Silicon Valley Voice

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Townhome Project Gets Go-Ahead, Planning Commissioner Resigns

A 12-unit townhome development will go ahead despite its neighbors critical mass of complaints that the parking is inadequate.

The Santa Clara City Council approved the half-acre development, set to be located just down the street from City Hall at 1900 Warburton Ave., at its Tuesday night meeting. The development will play host to three-bedroom, three-bath townhomes and will allot three parking spaces per unit — two for residents and another for guests.

More than 20 neighbors of the two-building townhouse development, most of whom live in the building at 1700 Civic Center Dr., turned out to take issue with the amount of spaces for development. Many said there should be a dedicated space for each bedroom.

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However, Andrew Crabtree, Community Development Director, said the development’s six dedicated guest parking spots and the garage parking meets the requirements for such a development. Further, he added, the density for the townhomes is in the lower end of what the City allows. The applicant is negotiating with the Chamber of Commerce to secure eight parking spaces in a nearby lot to be paid with homeowners association fees.

Public transit vouchers will be provided to the tenants as well as bike storage. Still, neighbors protested, saying the area is already overcrowded with cars. One such neighbor, Brian Didier, one of the managers of 1700 Civic Center Dr., called the relationship between the Planning Commission and the developer “sycophantic.”

“They ignored the problems of the citizens,” he said. “You are really going to shoot yourself in the foot … you are not eliminating cars by promoting mass transit.”

Council Member Debi Davis agreed, saying she is “not against the project” but “someone is not going to walk a mile to BART.” She said she wanted to do a “bigger, deeper dive” into examining the parking situation in the area before approving the project.

“It’s well parked now,” she said. “But something is going to happen.”

Davis was the lone dissenting vote to approve rezoning the parcel to planned development and giving the project the go-ahead.

Council Member Patricia Mahan said while she can “sympathize” with the neighbors, she doesn’t believe “this small of a development is going to make a big swing one way or another.”

Council Member Teresa O’Neill said the problem sounds like it is that there is not enough parking for other housing in the area. Plus, she added, who knows how the parking situation could change down the line.

“With autonomous vehicles, we are going to have too many parking spaces,” she said. “I just don’t think it is feasible to force people to provide a parking space for every bedroom in their house … This is a reasonable amount of parking. This will be a project that is welcomed.”

Council Member Pat Kolstad said the development adds “much-needed housing.”

 

Police Survey

Also on the agenda was an independent assessment of how the public views the police department. A $30,000 Silicon Valley Community Organization grant funded a survey, community panel and one-on-one meetings with members of the public conducted by My90.

My90 describes itself as a “secure, data-driven platform that helps law enforcement agencies measure and improve community engagement, trust, and relationships.”

In light of public perceptions about police publicized in the media, Santa Clara Police Chief Mike Sellers said he was “really questioning how [the police department] was doing.”

Ben Holston, Vice President of Operations at My90, said My90 weighted the results based on gender, ethnicity and age. Of the 284 respondents, two-thirds were white despite Santa Clara’s population only being roughly one-third white. While the gender split was relatively even, people under 35 were also underrepresented.

My90 conducted at survey in September last year, held a community panel of 20 leaders from area civic groups from July to April last year and held in-person workshops from January to March.

Overall, the results show that most people have a positive perception of the police department. However, the in-person workshops revealed that Hispanic and Black people are the most likely to have negative experiences with police. The survey also showed that Hispanics specifically are less likely to attend events put on by police because they fear immigration officers would be lying in wait.

“Regardless if that’s true, perceptions can often be reality,”  Holston said.

Another big concern was property crime, he added.

Davis said she “doesn’t get” the notion that Hispanics fear being targeted by immigration officers but also acknowledged that she doesn’t “have experience” with such matters. She said the police have already taken measures to address property crime.

“You get a dog or you get an alarm,” she said. “They (police) can’t be every place at every time.”

My90 will stay engaged with the police department to improve engagement with segments of the community that have negative perceptions about the police, Holston said. A theme among those interviewed was how police handle the homeless.

O’Neill said that police are increasingly becoming more like “social workers.”

Sellers said he plans to share the survey results with all the department’s employees, and officers will undergo advanced training to better understand where the problems lie in hopes of improving them.

Meanwhile, Kolstad added that no one on the Council was surprised that the police department got such glowing feedback, adding that it has a “spotless reputation.”

 

Planning Commission Vacancy

The Council also voted to accept the resignation of Planning Commissioner Mike O’Halloran but was unable to agree on a process to appoint a new commissioner.

In April, the Council vetted 10 candidates for another vacancy and ended up appointing Anthony Becker. The multiple-round voting system proved divisive as another candidate, Jeremy Hicks, got enough votes to get the appointment but instead lost to Becker in the final round of voting.

Davis said she favored simply appointing a new commissioner from the pool of candidates considered for the previous appointment to O’Halloran’s seat, saying adding new candidates to the pool was “not fair” to him and the others the Council considered.

However, Mahan suggested inquiring whether the other three candidates who applied for the appointment to the Cultural Commission Tuesday would be interested. O’Neill said even if the Council opted to appoint from the April pool, she would still like to re-interview all the candidates.

A motion by Davis to reconsider the April candidates was defeated 3-2 because of Mayor Lisa Gillmor’s absence, with Mahan and Kolstad voting against it.

City Manager Deanna Santana suggested continuing the item to the Council’s next meeting where so she can come back with more information.

The Council will meet again at 5 p.m. on July 16 in Council Chambers at City Hall, 1500 Warburton Ave. in Santa Clara.

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