City Council Recap – Short Meeting, Little Debate, No Fun
By Robert Haugh
The Sept. 12 City Council meeting flew by. It’s the first meeting in a century to adjourn by 9 p.m. Okay, maybe not a century, but a long time. It was almost as brief as the match between The Ultimate Warrior and The Honky Tonk Man at SummerSlam 1988 – ok, it wasn’t that short.
The biggest news (sort of) from the meeting is that Interim City Manager Rajeev Batra resigned, effective September 26. He did not attend last night’s meeting. Batra officially retired in March, but has served as a consultant over the last six months. We’re not sure why he was a no-show at this meeting. That means his last meeting will be the Stadium Authority meeting on Sept 19.
- The Council approved the salary of incoming city manager Deanna Santana with a 6-1 vote. Vice Mayor Dominic Caserta was the sole dissenting vote, citing his displeasure in her salary and benefits again. He also didn’t agree with allowing Santana to serve on the Board of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group Foundation – which meets four times a year. Other councilmembers said Santana serving on the volunteer nonprofit board would be a benefit to the city.
- A study session on the San Jose Urban Villages located at Stevens Creek Boulevard, Winchester Boulevard and Santana Row/Valley Fair actually took up almost as much time as the entire Council meeting. Speaker after speaker spoke about the next chapter in “border wars” between Santa Clara and San Jose and Cupertino.
Councilwoman Debi Davis mentioned how San Jose Councilman Chappie Jones told her that San Jose is going ahead with the urban village plan and there’s nothing anyone can do about it. Some public speakers said they heard the same thing from Jones. We don’t know the Councilman, but he doesn’t sound too subtle.
But the Council voted to try and do something about it. Councilwoman Kathy Watanabe recommended a task force between the cities. (We hope Jones doesn’t chair it). The Council approved the suggestion unanimously. However, we did notice that the Thomas Law Group was on the closed session agenda to discuss possible litigation against San Jose’s urban village plans. Is the council offering San Jose a carrot and a stick? Stay tuned.
- Discussion regarding Proposition 64 (Adult Use of Marijuana Act) was continued to the September 26 meeting, with Council asking staff to bring back more thorough information. City staff recommends retaining a consultant to complete an analysis of commercial marijuana operations within the City, and possible options for regulations, taxation, etc.
- Council approved funding the design and construction of the Fuller Street Phase II Sport Court at Fuller Park. The $385,000 comes from unused Mitigation Fees Act funds.
The solutions are not difficult.
First, we must see the problem. High housing cost and traffic is created by employers who hire employees from outside the area. Nothing wrong with that. They need talent.
But their employment growth creates the problem. So the sensible thing to do would be tie the source of the problem to the solution via an employment tax. Other major cities do this. But thanks to the Silicon Valley Leadership Group who is the lobbying organization for major employers, we don’t. Rather, they have us focused on sales tax that is regressive. So all people, including poor people, who are not responsible for causing the problem are burdened with paying for it. Major employers are getting off easy.
Second, cities who waive fees for developers and employers are making the problem worse. San Jose is the biggest offender because they are desperate for jobs and businesses. So they let developers and companies skate on fees. That makes traffic worse and pushes it into other cities. Santa Clara is smart to challenge San Jose and should sue them because San Jose doesn’t really care about other cities. If regional and state agencies, like MTC, won’t force San Jose to do its duty, than Santa Clara must use the legal system. The Task Force idea will result in a lot of talk and the drinking of coffee and no action without a lawsuit or some other enforcement mechanism.
Third, stop thinking that VTA or CalTrans is helping. They make things worse. They are slow and costly. They have to fund big salaries and pensions and by some estimates double or triple the cost of transportation projects and timelines. If there’s a crisis — and there is — we need emergency measure to have private sector build solutions and fast.
Finally, the people who say just build more affordable housing are delusional and should be politely asked to shut up. The private sector builds housing and the market determines price. Affordable can be mandated but not enough of it can or will be built to make a difference. Do the math and you’ll see that if you double the production of housing, you will only slightly, and that’s a maybe, bring down housing costs. If high paid workers are moving here, they will drive up the price of housing because it’s a competitive marketplace pitting buyer against buyer.
MTC, Excellent recap on where we stand and how we got here as well as some ideas on fixing or at least mitigating the problems.
You are not only right but very insightful, since I agree with everything you said.
And how can anyone think more, big shiny buses are the new modern answer? No matter how much lipstick you put on that pig buses are old fashioned and don’t work. The few hours a day they are actually used don’t justify the high cost to keep them running when they are empty. And yes, the pension cost is a large part of that.
In the last few days I have seen two different types of driver-less shuttle type vehicles on the road. They aren’t driver-less yet but getting there. Having many shuttles that can efficiently ride share would make a lot more sense than buses. Imagine the efficiency of a shuttle picking up 6 or 7 people withing a 1/4 mile of each other that are going to almost the exact same place. And neither the start or end are near an established bus line. And yes, driver-less buses when needed, are on the way as well.
We like our independence and gong where you want, when you want w/o breaking the bank would suit many.
Hi “MTC Watch”
Great comments! Google and others are snapping up up to 1/4 of the apartments in the area for their employees… some employees get these for free! Many companies also are buying up apartments and very smartly use these instead of hotels!
Yes, it is the corporations bringing in jobs… but it is also the Prop 13 effects. It is also the cities competing against each other for these jobs.
But it is also elected officials concerned more about being reelected than solving ANY of the real issues.
Cities should demand thru legislation that the joined MTC/ABAG get more authority and jurisdictional power.
Someone needs to use a CLUB to enforce regional solutions.
As much as we think there are too many homes being built, we are NOWHERE near HISTORICAL HIGHS.
In fact, we might be on the lower 1/4 to 1/3 of maximum units in the Bay Area. Santa Clara is building more on average than most cities which is why we’re feeling the pain so much.
It’s also because our transit system is so underfunded and incompetent.
But WE the people need to get “REAL” and stop saying that five stories in “high rise!”
Not even downtown SJ has high rises. They have short stubby buildings due to the SJ Airport.
(They have more four to five story buildings in Downtown San Jose than all of their 18-22 story buildings
combined) Talk about a wasted of valuable land zoned for 22 story buildings.
We missed our chance for taller buildings with Irvine Development Company at/around Santa Clara Square.
That’s one of the few places in Santa Clara where shadows and heights wouldn’t affect nearby one to two story homes.
Mr. TC Watch,
You are certainly entitled to your opinion and if you think we need really high rise buildings in Santa Clara, then please think so. Do you also think that will bring prices down? Like it did for NYC or SF? If this is the quality of life you want, those shiny buses you like are leaving every day.
But when you talk about giving MTC and ABAG more authority to tell us what to build, where to build and when to build, that’s a bit much. And to say this in the name of “…WE the people…”, really?
You might be right about Santa Clara Square. But keep in mind not all developers want to build over 4 – 5 stories because they want to build with wood. And there is a limit.
Solutions, not law suits, are what we need. It would be nice to hear from readers on this publication as to what their solutions are. Sure, I see a lot of complaints about what is happening, the traffic, the parking, the growth, but what I don’t hear are any solutions to the issue we face.
I hope very much that significant change happens, because as so many have pointed out, conditions today are not good. And if anyone thinks that doing nothing will make things better, I have a really nice bridge for sale. Really, it’s nice…really nice. And big. You can put all the car on it without traffic. Oh, and you can park as many cars as you own on it. It never runs out of capacity and there is never a speed limit issue. You can go as fast or as slow as you want. And it also allows for all the people in the area to live there. All transit connects to it too.
But, if you don’t want to buy a bridge, let’s figure out how our aging and growing population can not only be accommodated, but can thrive. That would be nice. Change can be good if we participate. And when I say participate, I don’t mean stop or delay change.
Let’s envision a place that we want to live in and then advocate for that.
San Jose has destroyed the streets around Valley Fair and Santana Row. Traffic is horrendous. It’s the worst part of the city. How about action instead of talking?
As an afterthought, they could name the pot parlor after Chappie Jones.
I’m missing the connection between pot/pot parlor and Chappie Jones.
Is it because he is pro pot or do you think he’s smoking something regarding his
desire for the Stevens Creek Urban Village.
It seems that if Chappie Jones smoked pot that he’d be more reasonable to deal with.
San Jose Council Member has no requirement to listen to those in Santa Clara and Cupertino,
and what is in it for other SJ City Councilmembers to go against Chappie Jones?
Obviously this was tongue in cheek having nothing to do with Chappie’s recreational activities. Just a way to combine the two agenda items and thumb our nose at his caviler attitude. No serious connection intended, or anything else serous.
Perhaps the city should combine two agenda items. Establish an overly large pot parlor across the street from the Urban Village.