City Clerk to be Elected in November, Two New Housing Developments Move Forward

By David Alexander

Santa Clara’s City Clerk’s position will remain vacant until the November election.

The City Council chose inaction Tuesday night, essentially saying it prefers to put the decision of who will be the next City Clerk in the hands of voters in the general election. The decision became necessary after Rod Diridon Jr.—who was only a year into his four-year term—suddenly resigned in February. The Council had a month from his resignation to decide what to do about Diridon’s post.

Having already appointed Jennifer Yamaguma, who also handles public relations for the City, to perform the Clerk’s duties until a replacement is named, the Council had several options. It could appoint someone for the duration of the term; alternatively, it could propose a ballot initiative to amend the City’s charter to allow the Council or the City Manager, Deanna Santana, to appoint the Clerk.

Although Santa Clara is holding a special election in June to settle the question of whether to hold local elections by district and whether to use ranked choice voting in that process, Diridon’s resignation falls at a time when—because of specifications in the charter about filling vacancies—it is not possible to hold an election for City Clerk in June.

Council Member Teresa O’Neill mentioned how in Morgan Hill, that also elects its City Clerk, the duties are spread out among several city employees with the Clerk simply handling the election duties.

For that, the Clerk is paid $200 a month. Taxpayers paid Diridon $192,288 in 2016.

“The City Clerk job has changed a lot since the 50s,” said Mayor Lisa Gillmor.

City Attorney Brian Doyle said it is possible for the Council to delegate some of the duties performed by the City Clerk to other city employees, just as it has done in Yamaguma’s case, effectively narrowing the scope of the City Clerk’s role.

The motion to allow Yamaguma to continue performing the Clerk’s duties until the general election in November saw unanimous support.


Ranked Choice Voting Measure

Following the discussion about the Clerk’s position, the Council considered the language for the ballot measure that will allow Santa Clarans to decide whether to divide the City into two districts and put a ranked choice system in place.

Council Member Dominic Caserta said the first draft of the ballot measure was “way, way too confusing. It is not going to pass.”

“We need to make this as clean and concise as possible,” he said.

Yamaguma said the ballot measure is contingent on whether the registrar of voters can put ranked choice voting in place in Santa Clara.

Doyle said the earliest ranked choice voting would be available is the 2020 general election.

However, if passed in June, the two-district system would be in place for the November general election.

After some tinkering, the Council approved the following wording for the proposal: “Shall the city charter be amended: to establish two districts starting 2018 to be represented by three council members each; and, when available, use ranked choice voting to allow voters to select candidates in order of choice to determine the winners of elections of all city elected officers?”

The Council opted to have Mayor Gillmor and Council Members O’Neill and Caserta draft the letter in support of the initiative. That statement must be completed by March 13. The lines for the district will be drawn by May 8.

“It took a village to put this one together,” Gillmor said.


Eichler Home Quarrel

Neighbors of a proposed project to be located at 1075 Pomeroy Ave. claim the development is not in keeping with what they believe is a historic aesthetic of the neighborhood.

Daryoush Marhamat, applicant and owner of Ground Zero Construction, based in San Jose, requested a zoning change for the four single-family detached houses to be located near two developments of townhomes designed by Joseph Eichler, a mid-century architect whose modern tract homes have essentially become Americana.

Although the townhomes meet the general plan guidelines, several neighbors turned out to voice disdain for the development.

Andrew Crabtree, Director of Community Development, said the planned development designation simply allows for “nonconforming setbacks,” offering the developer “more flexibility.”

Roy Shenfield, a neighbor of the proposed project, said the area the only example of Eichler multi-family homes in Santa Clara. There is nothing wrong with the proposed development, he said; it simply doesn’t belong in the same neighborhood as Eichlers. He compared the situation to putting Thomas Kinkade painting in an Ansel Adams exhibit.

“It’s too much of a throwback to historic craftsman style,” said Ken Kratz, another neighbor of the development. “It is very nice. It just doesn’t belong there.”

Kratz came before the Council last year with a petition with a 178 signatures asking the Council to deny the developer’s rezoning request and associated proposed development or, barring that, at least seek input from the Historic Landmarks Commission before greelighting the project. The Council did just that, and the developer has altered the project, lowering the height of the buildings.

But the neighbors still are not satisfied. They say the proposal is still too far off from a design that would maintain the historic feel of the neighborhood.

“We have to stop having everything be an exception,” said Council mainstay Deborah Bress. “Why can’t we just follow the rules?”

Bress said the Council has empowered commissions to make decisions only to “make fools” out of them and “contradict” them by not taking their recommendations.

“It is kind of like you are flipping them the bird,” she said.

Kratz asked the Council to hold off making a decision until he hears back about a historic designation from the federal government.

However, Crabtree said any historic designation would not be hampered by the adjacent development since the two are distinct. He said the application would take a minimum of 4 months before the applicant would hear back.

“This is a vast improvement over what we first saw when it first came to us,” said Council Member Pat Kolstad. “I am not sure that in our lifetime we would get a response from the federal government.”

In the end, the Council unanimously approved referring the issue back to the Architectural Review Committee for further analysis. The item will return to the City Council before any action is taken.


Gatekeeper Project

The Council also opted not to quash another development at 4249 Cheeny St. The project required a general plan amendment to zone the half acre parcel from very low density to low density to allow for five townhomes in the Agnew Village neighborhood.

Bringing the project before the Council is in line with the City’s new gatekeeper policy, which passed last year, requiring developments seeking a general plan amendment to come before the Council to determine whether that development warrants further consideration.

While O’Neill said she was “supportive of new housing,” she and others raised concerns over parking.

Meanwhile, Kolstad “complimented the applicant for a great project.”

The Council voted unanimously to allow the project to proceed.


City Salaries

In an item pulled from the consent calendar, Elizabeth Brown, Director of Human Resources, informed the Council that city employees will have a minimum and maximum salary range as opposed to a “control point.”

O’Neill said this change moves the City toward more “standard personnel practices.”

“The City Council shouldn’t really be involved in setting people’s salaries,” she said.

Council mainstay Bress said she favors “streamlining,” but not if it interferes with transparency. She asked for an continual update of who City Hall is hiring.

“A lot of streamlining is taking away visibility,” she said. “We need to have that continued visibility, so the public knows where our monies are (sic) going.”

Council Member Patricia Mahan was absent.

The City Council will meet again 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 20 in Council Chambers at City Hall, 1500 Warburton Ave. in Santa Clara.


UPDATED MARCH 12, 2018 AT 2:30 P.M. This story has been updated after inaccuracies were brought to the Weekly’s attention by Ken Kratz.