City Council Passes New Garbage Rates with Discounts for All Households During COVID-19 Pandemic and No Split Carts

By Robert Haugh

The City Council decided to provide some financial relief for garbage rates for the next six months. Over 25,000 households in Santa Clara will get a $3 per month discount on rates. 

And we won’t have to deal with unpopular split carts. 

Last night, the Council finalized rates for new garbage contracts. That was a decision that was made last December.

But with the COVID-19 pandemic, the majority of the Council decided to provide Mission City residents with some relief now.

Last week, Councilwoman Kathy Watanabe proposed the garbage rate relief idea. City staff recommended that relief funds could be used in January. The money will come from the Solid Waste Budget Stabilization Reserve, not the General Fund.

Last night, Councilwoman Teresa O’Neill made the motion to move the relief date up, so all 25,837 Santa Clara households will get financial help now.

That passed. But the vote wasn’t unanimous. 

Mayor Lisa Gillmor and Councilwomen Debi Davis joined O’Neill and Watanabe to support the rates and the financial relief.

Vice Mayor Karen Hardy and Councilman Raj Chahal voted against the rates and the financial relief.

Chahal made a big stink about the garbage contracts again.

Chahal did another long presentation that questioned City staff numbers about proposed garbage rates. He did the same thing last month

This time, City staff was ready.  (Last month, Chahal only gave City staff his questions and presentation an hour before the meeting started).

Manuel Pineda of Silicon Valley Power made a detailed presentation with lots of facts. He said Chahal’s analysis was wrong by $500,000. Ouch.

Pineda also said that Chahal was also wrong to use current rates in his comparison. That’s because new rates and services are required because of a legal ruling on Prop 218.

During his presentation, Pineda did a classy thing. He mentioned all the people who worked on the program and the extra work it took to correct Chahal’s claims.

Pineda said that City staff had done a lot of analysis and outreach. So they were really offended at Chahal saying they “lacked transparency.”

Chahal said he wasn’t criticizing staff by raising issues. But minutes later, he did just that. Chahal criticized staff in his presentation and said their work was “misleading and dishonest.”

After Chahal’s presentation, Pineda defended staff again. And Chahal had to apologize later.

Everyone on the City Council criticized Chahal for attacking City staff, except Hardy.

Chahal also got a lot of criticism for trying to change a vote 6 months after it happened with no new information.

Other Stuff

The City Council put a Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) or hotel tax on the November ballot. It’ll allow the Council to raise the rate on hotel bills by up to four percent. Tourists will pay it, not residents.

The money will go to the general fund and can be used for city services. The hotels said that they want the city to spend half the money on marketing the convention center. 

But the City Council will have to make that decision next year if the voters pass it. And there are no guarantees. (Will there be conventions and travel next year?)

Gillmor, Chahal, and Hardy volunteered to jointly sign the ballot argument in support of the measure. 

The City Council unanimously extended the exclusive negotiating agreement for Republic Metropolitan LLC for a high-rise residential development. It’s planned for the Caltrain Santa Clara Station Park-N-Ride lot located at 500 Benton Street.


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