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Santa Clara City Manager’s $700K Pay Package Double the California Average

By any comparison you want to make, Santa Clara’s City Manager takes home a pay package that’s double that of the average California city manager.

Santa Clara City Manager Deanna Santana has the highest base salary — $448,320 — and the second highest total compensation package — $709,446 — for a city manager/city administrator in California.

Santana’s base salary not only tops the list, it’s nearly twice the average city manager/city administrator salary of $227,218. Her total compensation is slightly more than double the average city manager’s total compensation of $348,163.

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The argument that’s made for the City Manager’s high salary is that Santa Clara manages three enterprises that most other cities its size don’t — an electric utility, a stadium and a convention center.

Even narrowing the field or relevant comparisons, Santa Clara still tops the list by a long shot.

Anaheim, Carson, Inglewood, Los Angeles, Oakland, Pasadena, Sacramento and San Jose all have professional sports venues — most have more than one — and convention centers, and two — Los Angeles and Sacramento — operate municipal electric utilities.

The Santa Clara City Manager’s salary is more than $100,000 higher than that average for cities with the same assets — $266,032. Santana’s total compensation is also $250,000 more than the average of  $451,299.

The only City Manager whose compensation package tops Santana’s is that of San Jose City Manager David Sykes — who manages a city about ten times the size of Santa Clara, with two professional sports venues and a convention center that dwarfs Santa Clara’s.

Sacramento — the state capital with a population of 514,000 — has professional sports venues, convention centers and a municipally owned $1.7 billion electric utility. Sacramento City Manager Howard Chan’s base salary is $287,078 and his total compensation package is $438,133.

Oakland, with a population of 430,000, a stadium and a municipal electric company pays City Administrator Sabrina Birnbaum Landreth a base salary of $298,541 and total compensation is $432,964.

Los Angeles has three Assistant City Administrators, paid a total of $632,923 in salary –each is paid about $100,000 less than a Santa Clara Assistant City Manager — and $945,046 in total compensation.

Another way to look at that is: For the Santa Clara’s overhead cost for one employee and 40 regular man-hours a week, Los Angeles has 2.5 employees and 100 regular man-hours a week.

 

 

Comparisons Right At Home

City Council Members have argued that the demands on Santa Clara’s city manager are extensive and the City has fewer staff than other cities to handle the workload.

So how does the current city manager’s compensation compare with that of previous Santa Clara city managers Don Von Raesfeld, Jennifer Sparacino and Julio Fuentes?

If anyone can be called the father of modern Santa Clara, it would be Von Raesfeld, who was City Manager for 25 years, having previously served as Director of Public Works.

He set Santa Clara on its path to electric power self-sufficiency by investing in generating capability at a time when other municipal electric utilities were selling off their assets.

Von Raesfeld also built the International Swim Center that once brought Santa Clara worldwide fame as well as investing in Northside infrastructure that fostered the emerging tech industry.

Von Raesfeld’s final salary when he retired in 1986 was $106,000 — $274,362 in 2020 dollars.

City Manager Jennifer Sparacino, who served for the following 26 years after serving as Deputy City Manager, began her tenure by negotiating the deal that kept Great America from being turned into an office park, acquiring the land that Levi’s Stadium sits on as a part of the deal.

Sparacino also managed the development of the Convention Center, the Golf and Tennis Club, Youth Center and the Don Von Raesfeld power plant that supplies one-third of Santa Clara’s electricity.

Before she retired in 2012, she negotiated the Levi’s Stadium funding agreement that insulated the general fund from any stadium debts and liabilities and made it a self-funding enterprise.

When she retired, Sparacino’s final salary was $271,972 — $305,380 in 2020 dollars.

Following Sparacino, Julio Fuentes, Santa Clara’s first city manager hired externally in more than half a century, began his tenure in 2013 by managing the construction of Levi’s Stadium, the venue’s successful opening in 2014, and the highly successful Super Bowl 50.

He also spearheaded the Related Santa Clara project, put in place new development fees that are bringing the City millions in new funding for parks, and built the City’s general fund reserves to more than $50 million from about $3 million.

When he resigned in 2016 (some say “was pushed out”) Fuentes’ salary was $294,012 — $330,128 in 2020 dollars.

 

Unprecedented Salary Justified for a “Miracle Worker” 

When Santana was hired 2017, the Council didn’t unanimously favor Santana’s compensation package — which included a $3,500 a month housing allowance to pay the mortgage on her Sunnyvale residence, two months of paid time off a year, more than $30,000 in deferred compensation, and an annual “extra” retirement account donation of $18,000.

But Mayor Lisa Gillmor and her allies were staunch in their endorsement of Santana’s unprecedented compensation goodie bag.

Council Member Kathy Watanabe called Santana a “bridge builder” who “works hard, and she expects a lot as a result.” Council Member Debi Davis said Santana was  “approachable.”

Mayor Lisa Gillmor said that the community “asked us to find somebody who is a virtual miracle worker. She checks a lot of the boxes.”

The Council did discontinue Santana’s housing allowance after giving the City Manager about $75,000 in raises over the last two years.

Note: Salary numbers come from the most current numbers reported to the state via TransparentCalifornia.com and include the Santa Clara City Manager as part of the average. The few compensation amounts under $80,000 were not included as they are unrepresentative of California as a whole and are likely to represent less than a year’s pay.

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23 Comments
  1. pj lcs 2 months ago
    Reply

    Overpaid and under delivery

    • Hallison Rodrigues 2 months ago
      Reply

      understatement of 2020 right there. how the fuck does a person that has a full team under her making all things happen to administer a city get paid more than the POTUS. fucking insane

  2. DL 2 months ago
    Reply

    Unbelievable for a city that has no active support system for the huge number of unemployed residents

  3. PB 2 months ago
    Reply

    This is absolutely outrageous!! No state, city or local official should make more than the POTUS, which is only $400,000/year!! And, she gets a housing allowance??!! What on earth!! INSANE!!

  4. FormerEmployee 2 months ago
    Reply

    Don’t forget that her outrageous compensation package also includes full medical for her, her spouse and her two children, a benefit not enjoyed by any other employee. And since she has full coverage on her spouse’s plan, she only uses it as secondary insurance, resulting in a huge waste of money every year.

  5. Maria 2 months ago
    Reply

    I’m officially applying for her job 😊

  6. Nunya 2 months ago
    Reply

    It would be real nice if she could spread the wealth of some of the people that make her look good other than all the assistance she has hired to help her do her job. A little bit of money and the guys are in the sewer water department you know the ones that make money for the city of specialty electric gets their way and police fire with the Louisville to the guys that are in the trenches making the infrastructure better on a daily basis.

  7. Lance icov 2 months ago
    Reply

    Well. For someone making double the norm, she must be doubly successful. $700 k for a city manager. California democratic government at it’s best worse. Shameful/greedy people who haven’t changed the course of a state full of people living near the povert ly level while some of their ilk pad their lifestyle. When will you stupid electorate realize you are and have been getting plaid. Keep voting Democrat. Keep electing people because they are or aren’t a “certain” type of person. The hypocrisy is at an all time high.

  8. Pat 2 months ago
    Reply

    Pound for pound she’s worth it.

    • CSC 2 months ago
      Reply

      ha, one of us sees what you did there! 😉

  9. Cameron travolino 2 months ago
    Reply

    All of you have a good strong valid point, maybe all of you should gather the resident masses and make a final push to vote out this council and bring in a better slate. I know I will be doing my part. Take care of your selves and your family’s.

    Thank you All for being a Santa Clara resident.

  10. Kirsten Vogel 2 months ago
    Reply

    The obviously ridiculous pay for the city manager of Santa Clara is actually just a part of the corruption Santa Clara City government. This pay difference is the highest in the nation? The city government of Santa Clara is also probably the most corrupt in the nation. Quite an accomplishment. The residents pay, the community, the future of the city all suffer from their criminality. A city that rakes in the money yet gives nothing back to the residents. The obvious corruption between council members and government between developers is sickening. Any attempts by the citizens to make any accountability or slow down the over development goes nowhere and the citizens have tried. It’s a free for all self enrichment bonanza. They’ve destroyed an entire city, a city that under honest people ought to have been an example of the best minds is a city that tops THE NATION of criminals. Think the use of the word criminal is too much? Its not, its the definition of what has happened and continues to happen.

  11. Kirsten 2 months ago
    Reply

    The obviously ridiculous pay for the city manager of Santa Clara is actually just a part of the corruption Santa Clara City government. This pay difference is the highest in the nation? The city government of Santa Clara is also probably the most corrupt in the nation. Quite an accomplishment. The residents pay, the community, the future of the city all suffer from their criminality. A city that rakes in the money yet gives nothing back to the residents. The obvious corruption between council members and government between developers is sickening. Any attempts by the citizens to make any accountability or slow down the over development goes nowhere and the citizens have tried. It’s a free for all self enrichment bonanza. They’ve destroyed an entire city, a city that under honest people ought to have been an example of the best minds is a city that tops THE NATION of criminals. Think the use of the word criminal is too much? Its not, its the definition of what has happened and continues to happen.

  12. Frank Martinez 2 months ago
    Reply

    Shush. Let Ms.Santana make what she earned through dilligent work.

    If you want to earn more take it up with your employer.

    Santa Clara is unique, has space to grow, and the city manager is … doing her job.

    Kudos Ms.Santana.

    • John Smith 2 months ago
      Reply

      Frank, open your eyes. Mrs Santana is getting away with Robbery! She should be making about $300,000 our council let’s her get away with this. For many years the city manager needed to turn in a yearly budget, you know balance the books. Mrs Santana recently changed that to a two year budget and why because even before Covad she was running a deficit. Why did she need to hits 4 Assistant City Managers who each got a $100,000 raise from their previous job?? Oh that’s right they were friends of Mrs Santana. I don’t she has ever told the truth about the new fire chief who is married to her cousin? I hope before one city employee loses their job, maybe Mrs Santana and the executive management team can take a pay cut?

  13. Michael 2 months ago
    Reply

    As a Santa Clara resident I could be persuaded that the compensation is too much or the gov’t isn’t right, but frankly this article and the comments aren’t sufficient for that. Rather than just focusing on cost, focus on value. I’m also not at all surprised that someone living in Silicon Valley needs to be paid more than Sacremento or LA – cost of living makes that obvious. I live near Levi stadium and frankly I’m happy with our local gov’t and their handling of everything from Levi to SVP to C-19 related work. Council member Kathy Watanabe, quoted in this article, does a ton of work on communication and support with constituents and I’m a happy constituent willing to trust her judgement. So if someone wants to argue that the gov’t is corrupt or we aren’t getting any/enough value, show more of the value missing to make that case.

    • David Boyanich 1 month ago
      Reply

      Most hard working folks work 8-10 hour days to barely make a living. Are you asserting that these Administrators work harder somehow? That they have some Super Power that us normal citizens dont have that allows them to make 100 more decisions per day more than a hard working normal citizen would do in a high stress environment? The money paid for the position, should be divided up and shared for the total cost of the Manager Job. meaning all vice managers and he Manager and all their Aides, should share the total $750k cost. How many of you hard working people get to make that kind of money with lots of staff doing all the hard work for you?

      It is a ridiculous joke. There is an inside corruption. Must be. City people vote their own salaries, of course what do you expect. Greed has a way of rationalizing itself until it is criminal

  14. Mary 2 months ago
    Reply

    So what miracle has Santana enacted that Von Raesfeld, Sparacino, and Fuentes couldn’t manage to do? Hire a bunch of her cronies at the top of the salary range and spike their pensions? Yup the self-promotion is better now that Santana hired a $250,000 year professional communication director and a few more supporting staffers. The City was well run before she showed up, but what has been the amazing improvement of the past two years? Spending down the reserves? Fewer recreational activities? Slower permitting? Friends of the library making the library amazing otherwise the budget cuts would be deep? Losing money on the Stadium? They need the developers to keep coming in in order to pay for all the new salaries.

  15. Navin 2 months ago
    Reply

    POTUS has a base salary of 400K. Go figure.

  16. Jean 2 months ago
    Reply

    PLEASE! Could we reduce Santana’s pay and use that money to deal with the CITY trees (Modesto Ash here) whose roots are playing havoc with sewers, lawns, and sidewalks, and in some cases, streets! I have three of those trees on my property— one or two of which are a constant problem because their roots block my sewer system and I have to call the City Sewer Department to bring their “snake” and unclog it. I was told by the City that I should remove one of the trees, and that I WOULD HAVE TO BEAR THE COST OF THE REMOVAL! I believe we’re looking at somewhere around $3,000.00! AND I WOULD ALSO BE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE COST OF RE-PAVING THE SIDEWALK AND STREET if the sewer lines were to be dig up! Now, it is my understanding that the CITY previously paid for all of that— that’s what our taxes were to go to— caring for the City. I pay over $8,000.00 in yearly taxes and I’m wondering what I get in return? So, when there is a sewer blockage on my property, I simply call the City to come and use their “snake”. So let’s continue to give super-high salaries to the people WHO WORK FOR US and ignore the infrastructure. Is that really how it should be?

  17. CSC 2 months ago
    Reply

    This was a horrible compensation package when it started and only got worse. The City Council is stocked with incompetents, the only reason Santana has the compensation package she does is because everybody on the City Council knows nothing more to give what’s demanded of them. Both Santa Clara Police and Fire Departments are the highest salaried in the entire state. Why, residents make this a low crime city. Santa Clara police department has also had the highest proportion of cops who have commited crimes in the past decade compared to other cities its size and larger. The City Council needs to be scraped and residents with a spine need to step up.

  18. Mats 2 months ago
    Reply

    Oh man! How does it happen when we elect city government which is supposed to work for the people and only for the betterment of the people?

  19. Santa Clara Lady 1 month ago
    Reply

    Santana is absolutely disgusting. She is an embarrassment to the city of Santa Clara, and we need to get her fired. Let’s start by pushing our elected officials to dump her. Then we need to dump the entire city council and corrupt mayor. What an embarrassment. She is NOT worth that much money. What a shame.

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