Santa Clara council OKs renter protections, small business relief program
The Santa Clara City Council on Tuesday will vote on whether to increase grants to businesses affected by COVID-19. Photo by Katie Lauer.

The Santa Clara City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved an urgency ordinance that immediately halts evictions through May 8 as the financial fallout from the coronavirus continues to wallop the nation.

City lawmakers, who ratified a local emergency last week, also approved a 90-day ordinance that will kick in 45 days from now and provide renter protections for the next 135 days. The moratorium is an effort to protect tenants from becoming homeless if they have lost their jobs or had reduced hours due to COVID-19.

Both ordinances passed unanimously with Mayor Lisa Gillmor abstaining following advice from City Attorney Brian Doyle because she owns residential units within city limits.

The city action comes after Gov. Gavin Newsom issued an order last week giving local governments the ability to suspend evictions for those experiencing financial hardship due to the coronavirus. The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors passed its own countywide moratorium earlier Tuesday, following a similar move in San Jose.

Doyle emphasized that the city’s ordinance does not relieve the need to pay rent, is not a rent forgiveness program and does not include commercial rental properties.

“This is clearly compassion,” Councilmember Debi Davis said. “I think this will give our residents some reassurance. I hope people understand that these are unprecedented times, and we’re trying to level the playing field and help people.”

Small business relief program

The council also gave City Manager Deanna Santana the green light to develop an assistance program for small businesses.

While no specific plans have been made, Assistant City Manager Ruth Shikada said staff is looking to relief programs in other California cities, including Sacramento’s commitment of up to $1 million in one-time funds for zero-interest loans.

The relief program is tentatively scheduled to come back to the council on April 7.

Shikada said some businesses prefer grants over loans, but the city will explore all options. Hardy and Chahal both suggested reaching out to the Silicon Valley Central Chamber of Commerce for coordination and collaboration.

The small business relief program is expected to provide relief for many local businesses, especially restaurants that are still providing to-go orders and deliveries, whose owners are concerned about weathering the financial storm.

The city will move $250,000 from the general fund into the Santana’s office budget to make the program a reality.

If approved, Santa Clara’s policy would join other local initiatives, including Silicon Valley Strong and the Silicon Valley Community Foundation’s Small Business Relief Fund, that aim to help small businesses facing economic losses.

In the meantime, state and federal resources can be found here.

Related Santa Clara

Also Tuesday, the council approved the first phase of construction on the much-anticipated Related Santa Clara project on a 5-1 vote, with Councilmember Raj Chahal casting the dissenting vote.

The mixed-use development boasts a 9.2 million-square-foot plan, located at 5155 Stars and Stripes Drive near Levi’s Stadium and Great America Park.

While the entire 240-acre project was approved by the City Council in 2016, each phase of construction has to be approved due to its size and scale, which will ultimately encompass 5.7 million square feet of office space, 700 hotel rooms and 1,680 residential units.

There will also be 500,000 square feet of retail space, 200,000 square feet of food and beverage businesses and 100,000 square feet for entertainment purposes. Additionally, recent plans call for a 35-acre public park and a global food market.

Steve Eimer, Related Companies’ executive vice president, said Tuesday that he’s in the market for tenants, but the “calamity we’re all facing” has put a hold on plans in the food and beverage world.

Construction of the first phase would start on three building blocks between Stars and Stripes and Tasman drives. That construction was initially scheduled for May, but Eimer said that will be delayed for at least a few months. Completion was originally slated for 2023.

Andrew Crabtree, the city’s community development director, briefed the council on details of the first phase, including 200 residential apartments that will be luxury units offering stays longer than 30 days. He said the developer has agreed to set aside 10 percent of the project’s units as affordable, but those units are much further down the timeline.

Crabtree also laid out the plan’s proposed 36 percent reduction of “vehicle miles traveled,” and a 15 percent reduction in the original number of parking stalls, both due to its location near transit and mixed-use plan.

Those changes were an issue for Chahal, who was concerned the city wouldn’t get any benefit out of plans different from the original development agreement. “We have accepted every ask of the developer, but I don’t think our asks are being taken care of,” Chahal said.

But Gillmor dismissed those concerns Tuesday, instead opting for one-on-one discussions if councilmembers had continued apprehensions.

“During these difficult times, I think it’s important to remind ourselves … that Related Santa Clara represents a major and optimistic part of our city’s future,” Gillmor said, adding that the city-owned site will receive lease revenue for at least the next 99 years. “There are few companies that can withstand a crisis like we’re seeing now, and I think they’re one of them. We are very fortunate that Santa Clara selected them … and we need to advance this project.”

Contact Katie Lauer at katie@sanjosespotlight.com or follow @_katielauer on Twitter.

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