Santa Clara approves new affordable housing complex, higher city manager pay
The Santa Clara City Council is pictured in this file photo. Photo by Janice Bitters.

    During Santa Clara Councilmember Patricia Mahan’s final City Council meeting Tuesday, lawmakers unanimously approved a new 65-unit affordable housing project, but delayed discussing development near the upcoming BART extension until the end of the week.

    Mahan last week resigned her position due to medical issues, effective Feb. 1. The longtime lawmaker attended the first half hour of the meeting, including a report about her resignation.

    While she reiterated concerns with how her resignation was announced, she also recapped her ten proudest accomplishments from her time on the council, including Mission Branch Library renovations, Levi’s Stadium deal and most recently the new district elections that led to move diversity on the council.

    She left to a standing ovation.

    Later in the meeting, lawmakers unanimously approved a proposal from Oakland-based Freebird Development Company to build 65 affordable units across 2.5 acres at the southeast corner of Monroe Street and San Tomas Expressway.

    The mix of studio, one, two and three-bedroom units inside the 73,470 square-foot building will be deed-restricted as affordable for residents who are between 25 to 120 percent of the area median income. Additionally, 25 percent of the units will be reserved for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

    The councilmembers also approved recommendations to provide outlets for electric bikes, EV charging stations, a community room and development of short-term parking for rideshare or delivery services. The building will include a fitness center, game room and laundry room, as well as 32,000 square-feet of open space where 125 trees will be planted.

    The proposed development is located at 2330 Monroe St. Photo courtesy of Google Maps.

    It would have 98 surface parking spaces, including six accessible spaces and three electric vehicle charging spaces, and a paratransit loading stall.

    The project will be funded by $13 million from tax credit equity, $11.2 million in tax exempt bonds, $5 million from the city and $3 million from Santa Clara County. Constriction could start as early as the end of the year.

    Freebird Development is working with nonprofit Housing Choices Coalition, whose Executive Director Jan Stokely said Tuesday the need for such housing projects is critical as more than 700 Santa Clarans have developmental disabilities.

    “It has given me tremendous independence,” said Santa Clara resident Darcy McCann, who lives in another complex for people with disabilities. “Other people with disabilities can do the same thing with the right support.”

    City manager salary

    Elected leaders on Tuesday voted 5-1 to increase City Manager Deanna Santana’s annual salary by 11 percent.

    Santana’s new base salary will be $448,491 —  up $45,000 from her previous salary — but her $3,750 monthly housing allowance, which amounted to $45,000 a year, was eliminated. Mayor Lisa Gillmor said the move doesn’t give Santana a raise, but instead allows for more money to be contributed to her pension, which the housing allowance didn’t do.

    Councilmember Raj Chahal opposed the salary adjustment because he felt it was fiscally irresponsible and Santana is already overpaid. He said city managers in nearby cities don’t get paid anywhere near $448,000.

    “I don’t think it’s prudent to spend this kind of money, and our compensation is way more than any other city,” Chahal said, adding that residents he talked to were also shocked by the number. “This salary does not pass my due diligence test.”

    But Councilmember Kathy Watanabe said Santana is managing three companies – the city, Silicon Valley Power and Levi Stadium – and that explains the higher pay.  “What it came down to for me is the amount of time she puts into her job,” Watanabe said. “She gives so much, and anything that comes up out of the blue, she’s very responsive. As far as I can see, we’re getting a good deal.”

    Santana, who has previously worked for a handful of Bay Area cities including Sunnyvale and Oakland, initially signed a contract for $372,886 when hired in August 2017. That agreement included the monthly housing allowance and a $550 monthly car allowance.

    In comparison, San Jose’s city manager, Dave Sykes, had a base salary of $326,085 in 2018.

    VTA’s BART Silicon Valley Phase II extension

    Santa Clara lawmakers on Tuesday deferred a discussion about VTA’s recommendations for Phase II of the multi-billion dollar expansion into Santa Clara and San Jose, a development first studied in 1984.

    VTA planning and programming manager Jill Gibson said the goal is to gather feedback from the council on development plans before VTA finalizes its Transit Oriented Communities (TOC) Strategy Study, which outlines improvements in transit access and community prosperity around the station.

    However, the City Council unanimously decided to push the discussion to Thursday and Friday’s goal setting meetings. Councilmember Debi Davis said the move provides more context and allows the opportunity to be involved in a more robust discussion.

    Included within its Santa Clara BART Station Area Playbook, city officials will look at proposed plans to maximize space around stations. VTA’s goal for the neighborhood is to build a dense, urban center with easy access of transit for work, home and entertainment.

    According to the playbook, the future Santa Clara station corridor’s surrounding area has the potential for 12.7 million square-feet of development, while rezoning to allow high-density office and residential development is encouraged within a quarter-mile of the station.

    Affordable housing is also on the list of recommendations. The Santa Clara station area can accommodate 8,626 new housing units, 1,294 of which could be affordable units, the report said.

    The city is a few steps behind its largest neighbor. On Dec. 10, the San Jose City Council unanimously accepted and endorsed the report’s approach for the new stations planned in the nation’s 10th largest city.

    In addition to advocating for ground-level retail and office spaces, the plan for the downtown San Jose BART station calls for 16,000 new homes, including 3,200 that will be affordable. The area surrounding the 28th Street/Little Portugal station could support around 7,800 new homes, with nearly 2,000 affordable units.

    Contact Katie Lauer at [email protected] or follow @_katielauer on Twitter.

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