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Santa Clara Council War on 49ers Started Over Soccer Fields – Conclusion: $32 Million in New and Improved Soccer Fields

Amid the escalating acrimony between the Santa Clara City Council and the 49ers—and similarly escalating City legal bills—there’s one undeniable winner: The Santa Clara Youth Soccer League. Soccer has reaped two thirds of Santa Clara’s spending on recreation facilities since 2014.

Between 2014 and 2018, 63 percent—$33.2 million—of $52.7 million in Parks and Recreation capital spending is on maintaining and building soccer fields, including a new $20 million soccer park. That’s nearly twice Santa Clara’s spending on all other recreation facilities—parks, pools, playgrounds, baseball fields, community gardens and walking and biking trails.

While soccer’s percent of the Parks and Recreation capital project budget is almost the same in 2017-18—58 percent—as it was in 2014-15, the dollars dedicated to soccer fields grew almost 700 percent to $13.3 million between 2014-15 and 2017-18. In both 2015-16 and 2016-17 68 percent of the Parks and Recreation budget went to soccer fields.


In addition to municipal spending on Santa Clara soccer fields, the NFL and the 49ers also spent significantly to restore the Youth Soccer Park to a better condition than it was before the Super Bowl. They improved the park, rebuilding the dugout and replacing the turf, which was a worn-out muddy mess in November 2015.

Whether Gillmor comes out a winner won’t really be known until the 2018 election.

She realized her ambition to be Mayor—in her first run for Mayor in 1994 she lost—and did so without facing election. But given her 14 years of City Council experience and political finesse it’s likely she would have received the appointment anyway, and increased her probability for re-election without the hostility she actively fueled.

Two of Gillmor’s candidates—Nikolai and Silva—lost election bids despite well-orchestrated negative campaigns against their opponents financed by $85,000 in independent expenditures by the Santa Clara police union PAC.

The losses denied Gillmor both an almost-guaranteed four-vote Council majority and the operational control of the police department—for example, to decide unilaterally when to stop alcohol sales and to open the San Tomas Aquino Creek Trail during Levi’s Stadium events against Dept. of Homeland Security recommendations and best practices.

But Gillmor has presided over a complete changing of the guard at City Hall and her partisans gleefully credit her as being instrumental in forcing these departures.

Four experienced City executives—two City Managers, the City Attorney and the City Finance Director—have retired or resigned on her watch.

“A Year ago today Lisa Gillmor was sworn in as Mayor of Santa Clara,” wrote the anonymous Facebookers calling themselves Unofficial Santa Clara City Council. “In the last year we have seen the following:  Julio left the building … can we have a cheer…City Attorney GONE … Finance Director GONE – and now there is an opportunity to do “Clean Up” and also really find out how our finances are and no more shenanigans…”

Nosky’s resignation was greeted as “a welcome development,” by Stand Up for Santa Clara (SUFSC), the political advocacy website created and operated by Santa Clara Youth Soccer League past and present board members and directors. SUFSC embellished its commentary with photos of former City officials with red Xs over their faces.

But it’s arguable that the City is now in a weaker position without the institutional knowledge these employees contributed, especially as it faces projected deficits and a proposed arrangement to build an ambitious new swim and community center involving intricate and unfamiliar private financing arrangements.

And what about the 49ers? Are they winners or losers? After all the build-up, Gillmor’s $200,000 Stadium Authority audit by Harvey M. Rose Associates (HMR) hasn’t delivered the expected political ammunition against the 49ers, finding $114,000 of possibly un-billed stadium-related city employee hours instead of “millions.”

And as for $894,000 in public safety costs associated with the stadium opening that HMR says was improperly charged to the construction costs: if the money was moved into the Stadium Authority’s operating budget the change could end up reducing the performance rent going to the City’s general fund.

Although it pre-dated the HMR review, the adversarial position taken by the City in claiming that ManCo owed about $718,000 for golf course parking above and beyond what had already been paid, led the 49ers to review the parking agreement conclude they had already overpaid the City by $1 million. This isn’t in litigation currently, but no one has taken that off the table.

None of the litigation with the 49ers that Gillmor’s Council has so unreservedly—to date— pursued has been settled. But the fact is that the 49ers will be playing in Levi’s Stadium for the next three decades. The consequences of being perceived as a “bad faith” business partner is likely to haunt the City long after the current Council has gone. And that’s a losing proposition.


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