By Robert Haugh
The big news from last night’s City Council meeting is that the Central Park International Swim Center and Community Recreation Center project is too ambitious — too big and too expensive.
At a study session, Project Finance Advisory Limited (PFAL) gave a thorough presentation about the proposed project. Among the issues they discussed included the lack of available funds, public polling data and possible next steps.
The $250 million project, which was planned to include a new, larger community recreation center (four times the current size), new swim center (60 percent larger) and other community features such as a theater isn’t “right-sized.”
The firm says that the community supports a tax measure that would benefit parks and libraries as a whole, but offers limited support for a tax benefiting only the swim center project. The tax would be estimated at $25 per $100,000 of assessed value and would generate $303 million over 32.5 years. Subtract financing and that equates to $202 million.
Recommendations moving forward include additional focus groups, finalizing the PFAL report, community outreach and engagement and polling on potential refined ballot language.
Council member Teresa O’Neill asked about private donations. The consultant mentioned that outside of Tod Spieker, a local rental housing developer, and his $4 million-plus pledge, no other significant donors were identified.
The consultants conclude that the current scope of the project is not feasible for the City. But PFAL and city staff are working on a plan that could work with a “right sized” project and money for city wide parks, libraries and other needs. The council wants to put something on the November ballot. A parcel tax stands the best chance of passing.
The Santa Clara Unified School District had made a decision to target June for their parcel tax which we’ve written about. It would be their fourth bond measure in 14 years. Now, we’re hearing that they may change course and move to November. If they switch, that could screw up the city’s measure, or vice versa. Stay tuned.
Parks & Rec Joint Meeting Tidbits
The Parks and Recreation Commissioners met with the City Council for a dinner meeting. Here are some interesting things that came up:
- There are issues with dog park spaces and the capacity for multiple dogs and larger breeds.
- Athletic fields and parks need better enforcement to ensure proper use.
- Jumpy houses and alcohol are not permitted in parks, but tend to appear often. Several Commissioners and Council members think both are huge liabilities for the City.
- One suggestion being considered is adding concrete slabs at parks to make for safer places to set up Jumpy houses.
- Parks are old and dilapidated.
- Steve Carli Park, which recently received a major upgrade and was made more accessible has seen a huge increase in use.
- The Swim Center is aging and repairs often are not possible because the facility simply isn’t modern.
Longtime Parks and recreation Commissioner Chuck Blair was recognized for his years of service. In addition to serving on the Commission since 2011, Blair was a longtime coach for the Santa Clara Red Sox baseball team, helping the Mission City earn five world titles.
Deborah Bress and Kevin Park addressed the Council regarding the City Clerk appointment process. Mayor Lisa Gillmor had to repeatedly use her gavel and tell Bress to be seated. At one point, she cut off the microphone. City Attorney Brian Doyle clarified the process and cited the City code and the process and said there is no debate on how the process is happening. The City was put in a bind when former Clerk Rod Diridon, Jr. resigned suddenly, creating a need for someone to fill the role until an election or appointment can be made.
Vice Mayor Kathy Watanabe missed the study session. Council member Dominic Caserta was absent from both the dinner meeting and the study session.