city,” says Gillmor. And that greater good, in her view, isn’t a static unchanging ideal. It’s a dynamic, active response to changing realities.

And as far as stadium parking is concerned, Gillmor explains, “only when we find a place for the soccer park, will we decide what we want to do [with the park’s 10 acres].

“The value of land has skyrocketed. It’s [now] one of the most valuable pieces of land in the city and it’s underutilized. We can parlay that land into a revenue stream for the general fund.” Something, she adds, that is especially critical to replace former RDA lease revenues for funding city services.

“We have to look at the welfare of the city and work as a team to keep our city [financially] whole.”

With regard to the soccer park, “Ulistac is just an option,” Gillmor says. “I want to keep all options open and clear up that misinformation.”

Also discussed at that study session was a paperless work order system for the water and sewer utilities, proactive code enforcement strategy, a convention center market analysis, a review of current development vis-à-vis the 2010-2035 General Plan, increasing public engagement in the political process, the city’s Climate Action Plan to reduce greenhouse gases, a proposed plastic bag ban, a proposal to add flashing lights at El Camino Real crosswalks.

Ulistac Facts For the Record

While it’s called Ulistac Natural Area, the 40-acre preserve is a recreation of the California landscape as it existed before the arrival of the first settlers.

Farming began on the 2,200 acres of Rancho Ulistac in the 1860s and continued into the 1960s, when it was developed into the Fairway Glen golf course. In 1988, the land was rezoned and subdivided, but an economic drop in the early 1990s left the 40 acres that became UNA a vacant lot.

The City Council voted in 1997 to preserve the land and completed the Ulistac Natural Area Master Plan in 2000. (Gillmor was a member of that Council.) Since then, both the city and a cadre of dedicated volunteers have made significant investments in recreating a native landscape.

While human remains were found when Lick Mill Road was expanded in 1988, these were reburied elsewhere. No archeological studies have ever been performed at UNA, according to City Historian Lorie Garcia. An archeological study would be required for any development proposal.

With Additional Parking, 49ers Aim is Flexibility

Some are asking whether someone dropped the ball on planning for adequate stadium parking after it became known that the 49ers would like to lease the current soccer park land for additional parking.

Nor so, said the team, in a public statement on Sept. 23. “For an NFL game, we need around 21,000 stalls, but ideally we would have access to around 26,000 stalls to give us significantly more flexibility in booking special events. We currently have around 11,000 stalls committed, an additional 5,000 contracts pending execution, with an additional 4,000 under negotiation. That would put us at 20,000 stalls total – but, again, we would like to have 26,000 stalls for maximum flexibility.”

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