City Council Preview: Convention Center Blues and Development Plans

By Robert Haugh

Tomorrow’s Council meeting tackles many items. Here is a quick summary:

  • Tasman East study session – we learn even more details on the progress in creating a focal master plan for this area just East of Levi’s Stadium. It’s an opportunity to build more housing in the Mission City.
  • City Place – the largest mixed use development in Santa Clara history will present an updated Multimodal Improvement Plan for City Council  approval.
  • Police Chief salary – a consent calendar item will approve the introduction of an Ordinance adding a new Section which will include the Chief of Police as part of the Salary Setting Commission’s regular review and setting of City elected officials’ compensation beginning in 2019. Wonder if this was prompted by Chief Mike Sellers’ attempt at pension spiking.
  • TAP International will present findings that say “Restructuring Operations Can Strengthen Accountability, Performance and Revenue” for the operation of the Santa Clara Convention Center. Ouch. Another big blow to the Santa Clara Chamber of Commerce. More to come.
  • The City staff is looking for the Council’s direction on the management agreement with the Santa Clara Chamber of Commerce & Convention-Visitors Bureau for the Santa Clara Convention Center. Another ouch to the Chamber. One option proposed by City staff is putting management of the Convention Center out for bid. So perhaps an event or facility management company could manage the Convention Center, rather than the sinking ship that is the Santa Clara Chamber. Staff suggests issuing a 180-day notice to terminate the Convention Center management agreement, while simultaneously engaging in a competitive bid process for the management and operation of the Convention Center and take necessary actions to stabilize Convention Center operations and to minimize further impact to public resources and assets. Wow!

Tidbits From Last Week

  • Candidate forums – the City had reached out to the League of Women Voters and there are several candidate forums on tap. The City Clerk and City Manager each made statements last week about misinformation that circulated in various media, especially the Santa Clara Weekly.
  • Candidate forums will be: Oct. 11, 6:30 p.m., Council chambers – Mayoral and City Clerk candidates; Oct. 17, 6:30 p.m., Council chambers –  District 2 and District 3 Council candidates.
  • A housing development by Freebird Development Company at 2330 Monroe was given the initial green light. This is the same site that drew massive backlash in the past when the Sobrato organization proposed building micro units on the site for the homeless and veterans.  We wish Freebird luck because low-income housing is important. And they have a really cool name.
  • Councilwoman Debi Davis was absent.


  1. How is it we can get new convention management buy not stadium management? Between the two we are probably losing more money on the stadium. And stadium management is anti-Santa Clara from what I see. Not defending the convention center management, just comparing them.

    • Thank you Howard. It is good to have a neutral set of eyes with this. I feel something is occurring with this in our City and leaders in the larger picture that is not disclosed here.

    • Contractual obligations limit the ability to back out of the current management agreement. Quoting from page 15 of the annual audit of the stadium authority that was just recently completed:

      “The Stadium Authority and StadCo have engaged ManagementCo, an affiliate of StadCo, to manage the Stadium on a year-round basis. The Stadium Management Agreement has an initial term of 25 years, plus a 15-year renewal option.”

      You can argue whether it was a good or bad idea to sign an agreement like that during the stadium construction days, but it’s been done and is (presumably) legally binding. I have not recently looked into what the termination clauses are for the management agreement, but would bet it’s not easy to back out of that without very strong cause. I would bet there is also a much smaller pool of companies experienced in managing a stadium of that size than there is with experience managing a relatively small convention center.

      I applaud the efforts of those who are concerned about whether the stadium is being optimally managed. That needs to be an ongoing process, just as it would be for any large business. I certainly have a number of questions about whether it was wise to agree to certain terms years ago, and conditions will always change over time. There should be lots of quesitons about what the right tradeoffs of ongoing management/oversight should be. Some are purely financial, while others are less tangible, like quality of life issues for nearby residents.

      I believe there will be a more detailed discussion of the financial performance for the stadium for the fiscal year ending 3/31/18 at the Oct. 2 Council meeting. I would bet that will soon be followed by a report for the fiscal quarter following that.

  2. This is a concern. We have a respected Convention Center Management and Staff already. Why waste our city money on this ROI of firing and hiring and outsource a more expensive solution.

    Sentence from the article above: “One option proposed by City staff is putting management of the Convention Center out for bid.”

    Is the City target focused on destroying and demolishing our Convention Center now? For the land?? This sounds like what happened in the 1960s and our community downtown – destroyed and not rebuilt. This sounds like the discussion with the soccer fields all over again. Ouch!

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