There was a lot of ground covered at Tuesday night’s Santa Clara City Council meeting. Council members talked about extending a contract for noise monitoring at Levi’s Stadium, listened as union members spoke out in support of the firing of City Manager Deanna Santana, watched the mayor chastise a colleague for comments he made about the former City Manager, talked about what’s considered “military” equipment when it comes to the Santa Clara Police Department and discussed making Pruneridge safer for pedestrians and cyclists.
Noise monitoring at Levi’s Stadium will continue as it has been, at least for another year.
The contract with Wilson, Ihrig & Associates, the consultant handling noise monitoring, came up for renewal at Tuesday night’s Santa Clara City Council meeting. The Council re-upped the agreement by a 6-1 vote, extending the contract for another year instead of the City-employee recommended two years.
The extension will cost the City another $70,000 and take the total of the contract to $369,840 since its signing in 2017. The Council had previously asked to get information about what it would cost the City to purchase equipment as opposed to renting it from Wilson, Ihrig & Associates.
Andrew Crabtree, Director of Community Development, presented options to the Council, saying that replacing the four noise monitors installed near the stadium would cost roughly $51,000 with yearly maintenance around $30,000. However, the equipment available to buy would be unable to filter jet noise like the equipment now installed.
Several members of the Council expressed trepidation about renewing the contract, citing the City’s lack of action to make use of the data it gathers in a meaningful way.
“There is no magic in the numbers here. It is just data and monitoring,” said Council Member Kevin Park. “I am not seeing a smoking gun from the stadium the way I would like to see it.”
As in previous meetings, many mentioned that noise from nearby San Jose Mineta International Airport drowns out much of the stadium noise.
Vice Mayor Suds Jain said the reports from the consultant are not very useful since they don’t detail noise at key times, such as when large-scale events take place. He said being able to monitor noise levels 24/7 isn’t that useful.
“These monitors are set up for stadium events, not just for general purpose noise. Otherwise, we would have them everywhere in the city,” Jain said.
But Mayor Lisa Gillmor and political ally Kathy Watanabe countered, saying the monitoring has improved the quality of life for residents near the stadium and has allowed the City to take “corrective action” when it gets out of hand.
Crabtree said that action amounts to speaking with the team when its practices exceed allowable levels. Further, he added, the possibility that monitoring deters noise cannot be ignored.
With at least three concerts already planned for the near future, Watanabe said, although stadium activity has slowed since the pandemic, it will pick up again soon and the monitoring will be invaluable.
Gillmor went so far as to accuse the Council majority of plotting to remove the monitors, which she called “valuable” because they are the City’s way of “showing we care.”
In addition to renewing the contract, the Council also required City employees to return to them with a report on alternatives for noise monitoring and abatement.
Watanabe was the lone “no” vote.
Union Applauds Council Firing City Manager
During public presentations, Gary Ferraris, President of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 101 and Bargaining Unit 6—the City’s field operations and maintenance staff—unloaded a firestorm of criticism on now former City Manager Deanna Santana for allowing top brass in several City departments to run amok.
“[The former] City Manager’s hand-picked executive leadership team has played a primary role in systematically quashing our morale, along with our passion to serve this community,” Ferraris said.
Ferraris harshly criticized the water and sewer, public works and human resources departments for, he said, failing to adhere to Occupational, Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guidelines and labor law. He outlined several infractions including failure to put proper safety equipment in place, confiscating N95 masks from public works vehicles and ignoring labor law.
A culture of fear, propagated by Santana, has left many unwilling to share complaints out of fear of reprisal or being passed over for promotion, Ferraris said. Former City Manager Santana’s lack of leadership, Ferraris added, has contributed to a toxic environment that has led to a “mass exodus” of employees.
“Deanna Santana should not have allowed such atrocious behavior by her executive leadership team,” he said. “By allowing this behavior, the onus of waning employee morale lies directly at Deanna Santana’s feet. If the City Manager’s failure to rectify this situation was due to an unawareness of the behaviors of her direct reports, then an absolute dereliction of duty is indicated.”
Unit 6 approved Ferraris’s comments by a 121-1 margin. Another 29 employees from other bargaining units joined the chorus of criticism with no showing opposition.
Mayor Chastises Fellow Council Member for Comments About Former City Manager
Although Mayor Gillmor said, since the Council is bargaining with Unit 6, it could not respond to the comments, she allowed discussion on comments Council Member Park publicly made regarding Santana.
Two public comments decried statements Park made that, they said, compared Santana to a dog, with one commenter calling him a “misogynist.”
“This is not the first time you have made these types of comments, and I think it probably won’t be the last time you will make these types of comments about women. I think it is reprehensible what you said,” Gillmor said to Park.
Talking about Santana’s dismissal, Park said “when you get bitten by a dog, you need to heal regardless.” Although Park apologized for his poor wording with the analogy, Gillmor let Council Member Watanabe make a motion to discuss censuring or admonishing him on a future agenda.
The motion, seconded by Gillmor, failed with Council Member Karen Hardy and Vice Mayor Jain voting “no,” Watanabe and Gillmor voting “yes” and Park and Council Members Anthony Becker and Raj Chahal abstaining.
Council Approves Police Use of “Military” Equipment
The Council also unanimously approved maintaining the police department’s stock of so-called military equipment.
In the name of transparency, Assembly Bill 481, which Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law in September, requires police departments to disclose items the state deems military grade.
With the passing of the policy, the police department will have to track when and how the equipment — which includes such items as a SWAT van, teargas, sniper rifles, a drone and flashbang grenades — is used.
“This isn’t something new,” said Police Chief Pat Nikolai. “We aren’t trying to militarize our department.”
The police department will submit its first report on the inventory in May 2023.
City Aims to Make Pruneridge Safer for Cyclists, Pedestrians
In a study session at the outset of the meeting, the Council heard options on improvements along Pruneridge Avenue, dubbed the Complete Streets Plan. The plan aims to improve walking and biking conditions along 2.2 miles of the 3-mile Pruneridge corridor.
The City has already improved less than a mile of Pruneridge Avenue, reducing it from four car lanes to two.
Micheal Liw, Assistant Public Works Director, told the Council that the City plans to present its final plan in the fall. It has also sought extensive public input about Pruneridge Avenue through various channels, including postcards, stakeholder interviews, community surveys, online workshops and attendance at commission and committee hearings.
Improvement of conditions along the Pruneridge corridor is listed as the number two priority in the City’s bicycle plan. To improve walking conditions, the City is considering updated curb ramps, more signs and improved crosswalks and curb bulb-outs, Liw said.
To improve bike conditions, Liw said, the City will need to decide on one of three options. The first option is to maintain four lanes and remove parking on one side of the street. The second removes a travel lane, narrows lanes and adds a buffered bike lane. The third option also removes a travel lane, adds a center turn lane and narrows the lane by shifting parking farther from the curb, providing more protection for cyclists.
Each option comes with tradeoffs. The first option fails to preserve street parking on Pruneridge. However, City analysis estimates that six of ten spaces will still be available with the changes as opposed to the eight of ten currently available spaces. The other two options will likely add slight congestion to three or four intersections and slightly increase travel times along the corridor.
Consent Calendar Spending
The Council approved the following spending in one motion via the consent calendar:
- A two-year $148,951 contract with TJKM Transportation Consultants for transportation modeling update services;
- A three-year $420,000 contract ($105,000 apiece) with Construction Testing Services, Inc., Ninyo and Moore Geotechnical and Environmental Sciences Consultants, Quality Assurance Engineering, Inc., and Smith-Emery of San Francisco, Inc. for on-call materials testing and special inspection services;
- A three-year $738,000 contract ($246,000 apiece) with CPM Associates, Inc., CSG Consultants, Inc. and Propcon Corp. for on-call construction management and inspection services;
- A five-year $446,550 contract with Baker Tilly US, LLP for citywide risk assessment, annual work Plan, and internal audit work;
- Two three-year extensions to a contract for performance services with Precept Environmental, Inc. (total contract amount is now $280,000) and Peninsula Crane & Rigging (total contract amount now $700,000).
The next regularly scheduled meeting is Tuesday, March 22 in the Council Chambers at City Hall, 1500 Warburton Ave. in Santa Clara.
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.