Santa Clara City Council votes on Tasman East plan, grand jury response

Santa Clara elected officials returned from a monthlong legislative break Tuesday to discuss traffic safety, brainstorm a response to a scathing transportation audit and rework part of a plan that will guide future development in an area slated for major growth.

Response to Civil Grand Jury’s VTA Report

City leaders are required to respond to a Santa Clara County Civil Grand Jury report released earlier this year that heavily criticized the governance of the VTA Board, which Santa Clara leaders did Tuesday night.

One of the major findings included concern that San Jose leaders dominate on the board in terms of representation and that the board suffers from a lack of continuity and time commitments, among other issues. The Civil Grand Jury asked Santa Clara and other cities to respond to its recommendations related to those specific findings, and Santa Clara did — by saying they need more time and analysis.

“We did agree with the findings,” Councilmember Debi Davis said of the report during the meeting. “We wanted the full council to really hear that because we don’t know if these recommendations will cure the problem.”

Meanwhile, the VTA has also created its own ad-hoc committee to address some of the issues brought up in the Civil Grand Jury report. Councilmember Teresa O’Neill, who is also the chair of the VTA Board this year, said that VTA is interested in doing additional study, including by looking at how other cities or transit boards are governed.

The city will now put together an ad-hoc committee that can study the findings and recommendations as well as other options for fixing some of the issues brought up in the Civil Grand Jury report.

Traffic Enforcement grant

City officials also accepted a $70,000 traffic enforcement grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety to help the Santa Clara Police Department stem the number of people killed or injured in automotive collisions.

“The growing dangers of distracting technologies and the emergence of drug-impaired driving may contribute to collisions involving young adults,” the grant agreement states.

The police department will use the grant to create educational materials around safety issues, including driving with a cell phone in-hand.

“It’s not just about citations but there’s also a heavy amount of education involved,” Captain Wahid Kazem, who serves as the spokesperson for the department told this news organization. “We will work a specific area where we do education for a couple of days and then we will go back to that area and do some enforcement in that area.”

Officers are also expected to use the funds to set up checkpoints to identify people driving while drunk, on drugs or without a license, keeping a “HOT Sheet” of repeat offenders. The police department would also increase enforcement around areas where collisions with pedestrians and cyclists happen often.

“Office of Traffic Safety grant funding would provide our agency with the resources to combat the alcohol related issues facing our community, particularly among young adults,” according to city documents.

Tasman East gets another look

Santa Clara lawmakers voted unanimously to amend the current Tasman East Specific Plan, which was approved last November to guide high-density development in a 45-acre neighborhood bounded by Tasman Drive, the Guadalupe River, the Santa Clara golf course and Lafayette Street.

The city is already vetting multiple development projects for the area, which is what prompted the city to re-open the specific plan nearly nine months after approving it.

“Developers working within the Tasman East Specific Plan area requested that the City consider the alternative design approach and provided the City with a proposed design for a pedestrian paseo that staff evaluated and decided to recommend for approval to the City Council,” Manuel Pineda, assistant city manager said in a statement to San José Spotlight.

A rendering by Groundswell Design Group shows how the extended Calle Del Sol extension plaza could look. Image credit: city of Santa Clara public documents

City officials on Tuesday agreed to reopen the conversation around Tasman East and pay an additional $45,550 to include a new pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly plaza dotted with seating areas that run between Calle Del Mundo and Calle Del Luna in the plan.

Consultants Perkins + Will will lead the charge to map out the design of the plaza, study the environmental and traffic impacts and consider options to pay for the new thoroughfare in perpetuity, which may include creating new improvement districts funded by businesses, residents and/or homeowners.

The full cost for the precise plan consulting services, including work already completed, will ring at more than $1.18 million, according to city documents.

Contact Janice Bitters at janice@sanjosespotlight.com or follow @JaniceBitters on Twitter.

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