October Council Calendars and What’s Missing

By Melissa McKenzie

October proved to be an interesting month for Santa Clara politics. While the WEEKLY broke the story about Banner Public Affairs’ dealings with Mayor Lisa Gillmor and noted the lack of meetings the agency had with Council Members on Nov. 1, it does appear—now that the October calendars have been released—one member of City Council had a meeting with Banner’s Peter Hillan in October—Vice Mayor Dominic Caserta.

Although the Oct. 9 meeting only lists that the two had a “phone call regarding public relations work for the City of Santa Clara,” Caserta is the only member of Santa Clara City Council who notes any interaction with the firm. That meeting came only a day after Caserta gave interviews with KRON and KNTV about the stadium curfew.

Caserta, who is currently in the midst of his campaign for County Supervisor, also met with Steve Eimer of The Related Companies regarding the City Place (Oct. 24) and Santana West developments (Oct. 17)—the mixed-use proposal along the congested Stevens Creek Boulevard. Santa Clara is currently suing San Jose over the project.

Other big notes from Caserta’s calendar are a meeting on Oct. 20 with David Neale of The CORE Companies regarding the 90 North Winchester Boulevard project on the old BAREC site and a meeting with former District 27 California State Assemblyman Nora Campos about the development—Campos represents ROEM corporation, one of the losing bidders on the BAREC project. Caserta additionally had two meetings with Victor Gomez regarding two completely different topics. His Oct. 3 meeting was about Proposition 64 (legalizing the use of cannabis in California), which makes sense as Gomez’s company, Pinnacle Strategy specifically lists cannabis consulting as a specialty, but his meeting on Oct. 23 was regarding garbage contracts. Although Pinnacle does list various types of lobbying, public relations and consulting services, there is no mention of contract strategy or negotiation.

A meeting on Oct. 24 with Joe Head of SummerHill Homes about the Senior Housing Project at 2232 El Camino Real (Mayuri Indian Cuisine and former Calmar Cycles location) rounds out the vice mayor’s calendar.

SummerHill showed up on the mayor’s calendar as well, with executives Elaine Breeze and Katia Kamangar and the developer’s consultant, Cynthia James, meeting with Gillmor on Oct. 11 about the project. Although the meeting was likely about 2232 El Camino Real, it is not noted which project the meeting was regarding. Gillmor, too, met with Campos and the Director of Business Development and Education of Santa Clara County International Brotherhood of Electrical Works (IBEW)/National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) Neal Struthers—Campos’ husband—about 90 North Winchester and she had one meeting with Eimer about the now-unfrozen City Place project on Oct. 17.

Council Member Teresa O’Neill had two calls with Breeze regarding the SummerHill project at the Mayuri Indian Restaurant location resolution and a meeting with Sam Kumar, owner of the restaurant. She also had two meetings regarding the 90 North Winchester site, one with The CORE Companies’ Paul Ring and Vince Cantore on Oct. 17 and a second with Campos and her brother, Xavier Campos, the senior vice president of government strategy and land use with Voler Strategic Advisors on Oct. 11.

Irvine’s Carlene Matchinoff and Irvine’s lobbyist, San José politico Jim Cunneen, showed up on O’Neill’s calendar, meeting with the Council Member on Oct. 25 regarding Irvine’s Santa Clara Square project. Finally, O’Neill had a phone call with San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo on Oct. 30 regarding Santa Clara and San Jose issues.

Four conference calls regarding Proposition 64 are the noteworthy finds on Council Member Debi Davis’ calendar. All four conference calls, Oct. 9, 11,19 and 30, were with the Campbell Mayor Liz Gibbons, Milpitas Council Member Marsha Grilli and Andi Jordan, the executive director of the Cities Association of Santa Clara County.

Three meetings regarding SummerHill’s project on El Camino Real—two with Kumar on Oct. 19 and Oct. 20—the second with Gillmor—and another with resident Rich Bonito on Oct. 23—are on Council Member Kathy Watanabe’s calendar. Watanabe also had meetings with Campos about 90 North Winchester and two meetings regarding Community Day School, 3450 Brookdale Dr., 95051—one on Oct. 10 with Great America’s Public Relations Manager Roger Ross and Santa Clara Unified School District Board of Trustees Member Mark Richardson, and a second on Oct. 19 with Richardson and Santa Clara Community School’s Principal Debora Bauer. It is unclear what those meetings were about.

Council Member Pat Mahan joined the Campos club with her own meeting about 90 North Winchester on Oct. 12. She also had a meeting with James, Kamangar and Breeze on Oct. 12 regarding the 2232 El Camino Real project.  Her remaining 13 calendar listings were public events or meetings.

Council Member Pat Kolstad’s calendar remained light, with only 11 listings throughout October, six of which were public meetings and three were listed as public events. Kolstad had no meetings with developers or regarding specific projects throughout the city.

In a huge hit to the City’s so-called transparency initiative—nearly all meetings with residents are no longer being listed as they once were on calendars. Prior to October, any resident who obtained a meeting with a member of Council would be listed by name. Beginning in October, residents are almost exclusively being listed as resident of Santa Clara unless they are part of a commission or public figure.

Since current Council took office in November of 2016, Related Companies or its lobbyist Jude Barry—who for the first time in months has not been listed on any Council Member calendar—have met with Council 25 times regarding the City Place project and SummerHill has had 18 meetings regarding the El Camino Real project.