Emotionally Charged City Council Meeting Addresses Affordable Housing, Lobbyists & More

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.

Affordable Housing

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.

Lobbyist Ordinance

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.

Charter Review

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.


  1. But it was really so staged that it felt like a “tear jerker” that was used to propel people to feel sorry to vote for her. Sorry, but that’s what it looked like. She deserves all of our support and she should be encouraged to take the time to heal and do whatever it takes to beat this horrible disease. And I pray that it never comes back.

    But please don’t proactively use the Cancer card and then attack others for exposing what appeared to be a blatant attempt to use Cancer for one’s own political fortune. It cheapens the office and minimizes the massive silent struggle that hundreds must be facing in a current Cancer battle here in Santa Clara as well as thousands that have fought it in the past with the hope that it never comes back.

  2. Caserta could not get a second? He’ll be a disaster on the Board of Supes — if he gets there. If I’m Labor, I’m looking at him as ineffective and would never endorse him.

    • Are you serious? It was Caserta’s motions to raise the minimum wage TWICE and pass a workers retention ordinance, the first in the County. That is EFFECTIVE Henry!

      Every member of the working group praised Caserta’s leadership of the committee.

      Caserta will get the endorsement from Labor and make the runoff! In fact Labor money is going to Caserta clearly in this race! Caserta wins! Count on it!

      Get you facts straight Hank!

    • Hey Dominic, since you’re here commenting under an alias, let’s be honest (I know it’s not your strong suit):

      You stated in your comment above “Caserta will … make the runoff!” Oh really? You’re so confident that you’re making the runoff? Then why were you so concerned about wanting to run for re-election of your Santa Clara City Council seat during the Charter Review discussion? You explicitly stated – if I wanted to run for re-election, would I be precluded from doing so?

      That doesn’t sound like someone who’s so confident that they’d be winning the June primary for Board of Supervisors. Instead, that sounds like someone who KNOWS they’re going to lose, and is hedging their bets on being able to at least retain their City Council seat.

      So sad.

      I’m surprised nobody picked up on that yet…. well now we all know.

      Hey, here’s a thought: resign and never run for public office again. Now that’s something we can ALL stand behind!

  3. Sorry to hear about Ms. Mahan’s health. But I must say that the announcement seemed overly dramatic and not really dignified.

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