Cupertino Matters

This week, Santa Clara County extended the shelter-in-place order until the end of May, but with some loosening of restrictions. All construction is now allowed, as well as primarily outdoor businesses, including gardening and nurseries. The line outside Yamagami’s Nursery indicates the pent-up demand for gardening supplies. The city will now be bringing back furloughed public works employees to resume outdoor maintenance, as well as planning employees to do permits and inspections. Some outdoor recreation, such golf and tennis will be allowed within social distancing restrictions. Other restrictions remain with the city of Cupertino issuing an Order requiring face coverings when leaving home.

Meantime, even more events planned for the summer have been cancelled, with many fall events also cancelled. Florists and caterers are losing significant business as couples and organizations cancel weddings and long-planned parties. Theater and musical production groups have cancelled their summer season, which threatens their financial viability; next year’s production schedules sit in limbo. Many non-profit organizations schedule their annual fund-raisers for late spring. The crisis has forced their cancellation or required officers to seek new ways to fund activities. At the same time, social service non-profits, such as West Valley Community Services and Sacred Heart, face unprecedented demand. Even when the economy “opens up,” there will still be significant lost business, so the community will need to continue to support local businesses and charitable organizations.

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

The5:30 Study Session is Small Cell Facilities within the Public Right of Way. The small cell installations needed to improve cellular service within Cupertino have been opposed by some residents. The city, however, is just allowed to regulate appearance and placement, but not block installation. Council needs to understand that adding additional restrictions is labor intensive and may result  in cellular companies standing on their rights under federal law rather than conciliating with the city. The bigger picture is improvement of cellular reception, which is notoriously poor in areas of Cupertino.

Item #1 is the City Manager update on COVID-19 response efforts. Listen closely for the current status and economic impacts.

Item #2 is Reports on Committee assignments, expected to be minimal due to COVID-19. Following this item the consent calendar is routine.

Item #9, Municipal Code Amendments, modifies rights of entry for inspection, nuisance abatement, and the administrative penalties associated with these activities. This item consists primarily of cleanup of provisions in local law to be consistent with state law, and should not generate extensive discussion.

Item #10 is Fiscal Year (FY) 2020-21 Community Development Block Grant (CDBG)  Program, Below Market Rate (BMR), Affordable Housing Fund (AHF), and General Fund Human Service Grants (HSG) Program funding allocations. Cupertino qualifies for federal HUD (Housing and Urban Development) funds, but there is significant overhead in administering these programs. Staff is recommending shifting from a two year cycle to a three year cycle to reduce the burden for both the city and the applicants. Two applications were received for the $258,213 Capital Housing CBDG funds: (1) Rebuilding Together Silicon Valley Housing Repair and Rehabilitation for $81,875, and (2)  WVCS Vista Village Renovation for $174,850. The city received one application for BMR AHF Public Service Funds for Project Sentinel Fair Housing and Tenant-Landlord Counseling and Dispute Resolution for $43,000. No applications were received for the $6,000,000 Capital Housing Project Funds. These funds remain too meager to be attractive to developers at a time when one low-income home costs $800,000 or more to build. Recommended CDBG Public Service Applications are (1) Live Oak Adult Day Services for $20,935, and (2) WVCS Community Access to Resources and Education for $35,646.  The Housing Commission reviewed all allocations and recommends an increase in General Fund Human Services Grants from a $100,000 cap established in 2018 to $125,000 due to increases in homelessness. This increased funding would fully fund these requests: (1) Catholic Charities Long-Term Care Ombudsman for $10,000, (2) Maitri-MTH Client Services for $25,000, (3) SALA Legal Assistance to Elders for $15,000, and (4) WVCS Haven to Home for $65,780, which includes $4,000 in bus passes.

Item #11: Ordinance extending the validity of Planning entitlements and permits issued by the Community Development Department; extending the time for City review and action on development applications in the event state law deadlines are extended; and temporarily suspending certain CEQA requirements as provided by Executive Order N-54-20. The local, county and state emergency ordinances have delayed construction, so this is an emergency ordinance to extend applications by 90 days and to extended issued building permits by 180 days. This should be non-controversial.

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

 RECAP  CITY COUNCIL MEETING – Tues., Apr. 28, 2020, 6:45 Special Meeting 

Item #1 COVID-19 Fiscal Impacts Update. The actual presentation was a two-hour, in-depth review of the city budget focusing on adjustments as a result of COVID-19. The biggest shortfall will occur in Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT), due to high hotel vacancies. Departments have been asked to reduce costs in special projects, and a soft hiring freeze is in effect.  Currently, the adjustments are reasonable, though the situation continues to be fluid. Relief funds from state and federal sources remain to be determined. The meeting took a temporary bizarre turn when Councilmember Liang Chao initiated a quarrel over procedure and whether or not Chao was “correct”  with Mayor Steven Scharf, which led the mayor to mute Chao’s microphone.

Item #2 Emergency Assistance Funds for Tenants at Risk of Eviction due to Impacts of the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19). The presentations and council discussion ran almost two hours. West Valley Community Services has seen a 220% increase in requests for rental assistance,  including applications from Cupertino’s BMR housing residents. The council discussed the pros and cons of the services, and maximizing the number of assisted families, before finally approving the original staff recommendations of a $50,000 direct contribution to WVCS, a $100,000 low interest loan program to be administered through Meriwest Credit Union,  and—surprisingly—$50,000 for a new loan program to be administered by, though paycheck cash flow is their primary service. This was approved 4-1 with Councilmember Sinks voting nay. Sinks opposed splitting the funds, preferring a single partner, Meriwest, for administration in order to maximize the number of families and individuals served. Council deferred to staff to determine whether BMR Affordable Housing Funds or General Fund Human Services Grant funds should be tapped, due to administrative requirements.


The front page photo and article on page 5 are Delivering in time of need: Local students get community’s help with food insecurity during pandemic, by Anne Gelhaus. This is the heart-warming collaboration between Lazy Dog and Pineapple Thai restaurants at Main Street and city staff to deliver meals to high school students and their families in need. In addition, the Chamber of Commerce founded the Cupertino Together emergency fund to provide meals to seniors, low-income families and De Anza students. The Community Brief covers the city’s ordering of the use of masks in public, an order approved by city council on April 24. Legal notices on page 17 include (1) City of Cupertino Public Notice Unclaimed Funds, (2) Notice of Public Hearing for the Westport Mixed Use Project (replaces the Oaks) before the Planning Commission on May 12, and (3) Public hearing for 2020-25 Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) before the Housing Commission on May 14.

While shortages of toilet paper and paper goods seem to have subsided, new shortages of yeast, flour, potting soil and peat moss have arisen. Who would have predicted?

Warm regards,
Jean Bedord
Cupertino Matters
Publisher and Editor