During Tuesday night’s meeting, Santa Clara City Council approved a low-income senior complex, received an update on the City’s HUD grants and discussed the possibility of helping residents who live along a portion of San Tomas Expressway fix a sound wall that is toppling over in places.
State-issued bonds will fund an 80-apartment complex for low-income seniors, half of which will be formerly homeless.
At Tuesday night’s meeting of the Santa Clara City Council, the Council unanimously approved the housing development, to be located at 3333 Kifer Road.
Jonathan Veach, Assistant City Manager, told the Council that in December last year the California Municipal Finance Authority partnered with developer Allied Home Inc. and approved $35 million in tax-exempt bonds for the project.
“We are taking steps in the right direction,” said Council Member Anthony Becker.
Mayor Lisa Gillmor said she is “really excited” about the project, which will target seniors earning 60% area median income (AMI). Half of those apartments will be set aside for seniors who were previously chronically homeless and earn 30% or less AMI.
The City will incur no financial responsibility for the bonds. Construction on the project is slated to begin in June.
New Interim Attorney and Manager
The Council also filled two City positions: interim City Attorney and interim City Manager, bringing on public agency law firm Lozano Smith to supply city attorney services (unanimous) and hiring former City Manager Rajeev Batra as interim City Manager (5-2 with Mayor Lisa Gillmor and Council Member Kathy Watanabe dissenting).
The interim city attorney contract has a cap of $300,000.
Batra will be paid 5% less than dismissed City Manager Deanna Santana, and will save Santa Clara over $300,000 because, as a CalPERS pension recipient, he gets no benefits. His pay rate is $214/hour with a cap of 160 hours/month and 960 hours/fiscal year. Batra won’t receive compensation for commuting (Santana had a $6,600 auto allowance), can’t use City vehicles for commuting and must work at City Hall when the majority of City employees are back in the office.
“We wanted someone who understands the City and could jump right in to help us,” said Council Member Karen Hardy, who, with Council Member Raj Chahal, reviewed candidates for the interim position.
“We’re confident of Mr. Batra’s ability,” said Chahal. “He’s familiar with the work culture issues and knows most of the City employees. He has more than 40 years of project management experience,” adding, “and he will be a full-time city manager.”
Watanabe said she wouldn’t support the hire “out of principle.” “There was…no group of people. So I have serious concerns.”
Gillmor falsely asserted that no one else was considered for the position.
“We looked at many candidates,” responded Chahal.
“Ok, there was only one person interviewed,” retorted Gillmor.
HUD Program Gets Tweaked
The pandemic has caused the City to adjust its U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) program. As an entitlement city, Santa Clara does not need to compete with other cities for its share of HUD grants.
However, Adam Marcus, the City’s Housing Director, told the Council Tuesday that the pandemic has thrown a wrench in its five-year plan.
The bulk of the City’s grant funds typically go toward its Community Development Bloc Grant (CDBG) program, but in the wake of COVID-19, applications for that program are down. Further, repayment of grants has poured money into City coffers that needs to be spent before the City can spend grant money.
As a result, Marcus said the City needs to adjust the allocation of $1.3 million in CDBG money and another $838,000 for its home program toward capital improvements. The bulk of the money for upcoming years — 85% — will still go toward its Tenant Based Rental Assistance Program, which provides rental assistance for low-income families.
The Council unanimously approved the amendment to the plan. The City will submit its plan to HUD May 10.
City to Consider Aiding Residents with Dilapidated Sound Wall
The Council will also consider helping with maintenance of a sound wall along San Tomas Expressway. The item returned to the Council after a public petition late last year implored the Council to consider assisting with the upkeep of the wall because of damage from nearby trees.
The petitioner, Jared Peters, spoke on behalf of a half dozen of his neighbors asking the Council to help repair the dilapidated wall despite the contract agreement requiring that the sound wall be maintained by the residents. Each section of the wall is owned by the property owner and thus their responsibility.
Peters said that the planting of several liquid amber trees on the public side of the wall had ruinous results when the City stopped watering them because of drought requirements to conserve water. As a result, the trees’ roots began spreading out — seeking water — devastating the wall, causing one section to collapse.
Craig Mobeck, Director of Public Works, recommended that the Council dismiss the petition due to the contract agreement, but the Council felt differently.
“A cat jumping on that in the middle of the night could probably cause that wall to fall if you had enough erosion,” said Council Member Becker.
Although Sujata Reuter, Assistant City Attorney, said there could be a “dangerous legal precedent” in allowing City employees to work outside the scope of their expertise on private property, the Council opted to direct Mobeck to work with Peters to find an amenable solution.
Mobeck said the going rate for work on such a wall is roughly $1,000 a foot, and the City’s need to pay prevailing wage would likely make that cost substantially higher. The motion passed unanimously with Mayor Lisa Gillmor abstaining because of a conflict of interest.
Consent Calendar Spending
- A one-year $153,835 contract with Valley Power Systems North, Inc. for stationary generator services;
- A one-year $115,267 contract with MT Tire Service, LLC for tire maintenance and repair services;
- A $6.1 million agreement with City of San Jose for pavement resurfacing on Stevens Creek Boulevard and Winchester Boulevard.
The next regularly scheduled meeting is Tuesday, April 19, 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.