Santa Clara Loses CVRA Appeal But Can Still Do Better Than Current System

By Robert Haugh

During the holidays, a major decision was made that went against the Mission City. Santa Clara lost the appeal of the California Voting Rights Act (CVRA) lawsuit.

In 2019, Judge Thomas Kuhnle determined that there was “racially polarized” voting in Santa Clara.

Most people in town were surprised by that. We live in a diverse community without segregated neighborhoods. 

Kuhnle had to lower the standard threshold to come up with the conclusion that race plays a role with Santa Clara voters.  That’s one of the reasons the City appealed the decision.

We’re glad the City did. Santa Clara voters are not racist voters. 

But the Appeals Court sided with Kuhnle.  So the question now is will the City appeal the decision.

We hope so. We think the City Council should defend Santa Clara voters despite how they feel about the CVRA.

Another problem with Kuhnle’s decision is that he also had to create six districts to get districts small enough for Asian candidates to win. 

That means Santa Clara districts are small. Each Councilmember only represents about 20,000 people. If San Jose had the same size districts, they would have 50 council districts. Wow.

Small districts may help some people get elected. But it’s not necessarily good for Santa Clara. One active neighborhood group can have a lot of influence. They can now influence and pressure a council member on district decisions that might not be good for the City.  

One person working on affordable housing told us there will be little affordable housing built in Santa Clara because of the smaller districts. That would be bad for the Mission City.

We think there are better solutions.  We hope Mission City voters will eventually adopt ranked-choice voting with larger districts.

We also hope that third parties will abstain from spending millions to influence elections. We see how easy it is for the 49ers and Jed York to spend millions of dollars to own three Council seats.

That’s really not good for Santa Clara.


  1. Because of the systematic racism in California’s most blended city.


  2. The mayor and Santa Clara mayor must act immediately to fire City Attorney Brian Doyle for cause. Crediting the reporting, facts and evidence, the singular conclusion is that Doyle lied in a recorded public session to the Santa Clara City Council and in the process cost Santa Clara residents at least $1,000,000 more in fees and costs in the CVRA case which likely could have been avoided had Doyle told the truth.
    Regardless of anyone’s side on the CVRA matter. This issue is wholly separate.
    Doyle expressly told Council on or about December 15, 2020 that he had a duty to immediately relay to the Council any settlement offer in the matter. In fact, an attorney is subject to discipline for failure to so communicate.
    Yet, at the time Doyle so declared, he was, in fact, in possession of such a settlement offer from plaintiffs counsel.
    That’s lying to a client. It’s also a violation of California Rule of professional conduct 1.4.1 which Doyle acknowledged in public session! What Doyle did not disclose was he, in fact, was in possession of a settlement offer from Plaintiffs’ counsel, but averred he was not.
    That is a very big deal.
    San Jose Insider broke this story today. Carolyn Schuk, drilled down deeper and today published a dispositive time line with admissions on the public record by Doyle. (Robert, whatever your personal feelings for either, journalism, at the end of the day is a fraternity. A very important one. They both did a good and important job on this story).
    Let’s hope Mayor Gillmor acts decisively as she did in the Caserta matter.

    • OMG! what a rush to destroy someone. didn’t doyle save the stadium rent issue? didn’t the city get more rent money instead of the reduction the 49ers wanted? how quickly people forget. guess the 49ers are trying to get rid of doyle now. is Fleck trying out for the city attorney job. OMG! Bert Fields where are you? Yorkville lives!

    • Greatest $h** Show on Earth, thanks for the laugh..I’m here….I’m just trying to figure out what is going to be thrown at our City next.
      As far as I can see, this is exactly what the 49ers want… for the residents to be focused on other things, divided and fighting among ourselves. Anything to shake up our faith in our local government. Or to say it differently anything that takes the attention away from them.
      Remember if you can’t win the game, you can do three things.
      1. Quit
      2. Change the game
      3. Change the rules
      Well it makes no sense for the 49ers to Quit, so that leaves only the next two as good options, and exactly what they have done.
      I’m not saying they are any good at what they have done, or for that fact what they are even planning on doing.
      What they have are maybe the two most critical points when you have poor leadership.
      1. Time
      2. Money
      Both of points can cover for a lot of faults and poor planning.

      Any time the residents want to get together, count me in.
      Burt Field

    • Then lead it Burt! I don’t live in SC so I can’t.
      The instant matter is not about the 49ers, CVRA or anything else.
      Given reporting substantiated by the public record of Doyle’s comments (see, council video especially of December 8, and December 15, 2020), Doyle did not disclose to the City Council, nor any of them, nor, apparently to the City Manager, that he had been, in fact, in receipt of a settlement offer from the CVRA Plaintiffs which could have saved residents not only $1MM + of their money, but also forever being branded (after trial and appellate court decisions) the de facto Alabama of Silicon Valley.
      That is a very big deal for residents.

      Look. One can scream “But I’m not racist” in Santa Clara ’til the cows come home. Regretfully, that doesn’t change the findings of now the Sixth District’s decision published forever.

      Just like those now saying, “Well, I never supported giving a subsidy to a billionaire to build a stadium,” no doubt we now will hear, “Why on god’s green earth would anyone oppose giving Asian American residents a fair election”?
      Hindsight is too often bs.

      Do something.

    • There needs to be some very tough questions asked about this issue, if Mr. Doyle had this information and did not let anyone know that is one issue. However, a bigger issue would be who did Mr. Doyle tell about the offer, I for one cannot believe that he did not let the City Manager know. I ask now that the City Manager specially answer if Mr. Doyle told her about the offer and if so when did he do that. There can only be two answers for Mrs Santana, either Mr Doyle did tell her or he didn’t. Either way Mrs Santana owes the citizens of Santa Clara an answer.

    • You may be correct at the end of the day. Taking it to the logical next step, did Doyle tell some City Councilmembers but not others? Who knows.
      It’s damning enough as it is. Doyle lied and not only knew he was lying but did so while espousing in public session his professional obligation to communicate a written settlement offer to the Council while he had such offer but lied, according to reports / record.
      This is an easy one. If someone can produce Rubin’s written settlement offer (presumably an email or attachment thereto), with date on it, that’s ballgame.
      That’s a very, very serious matter. For residents, Doyle and State Bar.
      The Rubin settlement offer and date thereon is the smoking gun.

    • Good point about what City Manager knew. We just aren’t there yet.
      I just can’t see any City Manager sitting silent, as she did, in the public session where she heard Doyle aver there was no settlement offer, if she in fact knew Doyle was lying.
      We’ll see.

    • did Jed York set up independent expenditures to pay you to plant seeds of BS? are drinks on da’ house?

    • Byron, love the effort, really do. But anytime you look to someone who works for the Santa Clara Meekly as a pillar in your argument, you are doing yourself and your argument a serious disservice.
      I am not in a position to question Mr. Doyle and really he has earned that from not just me, but the rest of the residents of our City.
      He has shown time and time again to be exactly what our City needs and wants. I respect that, I really do. And at the same time that goes with our City Manager as well.
      Let’s just agree that Santa Clara is a great City and let us live here in peace. It’s bad enough I have to now live in Yorkville, but at least I want the residents to know they are in fact int he best of hands.
      The voters have spoken, and I have succumbed to the fact that I will now live in a City run by the 49ers. If that is what the rest of the residents want, then so be it. I’m not moving out, I am staying right here.
      But let’s stop this Witch hunt before it goes any further. It’s really a bad look, and our City is in great shape regardless how many sources the Meekly (Or whatever name they are calling themselves now) digs up.
      Hope that is clear.

      Burt Field

    • Look. It’s not about the paper. You, better than most, know how I warned Santa Clara residents about becoming a company town if they proceeded with the billionaire stadium subsidy.
      I was a leader (100% volunteer and pro-bono) in the opposition to the billionaire subsidy, as you know.
      58% of residents (didn’t know if you supported the gift to a billionaire, but certainly Lisa, Kate and Robert’s blog) did. That’s been a disaster for residents.
      On that point we now and finally, all agree.
      Residents own that. No undoing that. It’s just damage control going forward.
      The 49ers, Jed York (specifically and personally) hated me. As did the Weekly.
      All that said, the current matter is not about the 49ers nor the CVRA.
      It’s all about a City attorney. His duty to tell the truth to Council and residents.
      By the evidence in the public record, Doyle lied. Professional rules of attorney conduct REQUIRE the City attorney to tell the Council if he received a settlement offer. Not only did he not so alert Council that he had, he lied in public session when averring that no offer had been received! That’s all on video in public meeting and so, in the public record.
      Jesus! You can lose your license to practice law for this deceit! See PRC 1.4.1. You don’t lie to a client!
      This is very, very bad.
      So far as we know today, no one on the Santa Clara City Council knew that the City Attorney was, in fact, in actual possession of a written settlement offer yet he was and denied it to his client! If I’m Lisa or Kate I’m pissed that the City attorney would so deceive Council. Who wouldn’t be?
      Now, as to both the Weekly and the Insider. This was exceptional reporting by both, especially Carolyn’s time line and cross referencing that to the public record. That’s just damn good journalism.
      Finally, I do not promote myself as some kind of Oracle. Yes, my predictions on the subsidy for a billionaire, CVRA at trial and appeal and plea to settle immediately after oral argument on appeal, were correct, as subsequent facts proved.
      Maybe I’m wrong next time.
      But these were easy and apparent to all with some small modicum of experience. It’s just a matter of disregarding the noise while looking at facts and evidence.

    • Just FYI, this site did not exist when Measure J was a thing. I did report a LOT on measure J, including being one of the sole journalists to give Santa Clara Plays Fair the time of day. I wrote multiple articles (for the weekly) regarding the opposition to the stadium.

      I also wrote about the proponents of the stadium. It’s very well-known that the 49ers bought ads in the Weekly and that the majority of Weekly staff supported Measure J. Go read old columns by the Publisher … in fact, some of what I proposed publishing in those days were punted by those in power at that publication.

      I very much remember Councilmembers Kennedy and McLeod asking hard and tough questions about stadium debt, financing and management.

    • Yep you did! You’re doing fine, Robert. It’s journalism. What you signed up for. All good.:))

  3. If the prior whole-city Council had been serious about affordable housing they could easily done any of the following: 1) When the new zoning code was passed in June 2020, it might have included a new zone for extra-low cost housing – for example in the formerly “empty” industrial areas which are now slated for expensive, high density, relatively unaffordable “Placemaking.” (So-called “affordable” units in this area are only marked down from rents for the region’s median wage, and this remains well above minimum wage. Also the “affordable” units age out after some number of years. What will happen to rents then?) 2) Or they _could_ have insisted that every new development PERMANENTLY keep a percentage of lower, more affordable units, in addition to a tiny number of units for the currently unhoused. 3) Or they _could_ have zoned areas with more residents per square foot of living space. For example, the SC University area tends to have over-full bedrooms housing students. Why not codify this? 4) Or they _could_ have allowed very large garages to be made smaller by adding a bedroom (remember, they want to get rid of cars – right? so why care about 2 or 3 car garages?). But no. So I do not believe that the current 6 district Council will differ much in their approach to affordable housing over the previous Council.

  4. “Santa Clara Loses CVRA Appeal But Can Still Do Better Than Current System”

    No, we can’t.

    The CVRA was passed in 2002, the first requests for remedy in our Council elections was submitted to us in 2011, and Yumori-Kaku vs. CSC was filed days after Thanksgiving in 2017. Our council sloughed off the recommendations of a Charter Committee, and we’ve been through both the Measure A and the Measure C campaigns, much of both exceedingly misleading.

    I’m not interested in voting districts designed simply to have the same per capita voter population and the same land mass as San Jose’s. Having six districts suiting our own population is entirely appropriate.

    And, as a city resident, I actually *want* every last court decision on this matter published and on the record so that future generations will understand just how badly the City of Santa Clara – Council and counsel – mismanaged this entire affair.

    It’s taken nearly 20 years to get to where we are now.

    No more of this.


  5. I like smaller districts I’m against high density housing passed off as affordable housing.

  6. Robert, what are you talking about when you say file an appeal. We have already lost twice in court. This is over, what we should have done which you were against was cutting a deal with Rubin before the decision came out in order to save the city some money. Now, we are on the hook for the full 5 million. Yes, Santa Clara voters are not racist, but my goodness whoever thought that filing an appeal was the way to go was not looking at facts and it has cost the City millions of dollars. Also can we please stop blaming the 49ers for every poor decision, the 49ers did not tell us to file an appeal in this case. We are right to challenge them on other issues but this is not one of them

  7. Look. The City’s appeal was lame and the result is Santa Clara is forever tagged as maintaining a racist election scheme and residents smacked with $5 million in attorneys fees and costs. Yet, you now want the City to triple down with a petition to the California Supreme Court? No.
    The appeal should have been settled 10 minutes after oral argument where it was clear (to all attorneys excepting Doyle, it seems) the Sixth District was finding Santa Clara’s position problematic at best. Instead, the City dug in, blew off a possible settlement and got what it deserved “Good and Hard” as H.L. Mencken would say.
    All that’s left is to hold those responsible for this moral, legal and financial disaster accountable; and, an apology from the Mayor and Council for the City’s 70 year of excluding its Asian American residents from a meaningful vote.

    • You’re absolutely right, JBF!

      Will Jamie “get out of dodge in the middle of the night” Matthews and his 2011 conspirators have the guts to do the right thing?

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