Presentations

At this past Tuesday’s (1/15/19) Milpitas City Council meeting, student Nithurhan Carthikeyan was commended for his e-waste project, which he started at the Milpitas Library. Read more about it here.

Captain Daryl Sequeira, who’s retiring from the Milpitas Police Department, was presented with a plaque for his nearly 27 years of service. Mayor Rich Tran cited many of his accomplishments, among them: received the 211 PC Robbery Apprehension Award for the successful apprehension of an in-progress robbery suspect; named the 2000/2001 Homicide Investigator of the Year by the Santa Clara County’s District Attorney Office; created a protocol of internet crimes against children (which led to the apprehension of child predators); served as Executive Director of the police athletic leagues; and created and established a gang dress code policy in collaboration with the school district, spurring a 75% reduction in violent crime.

A Few Key Decisions

Protecting Employees

Council voted against giving the City Manager approval and authorization to put $129,103.20 toward Employment Practices Liability Coverage from Kindle Insurance Company.

The item was originally on the Consent Calendar, but had been pulled for discussion.

Vice Mayor Karina Dominguez expressed concern over the item, stating that it wasn’t doing nearly enough to create a culture where City employees feel safe and heard. She wanted to see a plan or policy put together encompassing ways to prevent sexual harassment and bullying at City Hall.

While Councilmember Anthony Phan said that he understands the need for insurance coverage, given the City’s history, he was in alignment with the Vice Mayor’s concerns.

“If the City is found that we’re responsible of harassment of any kind, of discrimination of any kind — of age, gender, race, disability — I don’t think the insurance will make us feel any better,” said Councilmember Phan. “It certainly won’t make that employee feel any better. If they are deprived of their dignity. If they feel any less of a human being…If we stand by idly when that happens, we are, in many ways, part of the problem.”

“I’ve got to be honest here. Sometimes there are going to be a couple lawsuits here and there that are just kind of frivolous. And I think this nominal fee that is listed on the agenda is a huge value to our taxpayers,” said Mayor Rich Tran. He also added: “At the same time, this was a true discussion on what kind of organization we want to be, and I appreciate that a lot.”

Councilmember Bob Nuñez also chimed in about the necessity of providing managers with the proper training, and that the effort has to be made so that the insurance “isn’t the first thing we hit, but the last thing we’re going to need.” Councilmember Carmen Montano, meanwhile, stressed the importance of having insurance, and also of ensuring that all of the City’s managers are doing their jobs properly.

“I’d really want to see…” said Vice Mayor Dominguez, “…What are the steps we’re doing to create a culture in this building where staff feel supported, by management, by higher-ups, per se? I would like to see maybe any exploration of bringing in a third party to investigate any sexual harassment or bullying in the workplace. I strongly feel that needs to go through a third party. This is based on my experience that I had at the State Senate. I definitely feel we’re a government that needs to run with transparency, integrity, and stand with staff.”

Council asked for the item to be brought back in the future, along with a plan for possible workshops and trainings to show that they’re doing all they can to promote a safe and healthy culture for staff members.

The City is currently self-insured, so the choice to not vote on this item carried no immediate ramifications.

The City of Milpitas has seen 12 Employment Practices Liability (EPL) cases in the last 4 years, resulting in $2,279,951 in defense and settlement costs. EPL encompasses alleged sexual harassment, discrimination, wrongful termination, and the like.

Affordable Housing

In the world of Affordable Housing in Milpitas, it seems like things are soon to turn a corner…

Consuelo Hernandez from Santa Clara County’s Office of Supportive Housing dropped in to deliver a joint presentation with the City. The presentation covered what’s being done in the area of affordable housing throughout our city, county, and region.

The Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA), which is mandated by the State, outlines how many housing units over various affordability levels must be included in a given jurisdiction. For the current 2015-2023 cycle, the RHNA for Milpitas is 3,290 units across all affordability levels. In Milpitas, a total of 1,304 units were built; these met an “above-moderate” affordability level, meaning they’re at 120% above our area’s median income. In other words: These builds were unaffordable to many in Milpitas.

In the current cycle, Milpitas has met 0% of its housing goals for very-low, low, and moderate units, by producing 2,139 above-moderate units. That means: It’s time to step it up.

During the presentation, the City went over their current efforts to help bring in more affordable housing.

These include: Preserving the affordable units at the Sunnyhills Apartments by giving the owner a total of $1.25 million ($250,000 to be paid each year for a total of 5 years) and supporting the development of 355 Sango Ct. (which would have 101 affordable housing units). The City’s also given a $299,097 Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) to help with the acquisition of the Sango site, to which the County has also committed $16 million dollars of Measure A funds.

However, the City does hope to help meet RHNA goals for affordable housing units by 2023, not only with 355 Sango Ct., but projects like 1380-1400 S. Main St. (Core Companies) and Senior Lifestyles Phase I, all 3 of which would bring in a total of 121 very-low and low income units.

Also mentioned were possible partnership opportunities with the County.

Councilmember Montano mentioned the idea of creating a Housing Commission, and spoke of the possibility of finding ways for all families who’ve left Milpitas due to housing affordability issues to have an opportunity to come back and gain access to affordable housing.

In the end, the Council voted unanimously to approve directing City Staff to look into affordable housing opportunities on property owned by the City on South Main Street, while doing research into possibly committing $6.5 million from the Housing Authority Fund to help develop 355 Sango Ct. Also included in the direction was the review of a proposal by a developer who had requested a predevelopment loan in the amount of $125,000 for a possible affordable housing project on Sango Ct.

Lots of potential exists here, positioning the City of Milpitas to at last achieve an affordable housing breakthrough.

Commercial Cannabis Ban

After a season marked by protest and debate, Council finally voted to adopt an emergency ordinance to ban commercial cannabis in Milpitas, while also regulating the cultivation and personal use of cannabis. City Hall was packed with community residents who’d come out in support of the ban. As the clock ticked past 11:30pm, Council held an unofficial vote to show the crowd how they planned to vote later in the night. They then opened the floor up to public comments. Since they’d seen that the council members intended to vote to enact the emergency ordinance, many who spoke opted to keep their comments brief, expressing their gratitude to the Council. Those who’ve been following this issue noticed a marked difference in tone from the previous cannabis meeting back in November 20, 2018, wherein those in protest were highly emotional and at times openly disruptive.

Rhoda Shapiro
Rhoda Shapiro works as a journalist and media consultant in the Bay Area. She has written for both the Tri-City Voice and the Mercury News, and is the founder of Chi Media Company, which works with nonprofit organizations to elevate their marketing and communication platforms. Rhoda is also an author; her first book will be published by Llewellyn Worldwide in mid-2019. Her YouTube channel, which features practices in yoga, meditation, and women’s empowerment, has amassed thousands of subscribers. Rhoda is The Milpitas Beat’s founder.

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