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Soccer Parks and Developer Fees on Santa Clara Council Agenda

This week’s City Council meeting (after press time) featured two significant items on the agenda. First was a vote on revising existing use guidelines at Santa Clara Youth Soccer Park (YSP) and constructing three new soccer fields at Jenny Strand and Montague parks. Second was a study session on instituting development impact fees.

In May, the Council formed the ad-hoc Additional Soccer Fields Committee – Lisa Gillmor, Patrick Kolstad, and Patricia Mahan – to identify “soccer ready” sites and city park sites where additional soccer and athletic fields could be designed and built in 12 months. It will also consider the future development of a Youth Sports Complex (although this isn’t “an immediate or short term priority,” according to the agenda report.)

As an immediate remedy for the impact of stadium events on YSP access and parking, the committee recommended more scheduling flexibility. Fridays will now be available for practice as well as games. Plus, reservations can be made as close as two days before games, instead of two weeks, making rescheduling easier. Guidelines can be adjusted as needed based on experience after the stadium opens.

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The Parks & Recreation Department will continue efforts to secure “soccer ready” sites – two mentioned were Kings Academy Field in Sunnyvale, and Central Park – scheduling games on stadium event days to “away sites,” and promoting “dialogue with Santa Clara Unified School District regarding potential access to high school fields.” (California school districts are independent of the cities they operate in, and have no obligation to share facilities.)

The committee also proposed additional fields on two city-owned parks: Montague and Jenny Strand. Cost estimates are $5,800,000 and $2,500,000 respectively.

The 5.5 acre Montague Park – bordered by De La Cruz Boulevard and MacGregor Lane – has the space for two soccer fields in a modified layout. In addition, the park’s community building needs a new roof, and properly graded soccer fields would improve drainage.

The plan would add two 70 yd x 110 yd synthetic turf soccer fields, additional parking, and build a new 9,000 sq ft community building for current and expanded programs. The baseball field and pool on the adjoining Montague School property aren’t included in the proposal, but could be added. However, there are engineering complexities that would extend the project timeline.

An independent community survey earlier this year indicated that residents “favor” Montague Park for soccer fields at a rate about 2.5 times higher than “oppose,” according to the staff agenda report. About the only opposition comes from some individual SCUSD teachers and district officials.

Jenny Strand Park is 9.69-acre park in a residential neighborhood – north of Lawrence Expressway, near N. Tantau Avenue – with a solar array located on its undeveloped southern half. The proposal here is for one 70 yd x 110 yd synthetic turf field, potentially on the Solar R&D parcel (which is owned by Silicon Valley Power).

The same survey that found high support for Montague fields, found equal support and opposition for a new field at Jenny Strand. Correspondence the city received on the subject unanimously opposed what residents view as a destructive threat to their community. The neighborhood is bounded on two sides by Cupertino and on one by Sunnyvale, and will be heavily affected by Cupertino’s new Apple campus.

Both of these proposals are subject to community review and input, stresses the Parks and Recreation Department.

Proposed Developer Fees Could Potentially Bring City $400+ For New Parks

At the last meeting of the Parks & Recreation Commission, one commissioner suggested that rather than cannibalizing existing parkland, the city should acquire more, which takes money. At a study session last night, the City Council discussed proposed developer fees to meet the needs for new parks generated by new residential development.

All neighboring cities have such fees. However, Santa Clara hasn’t changed its fees since its 1969 Dwelling Unit Tax of $15 for the first bedroom and $5 for each additional bedroom, with a cap of $50. In 2012-13 this netted $895, compared with neighboring cities’ development fee revenues of between $618,000 (Campbell) and $24 million (San Jose). Unsurprisingly, Santa Clara also ranks dead last in park acres per 1,000 residents (2.4).

The proposed ordinance would require developers to pay either fees or dedicate land for public parks, based on formulas specified by state law. Developments of more than 50 parcels or units would have the option of dedicating parkland, paying a fee, or a combination of the two. Developments with fewer than 50 units, would only have the fee option.

The fees, which would be phased in over six months, would be based on a calculation of the parkland acreage required per unit times the fair market value of land established by an annual survey. It would also include credits for dedicating land for public parks and recreation amenities, and senior and low-income housing development. The proposed ordinance is expected to go to the Council for approval at the June 24 meeting.

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