Strife caused by last month’s U2 concert has left the Santa Clara City Council trying to determine how to more stringently penalize the 49ers for violating the City’s noise curfew.
The topic was the focus of most of Tuesday night’s Council meeting. At its previous meeting, the Council discussed how the company that manages Levi’s Stadium–ManCo–violated the City’s prohibition against hosting events that go past 10 p.m.
Mayor Lisa Gillmor said the 49ers “deliberately” violated the noise ordinance even after the Council denied its request for a curfew extension in January, calling the action “egregious” and a “slap in the face.” Further, she called the $750 fine the City levied on ManCo a “joke,” calling the problem a “quality of life issue” for the residents living near the stadium.
“They look to us to be their only line of defense,” Gillmor said. “It is obvious [ManCo is] not taking us seriously.”
Contention over the noise levels is the latest in a long list of quarrels with ManCo that includes use of soccer fields and overtime pay for City employees working at the stadium. The situation escalated to litigation in January when the ManCo sued the City, claiming members of the City Council “falsely accused” ManCo of violating its contract.
Still, many members of the Council and the 49ers–including Jim Mercurio, the vice-president of stadium operations and general manager of Levi’s Stadium, and Al Guido, president of the 49ers–agreed that the members of the Council and ManCo should hold a public study session to come to a resolution.
Scott Lane, Santa Clara City Council mainstay and San Jose resident, called both parties agreeing to work collaboratively a “Kumbaya” moment.
But it wasn’t long before criticisms began to fly.
Council Member Kathy Watanabe and City Manager Rajeev Batra iterated previous statements about the ordinance not having “any teeth.” Watanabe suggested imposing a fine on ManCo for every minute past the curfew a concert runs over or simply shutting down the concert if it runs late.
“There are people that are not afraid to pull the plug,” Watanabe said.
Many residents were sold on the idea of constructing the stadium on the promise that its events would not negatively impact them, Gillmor said and Watanabe echoed. As a solution, Watanabe suggested starting the concerts earlier; she said many residents in the neighborhood–her neighborhood–have suggested that the 49ers give away tickets to non-NFL events as a gesture of good faith.
Matt Prieshoff, vice president of operations for Live Nation–the entertainment promoter who brought U2 to Levi’s Stadium, said it was “discouraging” to see a host city “discredit” ManCo. Disallowing curfew extensions for headliners – Live Nation has brought Beyonce, Taylor Swift, most recently U2 and (this winter) Coldplay to Levi’s Stadium–makes it “increasingly difficult to book world-class acts.” Live Nation cannot dictate when or where an artist will play, he said, and early start times put Levi’s Stadium at a disadvantage as many acts make extensive use of videos and light shows as part of their performance, which requires the venue to be dark.
“They spend millions of dollars on their production, and they want the public to be able to see it,” he said.
Vice Mayor Dominic Caserta took issue with the bickering, repeatedly saying that the Council needs to start “acting like adults,” “stop finger-pointing” and “demonizing.”
“This country was founded on compromise instead of entrenchment,” Caserta said.
Bress called Caserta’s monologue a “tantrum over compromise.”
Caserta even took issue with how Gillmor ran the meeting, calling audience snickering, scoffs and comments from Council mainstays Lane and Deborah Bress “distracting and unethical,” telling Gillmor to “be a presiding officer.” Caserta even sniped at City Attorney Brian Doyle when he tried to interject while Caserta was speaking, saying “If I have a question for you, I will direct it to you.”
Doyle later clarified that he was expressing concern about Watanabe’s idea of the City providing free tickets to non-NFL events as compensation to those living near Levi’s Stadium for events eclipsing the curfew.
While he acknowledged that having the concert go past 10 p.m. was a big impediment to the residents near the stadium, Caserta said the Council needed to weigh that against how much good the revenue generated by the concert.
Although Gillmor said ManCo has yet to tell the Council how much money will go into the City’s general fund from the concert, even a conservative estimate–using last year’s numbers for the $4 surcharge on each ticket, parking and the City’s portion of the ticket sale labeled “performance rent” averaged over all events–puts that number over $350,000.
By consensus, the Council directed the City Manager to set up a public study session, which he said he will do “sometime in the near future.” The study session is set to take place somewhere in the neighborhood near Levi’s Stadium on the north side of Santa Clara, but neither Batra nor the Council set any definite plans for the study session.
The next City Council meeting will be 7 p.m. June 13 at City Hall, 1500 Warburton Ave. in Santa Clara.
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