Cupertino Matters

The financial impact of the COVID-19 shelter-in-place order has hit the city of Cupertino. City Manager, Deb Feng, projects an $11 million revenue loss to the city through June 30, 2020, based on a 38% reduction in Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) due to empty hotel rooms, as well as a 27% reduction in service fees collected by the city. This means that she had to furlough approximately 80 employees, primarily part-time and those unable to do their job at home, to achieve a 20% reduction in expenses for this fiscal year. These furloughs are effective April 13, and employees will be given assistance in applying for unemployment. Depending on the length of shelter-in-place and subsequent economic situation, employees can be re-employed. Needless to say, morale at city hall is low, with a lot of stress on staff.  Delivery of essential services is likely to change for both fiscal and health reasons.

Job losses in California continued this week, with 2.17 million unemployment claims filed in the last three weeks, meaning an estimated 1 in 9 Californians is unemployed. The sheer volume has overwhelmed the state websites, so the number is likely even higher. The ripple effect is being felt outside the service industries, as more companies are announcing layoffs. Locally, the Cupertino Chamber of Commerce is working to assist small businesses in applying for state and federal assistance, though these have the same issues with overwhelmed resources. This is in addition to their meal donation program to allow patrons to purchase meals to support both those in need of food and local restaurants.  You can buy such meals through the Chamber’s website launched for this purpose.

Applications for assistance are continuing to rise at West Valley Community Services (WVCS). The big need is for rent assistance, though evictions for non-payment have been temporarily suspended. However, the rent will still need to be paid in the future, so assistance in the form of no-interest loans may assist more families than outright grants. See update below on status of the city grant under consideration. City manager, Deb Feng, is exploring Earnin.com, a community based financial institution that could assist WVCS immediately in administration of rental assistance programs. As the need continues to grow, please consider donating generously to aid our community, particularly if your company will match employee contributions.

Good news on the Vallco front is that demolition of the bridge spanning Wolfe Road was completed on schedule, with Wolfe Road reopened on Tuesday, per an email from Reed Moulds, Managing Director, Sand Hill Property Company.  Be sure to watch the time-lapse video of the demolition – the end of an era!

In other news this week, after postponement on account of the coronavirus pandemic, the Fair Political Practices Commission – the state’s election ethics watchdog – is set to sign off on a fine issued to 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. These counts relate to the committees’ failure to report contributions and their failure to identify the source of their contributions. This result is especially ironic given that these two committees claimed to support transparency and oppose corruption. The Commission is expected to levy a fine of $6,500. You can read the proposed disposition of this matter here or on the FPPC’s website. Despite the complaint and ongoing investigation at the time, now vindicated by the FPPC’s fine, the current Better Cupertino-dominated council appointed Xu to the Parks and Recreation Commission in 2019.

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., Apr. 14, 2020, 6:45 p.m. – Regular Meeting – Teleconference

There is only one item on the agenda in addition to approval of minutes from the previous meeting, an indication of the current lack of development in Cupertino.

Item #2. Use Permit and Architectural and Site Approval to allow the conversion of two existing retail buildings to a preschool and after school program, with associated site modifications to provide for required outdoor play facilities. (Vidyarambh…The Right Beginning). Application No(s).: U-2019-006, ASA-2019-010; Applicant(s): Devan Namboodiri/Gryphon Creek; Location: 10041 N Blaney Ave and20015 Stevens Creek Blvd APN#316-23-036, 093 (Postponed from March 24, 2020meeting.) These are vacant buildings behind the Arbor Center, currently zoned retail, but lacking frontage on Stevens Creek Boulevard to make them feasible for retail, particularly in this economic climate. It is located near Collins Elementary School.

UPCOMING  ENVIRONMENTAL REVIEW COMMITTEE – Thurs., Apr. 16, 2020, 9:30 a.m. – Regular Meeting – Teleconference

Note this is a morning meeting, rather than evening meeting. There are two significant EIRs that will be reviewed. Both have been publicly posted.

Item #2: Development Permit and associated applications to allow the construction of a mixed use development consisting of 242 housing units, 20,000 square feet of retail space and approximately 37,000 square feet of common space on an 8-acre parcel (Westport (formerly The Oaks Shopping Center)). An Environmental Impact Report is proposed. Application No(s): DP-2018-05, ASA-2018-05, TM-2018-03, TR-2018-22, U-2019-03, EXC-2019-03  (EA-2018-04); Applicant(s): Mark Tersini (KT Urban); Location: 21267 Stevens Creek Boulevard APN #326-27-043. This application has been wending its way through the approval process for most of a year. The review of the 226-page Draft EIR will be quite technical. As usual, there is a group that contends that the EIR is inadequate. This time,  it’s Cupertino Residents for Responsible Development.

Item #3: The project proposes to construct an 0.8 mile shared-use trail (running along Regnart Creek) connecting the Cupertino Civic Center complex with Wilson Park to the west and Creekside Park to the east. The project also includes site improvements including; various ancillary trail components and features, curb and gutter improvements, fence replacements,  gates, a pedestrian bridge, and improvements to the surrounding roadways for bicycle and pedestrian access to the proposed trail. Project Name: Regnart Creek Trail; Applicant: City of Cupertino; Location: between Torre Avenue and East Estates Drive (Postponed from the March 19, 2020 meeting).This is a required review by the Environmental Review Committee, even though a trail project.

 RECAP  –  CITY COUNCIL MEETING – Tues., Apr. 7, 2020, 6:45, Regular Meeting;  5:30 Joint Study Session with Planning Commission – Televised Meeting 
YouTube: 2 Hr. 55 min

This meeting occurred on Zoom and participants attended virtually. The 5:30 meeting joint study session with the City Council and Planning Commission on specific state housing laws: the Housing Accountability Act, SB 330, and the Density Bonus Law provided a good overview of the interplay of certain housing laws. Some laws date back to 1982, other laws were enacted in 2019 and 2020. Calculation of density bonuses is complex, but case law and recent legislation err on the side of approving housing development. The first 35 pages of the 105-page presentation document correspond to the study session itself.

The attorney giving the presentation noted the few exceptions for human health and safety that may allow for housing projects to be disapproved or reduced in density. Planning Commission Vice-Chair Ray Wang latched onto this topic to ask the most divisive questions of the evening by inquiring how cities might disapprove housing based on this health and safety exception in a pandemic. The attorney presenter responded that this would be difficult because the city would have to make specific findings–supported by a preponderance of the evidence–that failure to disapprove or reduce density would have an unavoidable impact on public health and safety that could not be mitigated. Such evidence would be hard to find: hyper-dense cities like Singapore, Hong Kong, and Seoul. South Korea has dramatically lower infection and death rates from COVID-19 than significantly less dense localities in the United States and Europe.

Item #9: De Anza Hotel project hearing items:  Given the city manager’s update on the financial situation, discussion on this item was muted. Project entitlements were approved on March 3, so the votes were (1) denial of the labor union’s petition to reconsider the entitlements that council passed on March 3, and (2)  the Development Agreement. Both passed on a 4-1 vote with Councilmember Jon Willey voting nay.

Item #10: Emergency Assistance Funds for Tenants at Risk of Eviction due to Impacts of the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) continued from March 17. This item to provide $50,000 to WVCS in funding was postponed in light of upcoming meetings, and fluidity of county, state, and local funding for such programs. This council has been slow to react to the COVID-19 crisis using the excuse that county, as well as city, orders prevent evictions for the short term. The mayor and city manager are meeting with four other west valley cities to develop a more comprehensive rental assistance program. The city manager is exploring relationships with multiple financial organizations that could potentially manage the administration of funds. This item will be brought back at the next council meeting.

 CUPERTINO COURIER  April 10, 2020

Photos on front page and page 5 are Out with the Old: Demolition of Vallco Pedestrian bridge proceeds. Community briefs are (1) Via-Cupertino still running as a private ride service (up to 3 people from the same household now allowed), (2) COVID-19 hotline for information,  and (3) Rebuilding together steps up to provide emergency home repairs.

Hope you took the opportunity to celebrate Holy Week in a non-traditional way as we wait out shelter-in-place.

Warm regards,
Jean Bedord
Cupertino Matters
Publisher and Editor