By Robert Haugh
Last night’s meeting started in an unusual way and with a major announcement. First, the unusual. During public comment, Jeannie Mahan, the sister of Councilwoman Patty Mahan, criticized a private email sent from Councilwoman Teresa O’Neill to Councilwoman Debi Davis last year that said Patty was using the “cancer card” to win support during her council campaign.
Then, Councilwoman Mahan interrupted public comment to announce that she is undergoing unexpected surgery tomorrow (today) to remove a cancerous tumor from her spine. She asked to reschedule the Council’s goal setting retreat and to be excused from the rest of the meeting and all meetings in the next several weeks. The council unanimously approved re-scheduling the goal setting meeting. We send our best wishes to Mahan and wish her a quick and full recovery.
After approximately two hours of discussion, we learned that the community supports affordable housing but didn’t agree entirely on the plan on how to to build more. Developers (and others) want the right to pay “in lieu” fees if they can’t or don’t want to build affordable units as part of a new development. City staff wants to maintain the right to make that decision and not leave it to the discretion of the developer. Vice Mayor Dominic Caserta, who chaired the affordable housing task force, sided with development interests on the in lieu fees. But he could not get a second to his motion. This is the second time this has happened to Caserta on this issue. Then, the Council unanimously approved a motion by O’Neill to follow staff recommendation, but also increase the for-sale requirement from 12.5 to 15 percent affordable units and having city staff follow up after a nexus study is completed within 90 days.
The council unanimously approved a new lobbyist ordinance with fee increases by about 20 percent, plus a new $100 per client fee, both to fill the gap on cost recovery. There was little discussion. Deborah Bress, Kirk Vartan and Hosam Haggag all questioned the lack of consequences for violating the ordinance, with Haggag equating the consequences to a slap on the wrist. Councilwoman Davis said City staff and the Ethics Committee are working on ideas to better enforce the ordinance. O’Neill asked to add to Davis’ motion to have staff come back with details on stronger consequences and better enforcement.
The Council accepted the Charter Review Committee and staff’s recommendations which we outlined on Monday. In June 2018, Santa Clara voters will get a chance to approve or reject them. The major change will be the creation of two districts in the city with three members in each.
Citti’s Florist and Intel Corporation were recognized for their years of service in the City. Both have served the Mission City for decades. The Santa Clara Firefighter Foundation’s Better Together leadership program was also recognized.