City Council Review: Council Discusses El Camino Plan, Mariani Inn Development, and Selects a New Convention Center Operator

By Robert Haugh

The Council had a study session on the El Camino Real Specific Plan. The objective is to establish a land use plan, a circulation plan, urban design standards and policy framework that will guide future development along the street.

A lot of people showed up to publicly support and oppose the massive Mariani development project on El Camino.  We learned that the project will probably come to the Council before the Specific Plan is done. That’ll be interesting.

We’ll be writing a lot more about the project in the coming months. We heard that it hasn’t changed much since Santa Clara Weekly Publisher/Lobbyist Miles Barber was publicly pushing the plan.

Only Vice Mayor Patty Mahan and Councilmembers Debi Davis, Teresa O’Neill, and Kathy Watanabe could participate in the study session. Everyone else has property near El Camino and therefore have conflicts.

New Convention Center Operator

The Council authorized the City Manager to negotiate with Spectra, one of the top convention center operators in the nation that’s partially owned by Comcast.  They were selected through a competitive RFP process.

Here’s a map of their 45 convention centers. Santa Clara is the only one in California.

They scored higher than SMG. They’re another top convention center operator and manager of the Moscone Center. SMG protested Spectra’s selection through attorney Ash Pirayou of Rutan & Tucker. But Linh Lam, the new City Auditor, found the protest invalid. She poked some holes in their case including pointing out some big factual errors about their scoring claims. Whoops. That didn’t help.

The Santa Clara Chamber of Commerce lost the management of the building and operations in September when audits revealed mismanagement and malfeasance.

Here are some of the better things in the proposed contract:

  • If Spectra does not achieve its goals, it will pay back the City up to 50% of its incentive fee.
  • Spectra is committing $2 million in capital improvements amortized over 15 years, with $1.15 million in upgrades such as new paint, carpet and other improvements in the first year of operations.
  • The agreement would be in effect for five years with the option for two 5-year extensions at the City’s sole discretion for a total of 15 years.
  • Spectra will commit advertising of $65,000 annually/$975,000 over 15 years (with Comcast) plus discounted advertising rates.

Kudos to city staff for moving fast.  They also got a top-notched operator who actually knows what they’re doing. And Spectra will be investing $2 million in the building. Wow. (Note to Spectra: do the carpeting first — please).

Other Issues:

 

 

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