The Primary Election is over in California, but the results are still trickling in as the Registrar of Voters continues to count vote-by-mail ballots. As of this morning, the ROV estimates that 83% of the ballots have been counted. Local measures in support of school functions are all receiving majority support but are struggling to meet the required threshold for passage. The Cupertino Union School District’s Measure O parcel tax appears to have failed at about 57% of voter support (it needed 2/3 approval to pass). Foothill-De Anza’s Measure H, a parcel tax to support instruction, looks to have failed as well, with over 61% support (it also required 2/3 approval to pass). Though much of the vote remains outstanding and each continues to gain additional support as more votes are counted, the rate of increase in support appears to be too slow to meet the 2/3 “yes” vote legal requirement for passage. FHDA’s Measure H infrastructure bond, however, appears to have passed. FHDA’s stated intent with these monies is to replace the Flint Center and look to the addition of housing to support the needs of faculty, staff, and students.
The novel coronavirus, officially COVID-19, dominates the news headlines, with conferences and non-essential travel being cancelled, hitting the travel and hospitality businesses hard. Local events are being cancelled or rescheduled, which will have a ripple effect on the economy. Grocery and warehouse stores experienced an incredible run on supplies the weekend before elections, though the need was questionable. Hand-sanitizer remains in short supply, but shelves have been restocked and shopping more normal, much to the relief of store clerks. The bigger issue is keeping our health care workers healthy, and ensuring adequate supplies of basic items such masks, gloves and gowns.
Out of an abundance of caution, the city of Cupertino is proactively cancelling and postponing city-sponsored events for March and April. The city issued its first daily update on Monday, and will continue to do so by 5 pm on weekdays. Senior center trips, lunches and many classes have also been cancelled. The Santa Clara County Department of Health has issued a ban on all gatherings of more than 1000 people for the next 3 weeks. This will affect sport events, festivals and conferences. The concern is slowing the spread of COVID-19 so healthcare facilities are not overwhelmed. Public agencies have also advised all individuals to practice “social spacing”—i.e. maintaining a personal buffer between themselves and others of several feet.
COVID-19 doesn’t prevent other wheels of government from turning, however. Yesterday, our neighbor to the south, Saratoga, issued letters approving the SB 35 project at Quito Village, which will bring dozens of new housing units to Saratoga, 10% of which will be reserved for people earning very low incomes. Sometime in the next 10 days, we should also expect a ruling in the Better Cupertino/Planning Commission Chair Kitty Moore legal challenge of the city’s approval of the Vallco SB 35 project.
At the same time, the Fair Political Practices Commission—the state’s election ethics watchdog—issued a proposed fine of the two Better Cupertino election committees that supported Measure C in 2016. The Commission’s enforcement staff, acting on a complaint filed by Cupertino resident and local attorney, J.R. Fruen, determined that the committees and their two officers, Xiangchen “Minna” Xu and Xiowen Wang violated the Political Reform Act on three counts. The Commission is expected to levy a fine of $6,500 at its next regular meeting this month. You can read the proposed disposition of this matter here or on the FPPC’s website. The current Better Cupertino-dominated council appointed Xu to the Parks and Recreation Commission in 2019.
Possible acquisition of the Rancho Rinconada Special District was an item on the Parks and Recreation Commission agenda this week. The plan is to survey all residents in the district, not just the board and vocal opponents/proponents.
Your voice is important. Information on expressing your opinion via emails and oral communications with the city can be found at https://cupertinomatters.org/express-your-opinion/
UPCOMING PLANNING COMMISSION – Tues., Mar. 10, 2020, 6:45 p.m. – Regular Meeting –Community, 10350 Torre Avenue
In addition to approving the minutes, there is only a minor study session on the agenda.
Item #2 Study Session regarding common terms and documents related to the CEQA process There are no details on this study session. Presumably this is a remedial item for the inexperienced commissioners, including the chair. CEQA is complex, and compliance depends on the individual project which is also governed by multiple regulatory requirements. Why is this commission wasting valuable legal and scarce staff time for superfluous meetings which don’t have action items?
RECAP CITY COUNCIL MEETING – Tues., Mar. 3, 2020
In a turnaround for this council, the session ended before midnight. There was no reportable action from the closed session regarding the evaluation and compensation for the city attorney.
Item #10: Second reading for Municipal Code Amendments to Chapter 19.112 – Accessory Dwelling Units. This should have been a routine approval of state required changes to municipal code. Council, however, continued to argue for over 15 minutes as Councilmember Chao continued to raise issues with ADU standards. Councilmember Sinks reminded the entire council that actions like Chao’s reinforce Cupertino’s image as an anti-housing city. The item then passed by unanimous approval.
Item #11: Consider approving a new 155-room seven-story hotel (24-hour operations) with underground parking, event meeting rooms, a ground floor restaurant with separate bar, and a rooftop lounge with separate bar by demolishing a commercial building with an area of 8,323 sq. ft. City Actions would include General Plan Amendments. (Continued from January 21, 2020). Council’s consideration of this item was chaotic, and lasted over two hours. Mayor Steven Scharf repeatedly requested guidance from legal counsel on process. The Laborers International Union of North America orally tried to derail the application by adding additional requirements for formaldehyde beyond building code regulations. Council got bogged down making comparisons with other projects, and displayed a significant lack of familiarity with development projects in general and the process for their evaluation and approval. Then councilmembers introduced competing motions, which complicated the decision-making process. After a break, the council finally moved ahead to approve the four resolutions 4 – 1, with Councilmember Willey voting nay. However, Councilmember Liang Chao reversed her vote earlier this year on the gateway application deciding that more community benefits were needed. The Development Agreement was sent back for renegotiation on a 3-2 vote, with Scharf and Paul voting aye, and Chao, Willey and Sinks voting nay. Based on this behavior, why should a developer trust this council? The delay in building has cost the city more Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) than one-time community benefits.
Item #12: Approve the Mid-Year Financial Report and budget adjustments for Fiscal Year 2019-20. The staff report was reviewed. Most budget adjustment items were non-controversial. The request for $1.4 million to upgrade the bathrooms at the Sports Center was not approved, though seismic upgrades and ADA modifications had to be approved for safety reasons Council member Rod Sinks questioned the $1,069,000 to develop a new Specific Plan for Vallco, given that the previous plan cost over $3 million, and was reimbursed by the developer. This time, the money would come from the city’s coffers—taxpayer money. This item appears on council’s agenda notwithstanding the existing SB 35 project that the city already approved for the site. This item was approved 4-1 with council member Sinks voting nay.
Item #13: General Plan Annual Report and suggestions to further clarify General Plan Policies and Strategies. The city is required to generate this annual report. Absent meaningful development activity in the city, the Planning Commission spent 5 meetings restructuring the reporting format and reviewing the 69-page document, line by line. Council discussion was cursory. Vice-Mayor Paul noted that the deep dive was not necessary. Councilmember Sinks highlighted inconsistencies between the Plan and the Specific Plan funding previously approved, noting that as stated, development is not economically feasible. He also questioned the grab-bag of individual commissioner suggestions from the Planning Commission, which are likely irrelevant in future General Plan iterations. The report was accepted 4-0-1 with Sinks absent due to an early morning meeting.
CUPERTINO COURIER March 6, 2020
The cover photo and feature story on page 5 is 19th Amendment – A century of exercising democracy: League celebrates 100 years of women rocking the vote, addressing a celebration sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Cupertino-Sunnyvale on March 29. Community briefs include (1) NASA Speaker Series on March 18, (2) Volunteer in March with West Valley Community Service Projects, and (3) Blind wine tasting at Rootstock Wine Bar. Legal notices on pages 27-28 include a Notice of Public Hearing for Municipal Code Amendments to regulate Short-term Rental Activity in the city.
Stay safe and employ the good hygiene practices the County has suggested to best avoid the coronavirus.
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