Contractors’ bids overshot the city budget to revamp The Alameda last year, so the City Council will consider a second set of proposals when it meets Tuesday. Even this time, the lowest bid comes in 15 percent over the $3.487 million budget. The city will have to take $936,000 from the Department of Transportation to cover the difference if the council agrees to the plan.
“The improved economy and growth in construction activity is reducing the number of bidders and increasing the costs of bids received,” says the memo signed by heads of the city budget, public works and transportation departments.
Cash for the roadway improvements comes from the Municipal Transportation Authority drawing on proceeds from a construction tax. Approving the lowest-yet-still-over-budget bid to Wattis Construction will allow the city to move forward with the beautification project, already delayed a year.
Renovations will turn the boulevard from Stockton Avenue to Fremont Street into a multimodal transportation corridor with clear-cut connections to major destinations like Diridon Station, HP Pavilion and downtown.
“The project will construct improvements that will help enliven The Alameda as a retail center and multimodal transportation corridor,” the memo says. “Design elements include raised median islands with decorative pavers and landscaping, enhanced pedestrian crosswalks with median refuges, corner and sidewalk bulb-outs, curb ramps, street lighting improvements and modifications to signalized intersections.”
The city tried to form an assessment district to charge residents extra money to pay for services above and beyond the city standard, but voting property owners and neighborhood residents killed the move.
Regardless, plans for improvement will move forward, even if the scope is smaller than initially planned.
Since its construction in 1795 to connect Mission Santa Clara de Asis to what would later become the city of San Jose, The Alameda has remained one of the region’s most historically significant corridors. California’s first stagecoach line ran through San Jose to San Francisco along The Alameda. It carried the state’s first interurban railroad in 1868, the second streetcar line and the first interurban electric streetcar on the West Coast in 1888.
“The Alameda is an important transportation corridor serving as a gateway to Downtown San Jose,” the city memo says. “As part of the Envision 2040 General Plan update process, The Alameda has been identified as one of the city’s ‘Grand Boulevards’ that contributes to the city’s overall identity and is intended to have special design features, including enhanced landscaping, lighting, and other attractive design elements.”
If the council approves a contract Tuesday with Wattis, construction could start as early as summertime, the city says.
More from the San Jose City Council agenda for April 9, 2013:
• Water from Yosemite’s Hetch Hetchy reservoir courses through much of north San Jose and the Alviso area. So, when a group called Restore Hetch Hetchy asked voters last fall to weigh in on a measure that would have drained the reservoir and restored the valley basin, San Jose faced losing some of its water supply.
The measure lost. But because the city still buys some of its water from the San Francisco Regional Water System, which manages the Bay Area’s Hetch Hetchy supply, the council will discuss passing an amendment to the agreement between San Francisco and San Jose. The new deal would not allow changes to the contract unless both parties agree.
• San Jose could improve the way it manages its employee retirement accounts, says City Auditor Sharon Erickson. The city offers two deferred compensation plans that give workers the option of setting aside some of their own income for retirement. The first plan is voluntary. The second plan is mandatory in lieu of Social Security for part-time employees.
Between 1999 and 2007, the city botched some accounting when it allowed certain employees to exceed the annual contribution limit set by the IRS. It also credited more or less than some employees’ payroll deductions. Most of the accounting problems have been fixed, mainly because a lot of the calculations are now automated, the audit says.
The city could also save money for its employees by streamlining accounting operations, making sure tasks aren’t repeated unnecessarily by more than one person and clarifying responsibilities, the audit finds.
• The Planning Commission voted unanimously to move forward on a project to build a 394-unit, low-income apartment complex at the southwest corner of North First Street and Century Center. The development would bring $2.6 million to the city’s affordable housing funds.
• The council will consider selling off a surplus property on Bascom Avenue for $2.48 million to a healthcare nonprofit. The city bought the 1.3-acre site at 1015 S. Bascom Ave. in 2005, at the height of the market, for about $4 million, so it faces a pretty big loss.
The land was bought with library bond funds for the Bascom Branch Library. But when the city realized it could save money by consolidating the library and a community center nearby, it built elsewhere, rendering the property a surplus. Proceeds from the sale will go to pay down the library bond debt.
• The city is looking to sell another surplus property, but this time for a profit. San Jose bought the .9-acre parcel at 551 Keyes Street for $350,000 in 1989 as part of a street-widening project. For decades, the land sat empty. So, in 2009, the city advertised its sale to developers who could use the land to build affordable homes. No one bid, which left the city one other option: declare the land surplus and offer it for sale to the highest bidder. A company called Global Business Solutions has made an offer for $421,000.
• San Jose gets about 18 percent of its general fund revenue from the city’s 8.6 percent sales tax. About 1 percent of sales tax revenue goes to municipal coffers. But sometimes a transaction gets categorized as a use tax—that’s when tangible personal property is bought, consumed or stored in California.
Use tax revenue leaves less for the city, sending more to county and state accounts. In response, the city created what it calls a Business Cooperation Program, which gets more retail tax revenue diverted to the city and some reimbursed back to the consumer. The council will consider approving a contract with private consulting firm Muniservices, LLC, giving it legal authority as a representative of the city to examine the city’s sales and use tax records.
• The Santa Clara County Mental Health Department offered the city a $280,000 grant to pay for health outreach for senior citizens. The cash will support a program called “Aging with Attitude Lifelong Learning for Seniors and Boomers,” which provides more access to mental health help for the city’s elderly population. The city says it will host quarterly mental health seminars at 14 city community centers and serve about 750 people with the grant, if the council OKs the allocation.
• The state awarded San Jose a $200,000 grant to fund an anti-human trafficking task force led by police. The money will reimburse the San Jose Police Department for binoculars, cameras, memory cards, night vision monoculars, undercover wire, receivers, body wire and monthly cell phone bills. It also pays for shelter, intensive care management, safety planning, crisis intervention, mental health services and other help for victims of human trafficking.
• As the city tries to install more solar panels on public buildings, it’s asking the council to grant SolarCity Corporation the authority to “finance, engineer, install, commission and maintain solar energy installations” on public buildings, subject to availability of grant funding.
• A trail and pedestrian bridge project originally budgeted to cost $2 million will end up with a higher price tag if the city OK’s a contract amendment to allocate another $500,000. The money will pay for engineering services for various city trail projects as well as a new pedestrian bridge on the Three Creeks Trail by Willow Glen and South San Jose.
• A developer that built 1,700 condos at River Oaks Place and North First Street wants to change some terms of its public park agreement with the city. Every developer in San Jose has to agree to dedicate some land for a community park. WTI, Inc. says it can’t build a bocce court and “tot lot” as originally planned, though it will still set aside 5.2 acres for parkland, swimming pools, picnic areas, game tables, fitness areas and club rooms.
WHAT: San Jose City Council meeting
WHEN: 1:30pm Tuesday
WHERE: City Hall, 200 E. Santa Clara St., San Jose