Santa Clara has no money to meet $624 million in infrastructure needs

City officials are recommending a general obligation bond to fix some of the aging infrastructure

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Ray Chavez/Bay Area News Group

In the heart of Silicon Valley, a region renowned for its innovation and wealth, Santa Clara has struggled for decades to keep pace with its aging infrastructure.

Many of its city facilities — parks, community centers, fire stations and swimming pools — reached the end of their expected lifespan years ago. But Santa Clara historically hasn’t had the revenue streams to maintain or replace its physical assets, leading to what is now a whopping $624 million in unfunded infrastructure needs, according to City Manager Jovan Grogan.

The ballooning problem came to a head earlier his year when the George F. Haines International Swim Center — a storied facility widely considered to be Santa Clara’s crown jewel — closed over safety concerns following decades of neglect.

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Santa Clara’s plight is not unique. Cities across the Bay Area are grappling with similarly aging infrastructure and significant funding challenges to address deferred maintenance.

“It’s literally the cost of replacing many of our facilities that were built in the 50’s and 60’s,” Grogan said. “Many of them are aging at the same time.”

In neighboring San Jose, the maintenance backlog for the city’s parks alone is more than $544 million, city spokesperson Carolina Camarena estimated. And across the bay in Berkeley, the city’s unfunded infrastructure is expected to be $2.1 billion by the end of this fiscal year.

It’s a symptom of the suburban sprawl that ignited after World War II when the region began to boom and large swaths of single-family homes shot up. Whole neighborhoods of low density housing that stretched far across cities meant more roads, sewer lines and other infrastructure to maintain.

At the time, many cities relied on property taxes to generate revenues, said Michael Lane, the state policy director for urban think tank SPUR. But when California voters passed Proposition 13 in 1978, effectively limiting property tax increases, things changed.

It’s a symptom of the suburban sprawl that ignited after World War II when the region began to boom and large swaths of single-family homes shot up. Whole neighborhoods of low density housing that stretched far across cities meant more roads, sewer lines and other infrastructure to maintain.

At the time, many cities relied on property taxes to generate revenues, said Michael Lane, the state policy director for urban think tank SPUR. But when California voters passed Proposition 13 in 1978, effectively limiting property tax increases, things changed.

Click here to read the full article in the Mercury News

Comments

  1. Just a few simple questions:

    1. Did they keep up with maintenance?
    2. Why did they not budget for the maintenance and replacement?
    3. Where did the money go?

    My assumed answers

    1. No
    2. Incompetence
    3. Wasted

  2. Ken Olevson says

    Blaming Prop 13 is an easy statement but wrong. I read a study several years ago that demonstrated that the property tax received by the states since 1978 increased faster than the population growth and CPI increases combined. I did the same analysis for my own city and found the same result. California has a SPENDING PROBLEM as evidenced by the current governor increasing the state spending nearly 100% during his term. Look at what your elected representative do with their votes and the resulting financial obligations. If they are not rebuilding infrastructure with funded multi-year programs, we get the “crisis” that Santa Clara and other cities are experiencing.

  3. Everything is the fault of Prop 13. I voted for Prop 13 and am proud of it. Before Prop 13 you had seniors on a fixed income losing their homes because of ever increasing property taxes which would have continued if Prop 13 didn’t pass. I remember the retaliation by the poli-Ticks, aka politicians where they made cuts designed to hurt the voters as much as possible.
    The fault lies with greedy poli-Ticks, especially DemonRats, that have voracious appetite for spending other peoples’ money.

  4. Gee, almost as much as Zuckerberg’s Bomb Shelter in Hawaii. Maybe he could help.

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