Friday, October 3, 2014

Should Around Santa Clara Blog Return?

Should we bring back this blog? Let me know - post here, post at and let me know. 

Monday, February 3, 2014

Goodbye and Good Luck

With Facebook now the go-to place for "what's happening now," and the City Desk column in the Santa Clara Weekly, Around Santa Clara has served its purpose. From now on, join the conversation at

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

DGS Needs to Stop Acting Like It's Running a REIT

I went to elementary school in the 1950s, when fears of "creeping communism" colored everything. Yet, despite worries about communists insinuating Marxist ideas in My Weekly Readit was an uncontroversial proposition that communities should spend money to do and build things that were in the public interest. And part of that public interest was schools. If you look at city plans from the post-WWII era, you'll see land designated for things like schools, parks, libraries and even churches.

Yeah, I know: Land was worth less and there was more of it available. But the very point of such planning was that the future was unknown. Planning and zoning were ways communities could ensure that long term hopes and needs didn't fall victim to short-term problems and short-sighted officials.

Today this has become a radical idea, where public programs are castigated as "creeping socialism" and cities are always on the lookout for handouts from private developers to fund public infrastructure.

So perhaps its no surprise that many of the very people that we -- voters -- hire to do the detail work of planning and managing our physical and social civic infrastructure, act like their responsibility begins and ends not with public welfare, but with delivering the biggest cash returns. This is the job of a hedge fund manager, but not, I think, of a public official.

The Northside library debacle is one example, where Santa Clara County officials are, in effect, holding the library hostage for a $19 million ransom.

But an even richer example is the Agnews East property, the perfect site for schools to serve Silicon Valley's fast-growing Golden Triangle. In this case, the state Department of General Services seems hell-bent on taking advantage of the recent real estate boomlet to milk those 81 acres for every penny it can get, and the devil (in this case school children) take the hindmost. (Perhaps the state figures some private school operator will come in to pick up the slack.)

However, the Agnews land question has brought together Santa Clara and San Jose residents and officials to support new schools on that land. And today Invest in Santa Clara Schools launched an online petition drive to make sure that state officials know that voters don't think that public land should be managed like a real estate investment trust.

Remember BAREC? Whether or not you agree that with the final development agreement on the land, the deal was made, as the Metro reported at the time, by then Governor Gray Davis and the UC Board of Regents without public discussion. It was a backroom deal that State Senator John Vasconcellos castigated in a 2000 letter.

"As you may recall," he wrote to Davis in 2000 concerning the UC's decision to revert the agriculatural research station property to the State, "this decision was made singularly between your administration and the University of California, and slipped into the budget without any advance notification to either the public or us. This is an abominable process. We hope that you, your administration and the UC, will pledge never again to undertake such a surreptitious action."

Remember Gray Davis? There's a guy who learned about blowback the hard way. 

Monday, October 7, 2013

Wednesday Santa Clara Study Session on Citizen Participation in Sports Complex Visioning

At a recent Santa Clara City Council meeting, City Manager Julio Fuentes spoke about the need  connecting citizens to the city's long-term planning at an early stage. It's a challenge as many know. The minute that city officials say "maybe we should" or "what if," the rumor mill goes into overdrive and by day's end slogan-bearing tee shirts are being printed. 

However, in the hope that more early discussion will help build public trust, this Wednesday at 4:30 the City Council's goal-setting sub-committee is holding a study session about the ways residents can participate in the research and  recommendations for a new Santa Clara sports park complex. Find the agenda here. The meeting is at the Council conference room, adjacent to the Council Chamber. 

The discussion was triggered by the brouhaha created when the Council began talking, at a September study session, about moving the 10 year-old Santa Clara Youth Soccer Park from its present location side-by-side with Santa Clara's new Levi's Stadium. The Council has said that no decisions have been made. You an watch the Council meeting here and selecting agenda item 5.c. 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Judge Rules: Dissolution Law Did Not Invalidate The Stadium Agreements

"Before redevelopment agencies were dissolved, the Forty Niners contracted with the City of Santa Clara's Stadium Authority and redevelopment agency to finance construction of a new stadium to be owned by the City and used by the Forty Niners. Do those contracts survive dissolution of the redevelopment agencies? The court concludes they do."

Read Judge Alan Sumner's ruling at and search for case # 34-2012-80001192. 

Saturday, March 16, 2013

First Look at Santa Clara's Super Bowl Bid

Tuesday night Santa Clarans get their first look at what cities are expected to ante up for a Super Bowl bid. The City Council called a special meeting for Tuesday night to adopt a series of resolutions about government services – especially public safety – and tax and fee exemptions for the NFL during a Super Bowl.

Basically, the City of Santa Clara will the provide government services – including public safety, fire, emergency medical services to support the Super Bowl and related events held in Santa Clara at no cost to the NFL or to the teams playing in the Super Bowl. Instead, the San Francisco Super Bowl committee will reimburse Santa Clara for these costs – paying the city for pre-event services within 60 days of invoicing, and 50 percent of the anticipated Super Bowl event costs 30 days before the game.

Other accommodations concern city taxes and fees. One is that employees of the NFL and their affiliates will be exempt from Santa Clara hotel taxes and parking permit fees -- the estimate is this applies to around 350 people. The other is that Super Bowl tickets will be exempt from the Santa Clara's $0.35 per ticket surcharge. This is capped at $250,000 and the city estimates that most of that will be collected from regular season games.

The Council is working from estimates that a Super Bowl carries with it an economic boost for a region of $300 million. This is likely based on a Williams College study of Super Bowl economic impacts from 1970 to 2001, which posited the $300 million as the best case. The study also cautioned against confusing gross returns with net returns. 

The New Orleans Super Bowl Host Committee reported $434 million in total overall economic activity tied to the 2013 Super Bowl, according to a report in New Orleans Times Picayune. The question is, of course: How much of that activity will be in the City of Santa Clara -- or even in Santa Clara County? San Francisco clearly anticipates that it's going to get a big boost. 

All this being said, a Super Bowl would be a tremendous boost for Santa Clara both in terms of civic prestige and city visibility. These are intangibles whose effects cannot be measured in the short term, yet pay dividends for the city decade after decade in many ways. 

Here's a link to read the agenda report and the text of the resolutions.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Safe Routes to School for The Other Santa Clara School District (TOSCSD)

What's it like being part of The Other Santa Clara school districts (TOSCSD) -- i.e. Campbell and Cupertino? Well, here's an example. VTA, Santa Clara Unified School District and the City are sponsoring a "Safe Routes to School" poster contest.

For SCUSD students. I'm sure that no one meant to exclude anyone. And if you brought it up, I'm sure that someone would try to include TOSCSD. It's that it looks like nobody designing this program even thought about TOSCSD.

Children from the West Pruneridge neighborhood have to negotiate very unsafe routes to school. How many SCUSD children have to cross San Tomas Expressway, Stevens Creek Blvd, the Saratoga Ave. I-280 interchange, and I-880 all on every to school?

It's not SCUSD's fault that TOSCD isn't included. On a macro level, it's the state of California's fault for shirking the politically unpopular job of rationalizing school district boundaries.

County Board of Education Trustee Leon Beauchman is taking on this project for the county in the coming year and some of the boundaries that's going to be looked are Campbell's. (One of my readers called it "Campbell's Peculiar Institution." If you think about it, Campbell is certainly peculiar: Four-fifths of it is in other cities that have their own school districts.)

But, let's face it, we're not going to see district boundaries change in the short term.

So how about a City Council goal of pro-actively including all Santa Clara's students in city activities and programs. How? Well, how about a mailer for starters? After all, the city knows the addresses that are in those districts

What do you think?

Here's the info on the poster contest: