For Santa Clara, 2017 Was a Year of Good Changes and Big Victories

By Robert Haugh

Now that the holidays are over, we’ve had a chance to rest and sleep. That can be challenging with a three-year-old. But my daughter is also my inspiration. So, here’s what I will tell her when she gets older about what happened in the Mission City last year.


The year began with Lisa Gillmor as Mayor. And she did not resign after the Super Bowl. So we knew 2017 would be different than 2016.

In Santa Clara, 2017 was a year of changes. Here are some of the good ones:

1. Deanna Santana was appointed the new City Manager. Even though she started in October, she has made a major positive difference. First, she recruited and hired top quality staff (mostly from Sunnyvale). Then, she sent a strong message to the 49ers that our city staff would be standing up for the residents and city hall. That was not the case with former City Managers Julio Fuentes or Rajeev Batra.

2. City Hall stands up for the Northside residents against the 49ers. The 49ers broke the law twice on the weekday stadium curfew with the U2 and Coldplay concerts. We don’t know if they were testing the city or they were just being dumb. Or both. But it backfired. There was no change to the curfew and the 49ers came across like a corporate bully who thinks it can do anything it wants. They need a new leader for their city game plan — someone more like Kyle Shanahan and less like Jim Tomsula.

3. Harvey Rose Associates‘ Measure J Compliance audit revealed that the 49ers owe the city and the construction fund about $2 million. Also revealing was the amount of recommended administrative changes the auditors listed. It looks like the city staff was doing a poor job of minding the stadium and complying with Measure J. But almost all the top staff who was responsible are now gone, except for Police Chief Mike Sellers, and Fire Chief Bill Kelly.

4. The 49ers started backing down. I guess it became clear to the team that the majority of the council and the residents were tired of them trying to take advantage of the city. So in December, the 49ers decided to pay cops for overtime for a Christmas Eve game. They had to be forced to do that in 2016. They’ve also begun to turn over documents that they’ve been withholding from the city.

5. City Hall is listening more to residents about development. We’ve printed some guest columns that show how residents are concerned about the amount of development around the city. The massive Mariani development has been a major target. Now the city has set up a “gatekeeper” process and specific plans to better regulate development and get neighborhoods involved.

6. Santa Clara is good at beating San Jose in court. San Jose sued the CityPlace development and lost. San Jose tried to get Santa Clara’s Santana West lawsuit thrown out and lost. San Jose sued Santa Clara using an anti-SLAPP motion and lost. San Jose is used to pushing around it’s smaller neighbors. But it didn’t work this year. According to the Business Journal, Councilmembers Dominic Caserta and Patty Mahan, wanted to concede. But Mayor Gillmor and the council majority stood strong — and won.

We think 2017 was a great year overall for the Mission City. Residents feel like our city leaders are doing the right thing and when necessary fighting for us, even against strong opposition. And we’re winning. Let’s hope 2018 brings more changes and more victories to Santa Clara.


  1. #6 – I hope Santa Clara continues to stand up to and hold San Jose accountable for not being a good neighbor. I know several San Jose residents are counting on our city to do that, too!

  2. 1) Value of Santana is TBD. Batra was a stop-gap, out of his element, basically doing the City a favor, so don’t hold that against him. 2) Noise curfew should be extended, at least some times. We need to have world-class performers if we want to advertise and charge for a world-class stadium. We’re talking a handful of times per year. This whole thing is crazy. Santa Clarans voted yes for the stadiu, that includes concerts. 3) How much did the audit cost vs. recoup? Plus, were those responsible for non-compliance really held accountable, or just scapegoats?

  3. Great article. There are so many things going on, that the people of Santa Clara do not know about. They need to read what you write about, go to city council meetings or see meetings on line or computers. We have a wonderful Mayer that cares about them.
    Thanks for keeping us on top of what is going on.

  4. Thanks for putting things in perspective. It looks like the city is on the right path. Nice pictures of you and your daughter, too.

  5. You forgot some of the critical details of Item 3 above:
    The Harvey Rose audit identified 37 new processes and items for the city to follow and plug the leaking financial/accountability bucket.
    And you can thank Mayor Gillmor for that.

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