Saturday, October 30, 2010

Questions for Candidates

Early on in the election season, I posted a series of questions to each new candidate hoping to submit a story to the paper. That never happened, in part because of the sloooooow response of some candidates (I'll considering revealing that for a large enough contribution to my favorite charity). I didn't email people currently on the Council or who had served on the Council in the past, since their voting record shows how they felt, whether or not they had reservations at the time.

Here's the questions and my preface to them in the email I sent:

I'm emailing the following list of questions to the candidates who filed papers for this November's City Council elections. It's my hopes to use these answers in a future article in the Santa Clara Weekly about how the different candidates view issues that have affected Santa Clara in the past.

I'm doing this to hopefully provide a more level playing field so the voters can compare the candidates on an issue-by-issue basis.

If you have any questions about this, please feel free to ask.

1. Where did you stand on the proposed stadium for the San Francisco 49ers? Please state why you did or did not support the stadium.

2. What is your opinion of the Fairfield Residential Development? If you had been on the City Council when it first came to Council, would you have voted in favor of the development or against it? Please state your reason(s) for or not supporting it.
3. What is your opinion on the BAREC property? Please state your reason(s) for or not supporting developing the property.

4. What do you think should be done with the Santa Clara Square project?

5. What do you think is the biggest area for improvement in the local government in Santa Clara? What do you think is the best? Why?


And now the answers (these are just copied directly from the emails - no editing has been done):

Mohammed Nadem

1 (The Stadium).
I stand for ‘Yes on J’. I think the City of Santa Clara is uniquely positioned for the Stadium. Santa Claran’s will enjoy uncommon abundance and economic prosperity for a long time to come. The Stadium will enhance City identity.

I support the proposed stadium for the San Francisco 49ers because of the following reasons: No new or increased taxes on city residents; No money from the city’s general fund will be used for the stadium project; 49ers are legally and financially responsible for all cost overruns; long term jobs; Expected millions of dollars in economic benefits; Guaranteed new revenue to our Santa Clara schools and public safety services---Fire and Police, etc.

(Nadeem endorsed Measure J with this statement): "The City of Santa Clara is uniquely positioned for a Stadium. Santa Clarans will enjoy uncommon abundance and prosperity for a long time to come.”

2 (Fairfield)
The Developer of the Gallery on Central Park Project on the former Kaiser Hospital site, Fairfield Residential which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization, recently announced that it received investment commitments from the CalSTRS. The new money will help fund operations and real estate acquisitions following Fairfield’s exit from Chapter 11. I think the time has come for the City Council to re-open the issue this year, and explore all options to move forward.

If I had been on the City Council when it first came to Council, I would have voted in favor of the development with a reasonable accommodation of the concerns of the residents and neighbors. I would have the Developer work hard with the City Council in resolving the density, open space, traffic, noise and FAR issues amicably. Given that the City's general plan already specifies higher density development for this parcel, I would find a common ground and resolve the residents and neighbors concerns as we add approximately additional two percent of the City of Santa Clara. We must particularly address required services and public safety issues with an end goal to develop the property by bringing existing land uses into conformance with the proposed City’s General Plan.

3 (BAREC)
I think The 17 acre Bay Area Research and Extension Center (BAREC) property is a treasure to celebrate our past and look for future. I support developing the property.

Having said that I would like to see State performs due diligence as required for remediation of the property in accordance with the RAW and DTSC pending initiation of site development. In particular, soil remediation of hot spots of contamination---with Arsenic, Dieldrin and or any other toxic chemicals whether they are in the middle (and or on the outskirts!) of the property--- as clearly identified and addressed in the EIR are safely and professionally handled.

Furthermore, I think all the stakeholders including Santa Clara Gardens, Charities Housing, Santa Clara Methodist Foundation, and Summerhill Homes (if still part of the development) must make sure---contaminated soil is removed, and the excavated soil is replaced properly. In addition, all dust control measures such as water spray, local air monitoring, and soil sampling after cleanup is completed accordingly.

In addition, attention to detail is warranted as health and safety plan complies with the State and Federal regulations and the City staff is kept duly informed. Finally all the stakeholders must protect the health and safety of onsite workers, residents, neighbors, and the general public---as Public Park, New Apartments for low income and very low-income seniors, Single-Family Homes are successfully built on the property in near future as part of our Land Use Strategy in accordance with the City’s 2010-2035 General Plan.

4 (Santa Clara Square)
What I think we should do---is to find a financially sound and environmentally friendly developer who can not only work with the City Council but also listen to residents and neighbors concerns and address and resolve the issues raised. For all developing Cities---traffic, noise, open space, and essential services---Schools, Police, Fire, etc are growing challenges.

As residents of Santa Clara a ‘Software Valley’ (no more Silicon Valley) we believe in innovation, creation, and abundance. If there is a will, there is a way and SC Square project is no exception. I think together, we must find a solution and develop the property as part of our Land Use Strategy in accordance with the City’s 2010-2035 General Plan.

5 (Area for Improvement)
I think the biggest area for improvement is to manage the ‘growth, change and sustainability’ of the City of Santa Clara. We must create and preserve healthy neighborhoods and ensure a diverse range of employment, housing, public space and investment opportunities with democratic accountability. Our current and new City projects must contribute to the overall fiscal development of the City areas to further enhance the City’s high quality of life and better public health & safety services.

***********************************************************

Chris Stampolis

1 (Stadium)
I endorsed and I voted for Measure J. However, I am very concerned that this project be seen as a City stadium that has just one of its uses for professional football. The community's investment of money and neighborhood impacts need to be managed for maximum City return. We have to be honest about resources and impacts; and we have to be creative to steer a range of uses to the stadium that strengthen our economy. And, we absolutely have to build trust with all our residents so they understand and trust the numbers. Transparency is key so our community has confidence in our leaders.

2 (Fairfield)
I am unlikely to have voted to approve the Fairfield development "as is," given the impact on the surrounding community. I believe in maximizing green space, even if this means building taller. Given our very high renter population, we need to create ownership opportunities for young families, so those growing up in Santa Clara have reasonable opportunities to stay in Santa Clara as adults. Develop? Yes. But we need to embrace smart growth that respects existing communities while still providing growth and green space for the future. Multi-story condo living is not perfect, but it provides a reasonable compromise as Santa Clara urbanizes.

3 (BAREC)
I served on the Planning Commission when BAREC development first was proposed and I advocated strongly to resist large footprint development. The City had all the power to decide the future of this property and I believe we could have been more assertive in retaining more green space. I believe the State was short-sighted to seek sale of the property to private development, though the senior housing component brings value. I was most concerned about the clumsy way public trust was approached - including private meetings that were held with some Councilmembers to build consensus outside of public view.

4 (Santa Clara Square)
We still need multi-story mixed use projects. The Santa Clara Square site still should be developed in a reasonable way that enhances multistory ownership housing opportunities and provides quality retail options that increases the City's tax base and El Camino Real's attractiveness. This is the time to encourage neighbors to discuss future options. I favor respectful transit-oriented development that incorporates creative recreational and other green space.

5 (Area for Improvement)
Four items:

1) Academic partnerships that recognize today's young Santa Clarans need outstanding math, science and language training to thrive in the new economy. From the first bell to the last bell is the responsibility of the school district, but from the last bell to the next first bell is the responsibility of the City. As Mayor I will champion homework centers and enhanced mentoring and tutoring efforts so our City's children have great opportunities to succeed. And, the Mayor must be aware of each school's performance so the City can respond to unique neighborhood challenges.

2) Enhanced international relationships that respond to the current demographics of Santa Clara. We have not had any new sister cities in decades and it is time to formalize relationships with communities in China, India, Korea, Mexico and the Philippines. These efforts will show respect and also spur the types of private investment in Santa Clara necessary to create jobs.

3) The El Camino Real corridor needs serious leadership to upgrade its look to the modern standards Santa Clarans demand. In partnership with landowners, business owners and neighboring residents, we must invigorate retail and create new multistory housing ownership opportunities so young families have the chance to build equity.

4) We must prioritize transparency and trust-building after the passionate stadium campaign. City leadership must make difficult budget and staffing decisions in coming months. As we consider furloughs, cutbacks and project deferrals, we must be fully committed to sharing these processes with all Santa Clara constituents. The decisions are not easy, but we can strengthen a culture of mutual respect and disclosure.


Teresa O'Neill

1 (Stadium)
I feel the 49er stadium project has a lot of merit from the land use perspective and the design is very attractive. But I still have concerns about aspects of the financial model. I voted for the stadium recognizing the positive aspects of the project and believing that the areas of the term sheet that I feel are not sufficiently defined to achieve the financial objectives of the City of Santa Clara can be improved in the final contract. The stadium can be part of an exciting center of Santa Clara, but there is much work to do to develop correctly the entire district, as one of the City's own consultants pointed out.

2 (Fairfield)
As a member of the Planning Commission, I voted against the Fairfield project (at 900 Kiely). While I am not opposed to having denser housing developments in principle, I didn't like many aspects of this project as proposed. While I liked the idea of residents in the apartment buildings being able to park their car at the level where there apartment is because of the interior garage design, I didn't like the unattractive fa├žade of the building being built right up to the sidewalk on Kiely. To me, that was far from the "attractive urban streetscape" Fairfield was describing. I didn't like that Fairfield was proposing to pay additional fees to the City to avoid having to put aside an appropriate amount of the land for real open space. Additional fees won't help alleviate crowding in the existing park space across the street. I didn't like how every little piece of patio or parking strip was counted towards the open space calculation. There were a number of issues with the project, including the sequence in which Fairfield was proposing to build the different housing types, traffic navigation through the development and surrounding neighborhoods, the "paseo" along the southern edge of the property, and what I called "the bridge to nowhere." I would rather have seen some taller buildings clustered at the center of the property, offering condo flats (which are much more practical than townhomes on 3 levels as we get older), surrounded by open space, trees, and gardens.

3 (BAREC)
Having memories of BAREC as an active agriculture research station, I had hopes that some or all of BAREC could be preserved in tribute to our agricultural heritage and as a foothold for urban agriculture in Silicon Valley as one way to improve our lives. While I recognize the need for additional housing in Santa Clara, I believed the BAREC property was unique because of its history and that it had never been developed other than for agriculture. It's not clear to me that the State of California made a real effort, once Santa Clara said it couldn't afford to buy the entire property, to find one or more other public agencies to buy the BAREC acreage for a purpose other than housing. The area surrounding BAREC could really use more open space. I believe Supervisor District 4 is the only district in the County without a County park. Looking just at the merits of the development project as presented to the Planning Commission, I believed that the traffic and safety issues were not dealt with adequately, particularly considering that the City's parcel of land is to be used for a senior housing development. I also had concerns for how the clean-up activities on the soil would be conducted. I realize that it was going to be very difficult to have the entire 17 acres preserved in some form of open space, but I had hopes that a compromise could be found to better meet the needs of the entire community.

4 (Santa Clara Square)
From what I have read, it looks like the SC Square project will probably be on hold until this area comes out of the real estate slump. I think Santa Clara Square can be a nice mixed-use development that can be an asset. The parcel of land is sufficiently deep to allow for more density near the center of the parcel and then step down in height and density as the boundaries with the surrounding neighborhood are reached

5 (Area for Improvement)
I think the Santa Clara city government can improve in how it engages the residents to be involved in our community, in part by making sure that residents have more complete access to information and how the City is making decisions. The residents need to have more confidence that their voices are wanted to be heard and will be listened to.

The City has done an excellent job up to the point of these economic hard times at providing very high quality and diverse services to the residents--public safety, parks and recreation, library, and utilities. We need to assure our financial stability to protect those services which are so valuable to residents and our business community.

************************************

Followup
Some of Stampolis' statements read like platitudes to me so I emailed him follow up questions. However, those answers also read like platitudes as well.

Plus, Stampolis emailed both Carolyn and myself asking for an online retraction to an article Carolyn wrote - http://www.santaclaraweekly.com/1633.html because she stated he did not respond to the questions she asked. In Stamplolis' email, he stated he responded to two rounds of questions when my second round of questions was a follow up in hopes he wouldn't sound like a pandering politician.

However, Carolyn and I weren't working together on any articles and my questions didn't involve the budget in the least, while Carolyn's article did. So I took it as a bit odd that he would email both of us asking for an online retraction even though he never answered Carolyn's questions.

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