Cupertino Matters

The next chapter at Vallco is evolving. On Friday, May 15, 2020, the council held a closed session with its legal counsel on pending litigation brought by Vallco Property Owner with regard to 2019 Vallco General Plan and Zoning Amendments. Readers may recall that on Aug. 20, 2019, council adopted amendments to downzone the Vallco site. It arbitrarily designated 13 acres for 389 units of housing, then ignored uses for the other 45 acres which are limited to retail only, despite vigorous protest by the property owner and housing advocates. Vallco then filed a lawsuit against the city on Sept. 20, 2019, and city council authorized City Attorney Heather Minner to defend this lawsuit. That case sat dormant while the Friends of Better Cupertino challenge to the Vallco SB 35 project went on. Now that the courts have upheld the SB 35 project approvals, what is council doing? Furthermore, given the projected requirement to build 5,000 to 6,000 new units of housing to meeting state housing requirements (see Agenda Item #22), wasn’t  this an irresponsible action? In this timely op-ed, J.R. Fruen and Neil Park-McClintick of Cupertino for All write about Cupertino’s need to plan for the growth we want (or at least can tolerate):

Beyond the ongoing housing debate, the impacts of COVID-19 continue with additional cuts in city summer programs and events. Along with cancelling all 4th of July activities, all events that would attract more than 100 attendees have been cancelled, including Shakespeare in the Park, the Summer Concerts, Summer Movies, Cupertino Campout and the Corridor Stroll. Senior travel trips have been cancelled, as well as many summer recreation programs. City buildings remain closed, though full services are available by phone and appointment.

State budget deficits announced this week include cuts to education funding, which will significantly impact the Cupertino Union School District (CUSD), which is already facing enormous budget challenges. These state cuts likely ensure closure multiple school sites, perhaps more than originally projected.

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UPCOMING  CITY COUNCIL MEETING – Tues., 5, 2020, 6:45 Regular Meeting; 5:30 Study Session – Teleconference

The 5:30 Study Session regards the Proposed Fiscal Year 2010-2021 Budget. This session will provide a detailed look at the finances for the next fiscal year contained in a 505-page document, with a line-by-line proposed budget. The city manager’s Budget Message on pages 7 – 9 provides an overview for the next year, given best projections of the impact of COVID-19. The city manager’s budget anticipates at least a two-year recession. The major budget reductions are reductions in staff through attrition and reduced contract services. Pages 10-24 are Notable Accomplishments and New Initiatives—an impressive list for city staff. The Innovation Technology department deserves special recognition for their COVID-19 response, maintaining business continuity with public buildings closed and staff working from home within 24 hours. Plan Review, Permit and Inspection Services were able to continue operations remotely with minimal impact. Less prepared cities had to shut down their operations.

Item #1 is the City Manager update on COVID-19 response efforts. This item provides an up-to-date snapshot of the current situation, and city actions to restore services, and provide aid to the community.

Item #2 consists of the Annual Pavement Report with COVID-19 Economic Impacts. Gas tax revenues are expected to decrease due to COVID-19 so Public Works recommends deferral of $1.8 million of pavement maintenance, with minimal impact on the condition of the 138 miles of streets in the city.

Item #3 is Reports on Committee assignments, which we should expect to be minimal due to COVID-19. Following this item the consent calendar appears routine.

Item #22 Study Session regarding Plan Bay Area 2050 and Regional Housing Needs Allocations (RHNA) (including impact of Jobs-Housing Balance and Jobs-Housing Fit to RHNA). The housing shortage in the Bay area is well known, and numerous state laws now mandate that cities plan for and permit additional homes. Multiple agencies contribute to this planning process beyond the cities themselves. These include the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG), the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), and the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD). Their planning process centers not just on providing sufficient housing, but on reducing pollution and greenhouse gas emissions by reducing the typical distances people travel to get to the places they routinely go. ABAG and MTC determine the methodology for setting the Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) for each city. Then each city is required to identify Housing Element sites for additional housing development. HCD must then certify each city’s plan as being likely to produce the homes planned and zoned for in the Housing Element. Cupertino’s estimated RHNA is estimated to be 5,591 to 6,414 net new units. Discussion on this item will be technical, and complaints from this no-growth council about the “unfairness” of the process can be expected.

Item #23 Second reading of Ordinance No. 20-2203 adopting Municipal Code Amendments to Title 1: General Provisions, to improve process efficiency by adopting Best Practices, readability and internal consistency. This should be a routine approval since the ordinance was previously considered on May 5 and approved unanimously.

Item #24 Cupertino BMR Housing Program Update: Below Market Rate (BMR) Residential Housing and Commercial Linkage Fees Update and Recommendations; Discussion of Related Housing Solutions, Including Opportunities to Increase Housing Supply for Extremely Low-Income Households and Approaches to Encourage BMR Housing Production by Non-Residential Land Uses. The supply of BMR housing in Cupertino is very limited, but construction funding is difficult. The current requirement for projects larger than 7 units is 15% of the units must be BMR units. Increases in the requirements have been under discussion by the Housing Commission, the Planning Commission and the Council since summer, 2019, with several economic feasibility studies. This proposal increases the BMR requirement to 20% for ownership projects, keeping rental projects at 15%.  The proposal increases fees for office, research and development, and industrial space from $24.60 to $30 per sq. ft. Fees for hotels would be increased from $12.30 to $15 per sq. ft. Production of extremely low income housing for the developmental disabled is addressed, but the economics are generally unfeasible, so alternative strategies are explored.

Item #25 Adoption of a Mitigated Negative Declaration, mitigation measures, and a mitigation monitoring or reporting program for Regnart Creek Trail, and authorization to execute an associated Joint Use Agreement and a land exchange with Santa Clara Valley Water District. The joint use agreement is a significant step forward to implementation of this trail. Interestingly, the baseball field at Wilson Park encroaches on Valley Water District property, so the parties are doing a land exchange to legally correct this situation while providing the Water District with maintenance access.

Item #26 Allocation of $229,017 of Cupertino’s future Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds made available through the Federal stimulus Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. These are emergency relief funds made available through the federal CARES Act. Staff recommends allocating this money to assist small businesses by partnering with the Enterprise Foundation, a current partner, to provide $5,000 grants to Cupertino businesses.

As usual, listen closely to full council reports at the end of the meeting.

 RECAP  PLANNING COMMISSION MEETING –  May 12, 5, 2020, 6:45 Regular Meeting

YouTube:  Part 1: Part 1 2 hr.25 min. Part 2: 2 hr. 17 min. starting with public comment

The commission meeting ran over four hours, before ending with a unanimous recommendation of approval of the Westport project to redevelop the Oaks shopping center. The next step is city council on June 2.

Item #2 Development proposal to demolish a 71,250 square foot retail center (The Oaks), remove and replace 74 protected trees, and construct a mixed-use development consisting of 294 housing units (88 Rowhouse/Townhomes, 206 senior apartments, of which include 48 senior affordable apartments and 27 memory care units) and 20,000 square feet of commercial space.  Applicant(s): Mark Tersini (KT Urban); Location: 21267 Stevens Creek Boulevard APN #326-27-042, -043.  KT Urban presented the proposal, including a brief presentation by Atria, the proposed senior community operator for the assisted living and memory care units. A number of residents spoke about the need for senior housing in Cupertino, as well as members of the Age Friendly Cupertino Task Force. Those opposed to the project cited their own interpretation of the state’s Density Bonus Law.  Vice-Chair Commissioner Wang raised the question of modifications for COVID-19. After extensive questioning searching for legal grounds to redesign parts of the project on the part of Commissioners Saxena, Wang, and Moore, the Commission ultimately agreed that the project met state law requirements. Both Commissioners Fung and Takahashi concluded by commenting the project clearly met the needs of the community. The Commission recommended council approval 5-0.


The front page photo and article on page 5 is “Needed now more than ever: Take a hike with caution, Midpen asks hikers to preserve social distancing on trails”, regarding restrictions in county parks adjacent to CupertinoThe previously published San Jose Mercury article “Massive Cupertino development can proceed, judge rules” by Marisa Kendall is featured on page 10. Community briefs on page 5 include (1) City reopens facilities, and (2) Documenting COVID-19 by the Cupertino Historical Society. Legal notices on page 17 include Notice of Public Hearing for BMR Residential Housing Mitigation and Commercial Linkage Fees for Cupertino’s BMR housing program on May 19, 2020.

The new “normal” is slowly evolving, as more businesses reopen with precautions. But how soon will there be enough customers to stay in businesses? Supporting your local favorite businesses is even more important now.

Warm regards,
Jean Bedord
Cupertino Matters
Publisher and Editor