Correction: In the initial article, it was stated that a petitioner asked the City Council to move up the date of construction for a crosswalk at the corner of Winchester Boulevard and Delores Avenue. The request is for Council to move up the construction of a stoplight at that same intersection. The article has been corrected to reflect this change.
Santa Clara’s general fund will yet again see no money from non-NFL events at Levi’s Stadium. Tuesday night marked the seventh consecutive year the City has seen no money from non-NFL events, something that continues to divide the Council.
During the yearly financial report on Levi’s Stadium, the topic inflamed Council rivalries, leaving members pointing fingers about who supported the stadium and who’s in bed with the 49ers.
Although non-NFL events turned a $8.8-million profit, ongoing litigation with the 49ers has caused City employees to hold the money that would normally go to the general fund — roughly half — in reserve until that litigation is resolved.
The fact left a bad taste in Mayor Lisa Gillmor’s mouth.
“Seven years of zero non-NFL event revenue to our general fund is not what our community signed up for…Others are benefitting. We are benefitting in small ways, with some sales tax and some small ground rent. In terms of what we were supposed to get, we are getting crumbs,” she said. “I am not sure, in the next several years, that we are ever going to make any non-NFL-event revenue into our general fund. So, I am saying that has to change.”
Unlike during the pandemic, the stadium hosted several money-making non-NFL events, including six concerts and a soccer game.
The Stadium Authority paid $35 million toward its debt on the stadium, reducing it from its peak of $653 million to $245.2 million. However, that debt payment will slow, said Kenn Lee, Stadium Authority treasurer, since the Stadium Authority now must begin putting money aside into a demolition fund, something it is prohibited from accelerating.
Board Member Anthony Becker said the City is “headed in the right direction…chipping away at its debts.”
Much of the conversation between Board members amounted to finger-pointing about who supported the stadium or the motives behind a settlement agreement between the City and the Forty Niners Management Company (ManCo) last year.
Council Member Raj Chahal justified the lack of money going to the general fund, saying the Stadium Authority is “working under constraints,” referring to what the contracts stipulate.
Vice Mayor Kevin Park said “vagueness in the contracts” is what spawned the litigation, which deals with disputes over buffet and police costs.
But Gillmor and political ally Board Member Kathy Watanabe were not having it, with Gillmor saying holding the money violates Measure J, which was designed to insulate taxpayers from financial burden beyond what the ballot specified.
Both also took issue with financial information regarding concerts no longer being publicly available. Unlike in previous years, the report lists what each concert earned but fails to name the artist performing. City Manager Jovan Grogan told the Board that the City withheld that information from the public to protect the stadium manager’s negotiating power.
Although City employees gave the Board the information confidentially, both Gillmor and Watanabe bemoaned it no longer being made available to the public. Watanabe questioned why such information is available on Wikipedia but isn’t included in the Board report.
City Manager Jovan Grogan had to explain to Watanabe that, not only are the figures on Wikipedia unverified, but that there is a difference between a financial report and information available on the internet.
Watanabe went on to criticize her fellow board members, obliquely accusing the Board majority of firing former City Manager Deanna Santana in the wake of a stadium-management performance audit “because of the things that were uncovered.”
“Makes you wonder what happened with that settlement agreement,” she said.
Despite the back-and-forth, the Stadium Authority Board approved the report unanimously.
DMO Markets Santa Clara as Destination Spot
The Council also approved the annual report from the Destination Marketing Organization (DMO). The DMO aims to promote the City as a desirable destination, specifically for conventions and other large-scale events.
Christine Lawson, president of the DMO, told the Council the DMO has laid the groundwork for making Santa Clara attractive by putting in place several policies such as those for booking and site inspection as well as designing a booth for trade shows where it can sell Santa Clara. It also hired a Convention Center Manager.
One of the big feathers in the DMO’s cap was winning the bid to bring Super Bowl 60 to the City. Further, Lawson said, the DMO is using a variety of tactics to make Santa Clara an attractive location.
“It is a little like the Hunger Games right now, so we wanted to make sure we were really prepared and had competitive footing with other cities,” she said. “We want to be thoughtful and take some calculated risks, and be strategic, but we do need to take risks and try different things and see what sticks.”
Those tactics include redesigning the website, a new social media strategy, use of a new customer relationship management software, attending trade shows as well as photoshoots and creating videos. Much of the strategy is “re-educating” people about Santa Clara, Lawson said.
Gillmor said the DMO has brought the City a long way since marketing efforts from when the City hosted Super Bowl 50.
“You have taken us from the dark ages into current times,” she said.
Public Petitions Highlight Safety
The Council also heard three public petitions, deferring one and referring the other two to the City Manager’s office.
The first was a petition to expedite construction of a stoplight at Winchester Boulevard and Dolores Avenue. The four-lane road connects San Jose to Santa Clara. A crosswalk is slated to be built in three years.
Adam Mason, the petitioner, implored the Council to build the stoplight sooner, saying the area is treacherous for pedestrians. Illustrating his point, he told the Council that a car “mowed down” his father, Roger, while he attempted to cross the street in February 2022.
“He was taken from this world too soon in a violent and agonizing way,” he said. “Putting residents in harm’s way along with further inconvenience for many more years is simply unjust.”
The Council unanimously approved referring the item to the City Manager’s office to determine if moving up the stoplight’s construction is feasible.
The second petition dealt with parking near Levi’s Stadium. Vennessa Arellanes, petitioner and resident of St. Anton apartments, told the Council construction in the area has forced residents of the complex to park on the street. Now, she said, police have been citing residents for parking there, because they cannot distinguish them from stadium goers.
She asked the Council to add St. Anton residents to the catalog of those eligible for residential parking permits so police do not lump them in with stadium attendees.
The Council unanimously approved referring the item to the City Manager’s office.
Finally, the third petition implored the Council to ban gas-powered leaf blowers throughout the City. Anne Valta, the petitioner, asked the City to eliminate gas-powered leaf blowers ahead of the state-mandated halt on their sale in July next year. Valta not only cited environmental concerns but also said the blowers stir up allergens, affect air quality and make a racket.
The Council deferred the item to its priority-setting sessions, scheduled to start in February.
The next regularly scheduled Stadium Authority meeting is Tuesday, Sept. 26 in the Council Chambers at City Hall, 1500 Warburton Ave. in Santa Clara. The next Council meeting is Oct. 10.
Members of the public can participate in the City Council meetings on Zoom at https://santaclaraca.zoom.us/j/99706759306; Meeting ID: 997-0675-9306 or call 1(669) 900-6833, via the City’s eComment (available during the meeting) or by email to PublicComment@santaclaraca.gov.