Cupertino Matters

City council was lightly attended after the study session and initial ceremonial presentations. Unexpectedly, the meeting ended at a more reasonable hour of 11:45 due to postponement of the De Anza Hotel proposal. This week is busy, with commission interviews on Mon., Jan. 27 and Tues., Jan. 28. These are open to the public, though not recorded. On Wed., Jan. 29, Mayor Steven Scharf will give his State of the City address, from 6:30 to 7:30 at Quinlan Center. Last year, his speech garnered unfavorable coverage in publications as far afield as UK-based The Guardian.

UPCOMING PLANNING COMMISSION – Tues., Jan. 28, 2020, 6:45 p.m. – Regular Meeting – Community Hall

Item#1: Election of Chair, Vice Chair and Committee: Chair Ray Wang was absent at the previous meeting. Vice-Chair Vikram Saxena and Commissioner Kitty Moore strongly supported deferring this vote until all five commissioners were present. These positions rotate each year, ordinarily by seniority. Readers will recall that upon taking office in 2019, Commissioners Moore, Wang, and Saxena broke precedent and denied then-Vice-Chair Takahashi the usual rotation to become Chair. The lack of experience with public office on the part of new members of the Planning Commission remained on ample display in 2019 as Chair Ray Wang brought the city into further disrepute by calling for the harassment of his political critics. Vice-Chair Vikram Saxena has been absent from meetings, failed to timely file required financial disclosures, and did not attend a city-funded training specifically for Planning Commissioners. At the same time, Commissioner Kitty Moore’s lawsuit on behalf of Friends of Better Cupertino against the city over development at Vallco remains unresolved and has required her recusal from many Planning Commission discussions. Commissioner Takahashi, by contrast, would have seniority and is nearing the end of his second term.

Item #5:  Municipal Code Amendments to the Cupertino Municipal Code for Accessory Dwelling Units, for clarifications, and consistency with recently adopted State Bills. The City’s existing ADU ordinance conflicts with state laws that became effective on Jan. 1, 2020. As a result, the commission will consider new ordinances which are compliant. There are four types of streamlined applications which must be processed within 60 days with reduced impact fees:  (1) Conversion of existing single family spaces, (2) Detached structures less than 800 sq. ft. on a lot with a single family residence, (3) Multi-family conversions utilizing existing, non-livable space, and (4) Multi-family detached new construction. Both ADU’s and JADUs (bedroom conversions that may have shared bathroom) are allowed. The city can’t require parking or correction of existing non-conforming conditions. Notably, streamlined ADU’s can’t be used for short term rentals.  ADU’s that are not eligible for streamlining have other requirements. Interested readers should peruse the staff report and provide feedback to the commission. Adding an ADU requires the same amount of commitment as other construction, so this is unlikely to immediately add more housing stock in the city, but does increase options for family and rental income in a reasonable time frame.

Item #6: Planning Commission Work Program FY 2020-2021. The commission will be asked to provide a list of no more than 10 proposed City Work Program items and to identify the top 3 proposals. This process is followed by each commission,  then consolidated by staff in developing the entire City Work Program. Readers may review the FY2019-20 Planning Work Program here.

Item #7: Study Session on the General Plan Annual Review/Implementation Plan and consider General Plan Policies and Strategies that could benefit from clarification. This is a continuation of the review on Dec. 10 and Jan. 14, which were continuations from the Oct. 28 meeting. Expect more page by page review of this 107-page document.

RECAP  CITY COUNCIL MEETING – Tues., Jan. 21, 2020, 6:45 p.m.: Regular Meeting; 5:30 p.m.: Study Session

YoutTube: Part 1 – 3 hr. 1 min. –Study Session through Item #10 Electricity Reach Codes;
Part 2 – 2 hr. 55 min. –Starting Item #11

The study session on homelessness provided rich detail and included speakers representing Santa Clara County Supportive Housing System, West Valley Community Services (WVCS), and De Anza College. Genevieve Kolar, Foothill De Anza Student Trustee, movingly articulated the need to address student homelessness. These agencies provide as many services as they can for a growing population. WVCS presentation identified gaps in service deliveries, including the lack of laundry and shower facilities (the library and WVCS restrooms are used for hygiene). Council expressed support for these agencies, recommending follow-through on Housing Commission recommendations, and identifying ways that the city can support their efforts. Councilmember Jon Willey was absent for the study session, as well as the rest of the meeting. There were six speakers for Oral Communications, two concerning the “late hit” CEQA complaint by the Laborers International Union against the De Anza Hotel proposal, which forced late postponement of Item #12 (see Written Communications for 1/21). No wonder construction projects stall in Cupertino.

Two items were pulled from the consent calendar. Councilmember Liang Chao pulled Item #6, seeking clarification on records retention policy. With software improvements, webpage versioning will be available. Councilmember Rod Sinks pulled Item #9 Adoption of the city’s proposed 2020 Legislative Platform, developed by the Legislative Review Committee (LRC) consisting of Mayor Steven Scharf and Councilmember Liang Chao to express concern about redirection of Measure A and Measure B transportation funds to San Jose and away from the West Valley.

Item #10: Second reading of Adoption of Local Amendments to 2019 California Energy & Green Building Standards Codes (Reach Code). This was approved 4-0-1 with Willey absent.

Item: #11: Public Hearing to Vacate Portions of a Public Utility Easement for Water Line Purposes and a Portion of an Emergency Access Easement Located at 23500 Cristo Rey Drive. This item to facilitate expansion at The Forum was also approved 4-0-1 with Willey absent.

Item #12: Public Hearing to Consider approving a new 155-room seven-story hotel. Council deferred consideration of this item due to a very lengthy late CEQA filing from Laborers International Union.

Item #13: Abatement of public nuisance from weeds or other fire hazards pursuant to provisions of Cupertino Municipal Code Chapter 9.08 and Resolution No. 19-141; hearing for impacted property owners to contest the matter of proposed abatement. This should have been a routine approval to allow the county inspector to proceed with the annual process. Instead, Mayor Scharf allowed the property owner at 10408 Menhart to ramble for over 20 minutes, ignoring council policy of 3 minutes, requesting an exemption, claiming that his property was a “butterfly habitat,” despite obvious rubbish in the front yard as shown in the presentation. Councilmember Liang Chao (recused from the main discussion) requested a personal exemption claiming she had mitigated the fire hazard, and did not want to be included in the standard county three-year cycle to ensure properties remain cleared of fire hazards. A third person asked to be removed as well and brought documents to show the property’s state. When the county inspector at the hearing was asked about each of the subject properties, he noted that under the county’s standards both the Menhart property and Councilmember Chao’s should remain on the list. This council has considered weed abatement during 5 council meetings over the last year, and many hours on the dais, wasting public, staff, and council time making exemptions for routine enforcement of so-important fire hazards. Council failed to reach consensus, so this item will come back at the next council meeting. By the end, it appeared as though Mayor Scharf and Vice-Mayor Paul were ready to exempt these few individuals and confirm the rest of the list, noting that they were the ones who showed up. Is that how the county’s fire safety rules should work? Why is council making special rulings to suit one of their own? Is this good governance? If your property is on this list, council will take the matter up again on Feb. 4.

Item #14: Adopt subcommittee recommendations to improve commission and committee engagement with Council, standardize protocol among commissions and committees, and adopt an ordinance repealing Ordinance No. 006 regarding adoption of Robert’s Rules of Order and amending Chapter 2.08 of the Cupertino Municipal Code accordingly.  Discussion stayed limited on this agenda item, noting the protocols applied to both the council and the commissions. The ordinances received approval 4-0-1 with Willey absent.

Item #15: Adopt the City of Cupertino Ethics Policy. Council adopted a Code of Ethics on Nov. 20, 2018, and subsequently rescinded. In the interim, the city experienced significant problems from various of its appointees—problems that could have been avoided had the Code of Ethics remained in place. Discussion of this item stayed surprisingly muted, with Councilmember Chao raising the only objections. Two members of the public spoke in favor of the more explicit ethics policy based on Palo Alto’s which included some commission recommendations, including a desire for a clearer statement on enforcement. This was approved 4-0-1 with Willey absent.

Item #16: Adopt Updated Community Funding Policy and Approve Community Funding Grant Cap of $20,000 Per Applicant Per Year. There was minimal discussion of these policies, with clarification that the Parks and Recreation Commission has recommended that the Historical Society be a budget line item, rather than grants from community funding. Neesha Tambe, Chair of the Parks and Recreation Commission appeared and answered council’s questions on the topic. This was approved 4-0-1 with Willey absent.

Item #17: Approve the First Amendment to Employment Agreement for City Manager. On Dec. 17, council conducted its six month review of City Manager Deborah Feng, deciding to pay a one-time performance bonus of $19,000, and provide a vote of confidence in her management of the city. This item was likewise approved 4-0-1 with Willey absent.

Item #18: Appointment of Council Committee assignments. The mayor traditionally assigns these committee posts. Councilmembers accepted them with little discussion.

 CUPERTINO COURIER , January 24, 2020

The cover photo and feature article on page 5 is Changing the world with courage and creativity: Euphrat exhibit ‘Women Pathmakers’ at DeAnza College. Community briefs on Page 5 include (1) Get CPR certified, (2) YouthCareer Day, and (3) Become a Rebuilder with Rebuilding Together Silicon Valley. Legal notices appear on pages 24 and 25: Public Hearing Adopting New Policies to Regulate the Sale of Tobacco, specifically e-cigarettes and (2) Household Hazardous Waste Program Agreement with Recology.

Hope to see you at the State of the City event on Wed., Jan. 29!
Warm regards,
Jean Bedord
Cupertino Matters
Publisher and Editor