Community Letter about Two-Year City Accomplishments
From the Office of the City Manager
October 25, 2019
Dear Santa Clara Community,
October marks the start of my third year as Santa Clara’s City Manager. It has been an absolute honor and delight to work with the community, employees, and City Council toward advancing the goals and priorities of the City of Santa Clara. Together, we have achieved many accomplishments and focused on key priorities that contribute to Santa Clara’s quality of life. Indeed, it shows, as Santa Clara was ranked #1 by chamberofcommerce.org as California’s most livable city. This is an accolade that Santa Clarans have known for quite some time and holds up to our motto as “The Center of What’s Possible.”
I am excited to share our accomplishments in advancing the City Council’s goals and priorities. Last October, I issued my one year report and a brief summary of statistically-valid survey results from our community. These results showed that the community overall had a positive view (approximately 90%) of Santa Clara as a place to live and that City government was doing an excellent-to-good job (64%), with about the same percent feeling that the City was heading in the right direction and keeping residents informed. As we head into 2020, I want to share that Santa Clara was selected by Business View Magazine to be featured in their January 2020 edition for “Best Practices of Cities and City Management.” This publication circulates throughout the North America continent with about 850,000 subscribers: this is an excellent example of how Santa Clara is shining and being noticed for its great work.
While we have been receiving unprecedented accolades, we have also been focused on our workforce and organization. Over the past year, I led the effort to conduct an employee survey to develop baseline data of opinions and perspectives of our employees. How employees feel in the workplace is critical for delivering and preserving quality services. In addition, understanding statistically valid concerns of employees provides information for becoming a better employer. Here are the key highlights of the survey:
• 91% feel that “My job supports the City’s overall goals and priorities”
• 92% feel that “The City plays an important role in the community”
• 83% feel that “The City has a positive relationship with its residents”
• 94% seek “Opportunities for employees to provide input when major decisions are made”
• 58% feel satisfied with the communications that they receive from the City about issues affecting them
• 94% indicate they are highly interested in coordinating across departments.
For the first time in Santa Clara’s history, we now have a set of statistically valid baseline data from the community and employees. My goal is that we continue to improve through data-driven decision making, acknowledging that the majority of residents and employees feel that the Council and Administration are on the right track. Below are some additional details about the tremendous progress in key areas that are important to the City’s overall well-being (See Summary of Accomplishments):
Significantly Improved Fiscal Outlook - through diligent review of the City’s past budgeting practices and assumptions:
• Over the past two years, we have completely changed the financial trajectory of the City. When I started, the City forecasted a $78M budget deficit for FYs 18/21: through meticulous diligence in reviewing all funds, revenue assumptions and expenditure controls, and validating each line item in the budget, we eliminated the budget deficit, preserved high-quality service levels, and saved hundreds of City jobs. This accomplishment cannot be overstated and, in all, is our greatest accomplishment.
• We moved from a 5-year to a 10-year financial forecast. This allows for the City to plan for deficits and surpluses and review budget decisions within a longer-term context.
• We have built up our reserves to unprecedented levels in Santa Clara’s history. We contributed about $70 million to our reserves in the first 12 months of my tenure. This year, we are on track to contribute about $90 million more. Our key reserves total just over $340 million which is a level not experienced by Santa Clara before.
• We completed a user fee study which showed our rate of fee cost-recovery for various services and illustrated that the City is subsidizing these fees by about $22 million per fiscal year. The study’s findings provide an opportunity for the City to develop an informed policy and recover more fees. We also developed a revenue-generating strategy for the City Council to consider over the upcoming years with viable options and projected revenue to be generated.
Strategic Project Delivery - focused on strategic initiatives that respond to our community’s interests:
• Recently, in true Santa Clara spirit, and unanimously supported by our Downtown Task Force, the City Council approved a consultant contract for development of the Downtown’s specific plan. With reputable consultants under contract, and our continued enthusiastic community spirit, we are now positioned to work on the land use planning/visioning for the downtown through a robust community-oriented process. I was delighted when I heard a downtown advocate comment that this was the farthest past efforts had gotten with the goal of planning for our downtown. While there is much to do by way of feasibility studies, we are moving forward.
• We are officially in pre-construction phase of the build out of Related Santa Clara. The project will result in a large-scale, mixed-use development in a geographically strategic area, directly across from the Levi’s Stadium.
• We partnered with Spectra, a nationally reputable firm in venue management, to operate the Santa Clara Convention Center. We also began working to modernize our Tourist Improvement District and Santa Clara Destination Marketing Organization to promote tourism in Santa Clara. For their first quarter of performance (4Q 2018/19), Spectra brought in $831k net operating income which is higher than originally projected.
• The City has under consideration nearly 30,000 housing units at different stages of review and/or construction and, most notably, recently approved California’s largest affordable housing project at Tasman East (nearly 200 units).
• The Stadium Authority discovered that the Forty Niners Stadium Management Company had not complied with local and state laws relative to public procurement and worker wage laws. The Stadium Authority has issued several notices of breach or default to the Management Agreement. With the Stadium Manager’s lack of corrective action, the Stadium Authority moved to begin legal proceedings to terminate the Management Agreement.
• We continue to implement several capital projects that provide high quality of life and safe infrastructure for the future; however, infrastructure improvement costs continue to exceed funds available and we continue to advance strategies for funding them.
• Began update to City Zoning Code, which has not been updated in 50 years, to better align with direction identified in the City’s 2010-2035 General Plan and uphold state and federal law.
• Initiated the process for creating a Civic Center Master Plan to address space and capacity needs.
• Continued work with Bay Area Water Supply & Conservation Agency (BAWSCA) to ensure water supply reliability in the short- and long-term for the community.
• Achieved full Fire Department Accreditation; only 10% of Fire Departments nationally receive this distinction
Administrative Improvements and Modernization – by review of our service delivery systems, we continued with our reforms:
• Improved our public procurement processes by using modern technology to ensure contracts have a broader circulation for potential bid proposers and increased transparency.
• Launched NextRequest, a public records online portal, that will help internal management of the high-volume of public records requests while also increasing transparency and public access to these records.
• Further developed a risk management function, mitigating risk in service delivery which results in cost savings and exposure.
• Implemented Microsoft Office365 citywide, updated our utility billing system, and began efforts to update our financial management system. The City currently has 34 IT projects that it is advancing to modernize and stabilize services.
• Increased our professional development and basic workplace training opportunities, including launching Civic Scholars with 22 city employees participating in this self-guided advanced educational attainment program.
• Improved Fire Inspection Compliance program.
• Without service disruption, launched the City’s new Computer Aided Dispatch for our public safety departments.
In closing, my role as City Manager is to implement the direction of the Council, ensure optimum operations and service delivery, and support City staff to maintain our high-performing organization. Santa Clara operates under a Council-Manager form of government that combines the strong political leadership of the Mayor and Council, with the strong managerial experience of an appointed professional administrator. Equally as important, these performance results are rooted in professional, ethical, legal and best management practices. During my second year as City Manager, you’ve likely noticed many changes underway in the City organization – changes that were necessary to foster increased transparency and performance, improve efficiencies and enhance service delivery. It is an exciting time for the City and there is so much more to come that builds on our past and embraces the future. I want to thank the Mayor and City Council, Santa Clara community, and City staff for the support and amazing commitment to change and high performance for Santa Clarans. With the above accomplishments and statistically valid data in support of our work, I am excited about the year ahead. Thank you for the opportunity to be Santa Clara’s City Manager!
In community spirit,
Deanna J. Santana