Robert Mezzetti: Council Candidate And Lobbyist
Before Robert Mezzetti became District 6 Santa Clara City Council Candidate, the San Jose attorney was a registered lobbyist representing a developer with a project currently before the Council — Republic Metropolitan’s Santa Clara Station project on City– and VTA-owned land near the CalTrain station. The project is in District 5, which includes the Old Quad and Santa Clara University.
Mezzetti is a member of the developer’s legal team, and says that his representation is as legal counsel, not as a lobbyist. “I registered as a lobbyist because the City Clerk [former City Clerk Rod Diridon Jr.] recommended that I do so,” he said.* “I don’t represent them on any other projects.”
The attorney has represented Republic Metropolitan on this project since 2017 and over that time he met with Councilmembers many times — most recently in April with Councilmember Teresa O’Neill. He renewed his lobbyist filing this year.SPONSORED
In 2017, the Council gave Republic Metropolitan an Exclusive Negotiating Agreement (ENA) for what was intended in the Santa Clara General Plan to be a transit-oriented residential project.
Since then, the agreement has been extended three times and the project is now a student housing development that will lease by the bed. The project remains unpopular and controversial with District 5 residents. [republic metropolitian letters to city].
Mezzetti met with Santa Clara City Councilmembers and Mayor Lisa Gillmor 17 times over the last three years as the developer’s lobbyist — nine of those meetings were with the Mayor and five were with O’Neill. He also met once with Councilmember Raj Chahal, former Councilmember Dominic Caserta and City Manager Deanna Santana.
Mezzetti says he would continue to represent Republic Metropolitan as legal counsel, and would recuse himself from any business concerning the developer. “If elected I would consult the City Attorney. But even if I were allowed to vote, I would recuse myself,” he said.
Republic Metropolitan isn’t Mezzetti’s first outing as a developer lobbyist in Santa Clara.
In 2011, he negotiated with the Council for an ENA on behalf of Joe Montana on 8.4 acres of vacant city-owned land on Tasman — directly across the street from what was already slated to become Levi’s Stadium.
The project was supposed to include a “luxury hotel, sports bar, upscale restaurant and entertainment venue,” according the letter Mezzetti wrote to the City.
“We believe such a location would complement the 49ers stadium, bring additional revenue to the City, have a positive impact on existing businesses, attract other businesses to the area, and increase neighboring property values.”
Then-City Manager Jennifer Sparacino recommended against the project, saying, “there is a risk to the General Fund for third party costs if a DDA and/or a Ground Lease is not executed,” according to the July 12, 2011 agenda report. Sparacino recommended expediting a request for competitive proposals instead.
However, the Montana name worked its magic on the Council, and the ENA was approved 5-2, with then Councilmembers Will Kennedy and Jamie Mcleod dissenting. Then-Councilmember Lisa Gillmor said that she didn’t see any reason to let an RFP as no one else was showing interest in the property.
The ENA was extended four times. A stumbling block was the City’s contract guaranteeing 800 Levi’s Stadium parking spaces on the land — a fact that Montana’s negotiator and the City Council (which approved the contract in the first place) failed to consider.
As a result, the City saw none of the estimated $1.5 million in sales and property taxes (at least $1.8 million today) and $2 million (at least $2.3 million today) in hotel taxes that the project was promised to bring, not to mention land lease income. From 2015 and 2020, that would have added up to at least $16 million for the general fund.
*In 2016 the question arose about whether legal representation should be considered lobbying. At the time Gillmor said, “I don’t think the ambiguity is in the ordinance. I think the ambiguity is in our enforcement.”