Cupertino Matters

I hope all of you had an enjoyable Father’s Day! The council meeting last week became yet another 8-hour marathon running into the wee hours in the morning. Not surprisingly, Item #21, the city Budget and Capital Improvement Plan (CIP), proved lengthy and over 35 public speakers offered comments on the item. Many of our readers contributed voices to the discussion, and we thank you for your engagement in the governance process. A huge proportion of the commentary revolved around the Regnart Creek Trail. The item received council approval to meet the deadline for finalizing budgets.

In addition to the city council proclamation of support, the city has responded to the Black Lives Matter movement by scheduling a Community Forum on Policing for Monday, June 22, at 5:30 as a teleconference. Register in advance to get the Zoom link, and receive instructions for the Q & A. The event will feature Captain Ricardo Urena from the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office – West Valley Division, with opening remarks from the mayor, and will be moderated by City Manager Deb Feng. On Wednesday, June 24, at 12:30, the city will host its second ever Pride Flag Raising Ceremony as a virtual event. Speakers will include the mayor  and representatives from Assemblymember Evan Low’s office and the Santa Clara County Office of LGBTQ+ Affairs. Register for the Zoom event here.

Local election season has officially launched with the consent calendar approval of the General Municipal 2020 election for two seats. Readers will recall that Councilmember Rod Sinks terms out this year and Mayor Steven Scharf’s seat is also up for grabs. Three potential candidates have filed Form 501 Candidate Intention Forms. Two have previously done so without filing nomination paperwork to appear on the ballot: Andy Huang and Robert McCoy. The third, Hung Wei, ran for a council seat in 2018 and received over 7000 votes. Readers will recall that Wei served on the Fremont Union High School District board for many years, and remains active in its charitable foundation as well as many civic organizations, most notably the Rotary service club. Rumors abound regarding other possible candidates.

Two seats are likewise up for election to the governing board of the Cupertino Union School District. Incumbents Phyllis Vogel and Sylvia Leong will make bids for their own seats. During this period of significant revenue declines, readers should expect budget experience and a deep understanding of the District’s funding sources to take center stage in this election. At the Foothill-De Anza Community College District, all three incumbents—Peter Landsberger, Laura Casas, and Gilbert Wong—have announced their intention to seek re-election. No challengers for these posts are yet known.

The city and county are gradually opening up. In addition to outdoor dining, City of Cupertino summer camps are returning (though with restrictions)—doubtless welcome news to parents. The Santa Clara County Health Department offered free COVID-19 testing for 3 days at Creekside Park. Given the long lines and extensive wait times, the city is requesting to be added to the schedule for additional testing.

Your voice is important. Information on expressing your opinion via emails and oral communications with the city can be found at

UPCOMING  PLANNING COMMISSION MEETING – Tues., June 23, 2020, 6:45 Regular Meeting

Other than approval of the minutes of June 15, there is only one item: Study Session to provide an update on the Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) implementation. New state housing laws encouraged increasing the supply of ADUs, to provide more naturally affordable housing opportunities in cities. Cupertino, through the Legislative Review Committee composed of Mayor Steven Scharf and Councilmember Liang Chao, opposed all of 2019’s new ADU bills. The Planning Commission, like the council, has focused its energies on minimum compliance with these laws, rather than expanding their utility.

The staff report underscores the effectiveness of these new state laws even in reluctant cities. At halfway through 2020, Cupertino is on pace to double its annual production of ADUs despite the opposition from council and the Planning Commission. The staff report’s figures point to pent up demand for this minimally intrusive form of home development—a potential that council could have unlocked on its own, but failed to do. Sadly, this increase still comes nowhere near the level of production necessary to meet Cupertino’s current state-mandated housing goals. Imagine how much council and the commission could improve the situation by facilitating ADU development further instead of concentrating on mere compliance with state law. The lesson the state will likely take from this experience is that cities won’t do enough on their own and will require additional help from the state. Has the experience of SB 35 taught this council nothing?

Vancouver, British Columbia, has been very successful with adding this type of home to their housing stock—35% of single-family homes now include legal ADUs. The result has been a boon both to new residents who have more affordable and better distributed housing options, and to existing homeowners who can better offset their mortgages by renting out their backyard homes. We have a lot of empty bedrooms in Cupertino, as well as the rest of California, and plenty of buildable areas on existing lots. See this article for context:

 RECAP  CITY COUNCIL MEETING – Tues. June 16, 2020, 6:45 Regular Meeting – Teleconference

YouTube: Part 1: 1 hr.47 min. through Item #20; Part 2: 2 hr. 17 min. through partial public input on Item #21, budget; Part 3: 3hr.25min.

Oral communications and updates proved lengthier than usual, with consideration of individual agendized items beginning at 8:20 p.m.

Item #1: City Manager’s update on COVID-19 response efforts. This was an extensive update, which included the status of sanitation facilities for the homeless encampments on Wolfe Road. Truck access for garbage removal and portable toilet service were the major consideration in placement. Restrooms at city parks are now open. The first day of COVID-19 testing experienced long lines.

Item #2: Councilmembers’ reports on Committee assignments. Councilmember Rod Sinks reported on the recent VTA SR85 Policy Advisory Board meeting, expressing his appreciation of the 25 speakers who offered public input, including many of our readers. The West Valley communities have to lobby heavily to get VTA funds for transportation projects, and public input helps make the case for badly needed dedicated lanes on the 85 corridor. Vice Mayor Darcy Paul, as the Cupertino representative, attended the ribbon cutting for the new Milpitas and Berryessa BART stations.

Item #19: Municipal Code Amendment to Cupertino Municipal Code Section 2.20.010 (Recordkeeping Duties-Closed Sessions) of Chapter 2.20 (City Clerk) To Title 2 (Administration and Personnel) to clarify limited access to closed session minutes. Approved received unanimous approval.

Item #20: Brush Abatement Program hearing to consider objections to proposed removal of brush and order abatement of the public nuisance and potential fire hazard pursuant to local law. No objections occurred and council unanimously approved the item.

Item #21 Public hearing to consider and approve the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP); and the Recommended Budget for Fiscal Year (FY) 2020-21; and the Adoption of the Recommended Budget; and Establishment of the Appropriation Limit, and related actions; or take other action to approve interim expenditures.

This was a very long session, with public comment from speakers on behalf of applicants for community funding. Applicants totaled 10 this year. Council decided to approve a budget of $90,000 with full funding of Tier 1 and Tier 2 projects, and 50% funding for the bottom 4 projects, an increase from the Parks and Recreation recommendations.

The CIP budget discussion rapidly became more contentious. There had been indications that certain members of the council wanted to reconsider previously approved projects, specifically the Regnart Creek Trail (RCT) and Library Program Room expansion. Consequently, numerous speakers offered comments on both topics. Council remains supportive of the Library Program Room Expansion. However, the RCT continues to provoke controversy as trail opponents and Councilmember Chao push back on this project. Many members of the community expressed frustration with the apparent obstruction of this previously approved project, perhaps most succinctly expressed by resident, J.R. Fruen here. Opponents still stall on fencing and now propose entirely new (and much more costly) concrete panel fencing. Thirty trail neighbors refuse to respond to the city’s requests for input on fencing. After prolonged public input and discussion, the council agreed to add an additional $400,000 for more modest fencing to move the project ahead. Both budgets ultimately received unanimous approval.

Item #22: Cupertino Small Business Emergency Relief Grant Program. Despite a well-thought out process, new council members attempted to micromanage the details on this program in the early hours of the morning despite expressing their own exhaustion. Fortunately, the mayor cut the discussion short due to the lateness of the meeting. Council authorized the city manager on a 4-0-1 basis to move ahead with arrangements to administer the $229,017 in funds for grants to small businesses struggling with the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Item #23: Accept resignation of Bicycle Pedestrian Commissioner Jennifer Shearin, and direct staff to fill the unscheduled vacancy. Since there were no more alternates on the appointment list from the January interview process, the council decided to wait until the normal commission cycle in January, rather than doing a separate recruitment over the summer. Advertising for the January commission cycle starts in October.

Item #24: Potential nomination of the Bubb Road Special Area as a new locally nominated Priority Development Area (PDA) to accommodate future residential growth in Plan Bay Area 2050. At 1 a.m., council moved this item ahead of Items #22 and #23. The presentation was extensive, but council understanding and discussion of this “wonky topic” remained less so. On account of the lack of a clear and compelling reason that council was able to identify, it declined to proceed at the moment and tabled discussion until a later date. Nominating the area would have potentially allowed the city greater local control over planning decisions, would have made the area eligible for more infrastructure grants, and would have made the city’s next Housing Element—a state requirement—easier to certify.


The front page photo and article by Anne Gelhaus appearing on page 5 is Teaching mindfulness: Siblings offer classes to cope with stay-at-home order, Apart But Not Alone’s first program drew 1,000 participants, developed by two Cupertino students. Community briefs on page 5 include (1) VTA funds Homestead “Safe Routes” for bike lane improvements and (2) Summer reading program through the Santa Clara County Library District.

I hope you were able to celebrate the longest day of the year on the summer solstice! The days will now only get shorter—a reminder that summer is fleeting. Enjoy it while it’s here!

Warm regards,
Jean Bedord
Cupertino Matters
Publisher and Editor