Cupertino Matters

This week brought welcome announcements from the CDC and Governor Newsom that COVID-19 restrictions are being eased. However, businesses are still operating under state and city ordinances so restrictions will be confusing for the next month. Slowly, customers are returning to restaurants and entertainment. Parents are excited that their 12 – 15 year olds can receive vaccinations, and they can plan family vacations.

In the meantime, planning for state-mandated housing requirements slowly moves ahead. The additional 4,588 units required in the next 10 years will have a substantial impact on our city. To help the public better understand the process, Councilmember Hung Wei will host a local town hall on May 22, 2:30 to 3:30 with Brad Paul, the Executive Director of Metropolitan Transportation Commission – Association of Bay Area Governments (MTC-ABAG), on Cupertino’s Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA)–the primary tool of the state’s minimum housing planning system. They will be discussing how RHNA is calculated, the Housing Element process, and the variety of housing accommodation options that could be implemented via local/neighborhood mechanisms to satisfy Cupertino’s RHNA numbers.

A significant number of those housing units could be built at Vallco, but the city has failed to act on permits submitted over two years ago. As reported previously, the council hired yet another attorney from southern California unfamiliar with Cupertino and SB35 who issued a letter to Sand Hill Properties with new environmental and safety objections.  Now, SHP has rebutted all those claims with a letter countering the city’s newly hired attorney’s claims, pointing out that the areas of concern are only 1,250 sq. ft. of the site which is over 1.3 million sq. ft. in size and can be easily removed pursuant to guidance from local environmental regulators. The letter also points out misunderstanding of SB35 requirements, as well as the environmental compliance procedures used in the area. Why is this council so committed to obstructing this project which would provide much needed housing, as well as an increased tax base to assist our cash-strapped school district? This pair of letters sets the city on a path toward bankruptcy-level litigation. Whom does this benefit?

UPCOMING – CITY COUNCIL, Tues., May 18, 2021, City Council,  6:45 p.m., Regular Session; Closed Session 6:00 p.m.

The closed session regards Public Employee Appointment (Gov’t Code 54957(b)(1)); Title:City Attorney as council searches for an in-house attorney.

There are no ceremonial matters and presentations, so there will be a report out from the closed session, immediately followed by Oral Communications, then Item #2,  councilmembers’ activities and brief announcements to allow councilmembers to respond to comments made in Oral Communications; Item #3 is the city manager’s update on emergency response efforts, and Item #4 is a report on committee assignments. The Consent Calendar appears to be routine, but recent council meetings have seen consent calendar items pulled for considerable deliberation.

Item #14: Consider and act on Ordinance No. 21-2227: “An Ordinance of the City Council of the City of Cupertino amending City Code Chapter 10.90 of Title 10 (Public Peace, Safety, and Morals) to prohibit smoking in multi-unit housing and certain outdoor areas”. This is the second reading of this ordinance which significantly restricts smoking in multifamily. The inclusion of single-family homes with junior ADUs in this ordinance requested by Councilmember Kitty Moore raised numerous questions surrounding its intrusion on homeowners’ free enjoyment of their own homes. Vice-Mayor Chao and Councilmember Wei strongly opposed this restriction on single-family homes, citing infringement on private property rights and difficulty with enforcement. The first reading of this ordinance passed on a 3-2 vote with Chao and Wei opposing. The passage of this ordinance means smoking will now be illegal in a smoker’s own home if that homeowner has or adds an accessory dwelling unit (ADU), even if that unit is occupied by a non-paying relative.

Item #15: Proposed amendment to the Professional/Consulting Services Agreement between the City of Cupertino and HdL ECONSolutions of an additional $40,800 as an extension of the contract terms and conditions to provide supplemental Economic Development (ED) staffing services for the City of Cupertino through the fiscal year ending on June 30, 2021. (Previously heard on April 20). Rather than a routine consent item, council requested more justification for this minor budget item. As a result, staff documented the many actions that the Economic Development Manager has taken to assist the city and business community during this very difficult year. Unsurprisingly, more hours were required than originally estimated. So why is council questioning this minor contract extension to assist our local businesses? Despite this small adjustment, Mayor Paul has requested a $500,000 City Work Plan item (PREP) that has NO direct benefits to businesses.

Item #16: Accept the Third Quarter Financial Report for Fiscal Year 2020-21 and City Work Program and Key Project Update; consider adopting Resolution 21-038 approving Budget Modification #2021-140 increasing appropriations by $787,279 and revenues by $9,552,599; consider approving $2,000,000 contribution from the General Fund to the City’s Section 115 Pension Trust. This is a routine report on the financials of the city, with a detailed report on the status of City Work Program projects. Revenues and expenditures are consistent with previous budget adjustments.

Item #17: Initial Study Session on Fiscal Year (FY) 21-22 Proposed Budget. The proposed balanced budget report is 541 pages, with line items for every aspect of the city’s functions. The city manager’s budget message on page 17 summarizes the state of the city, which is well-positioned, though cautious. The next section on Notable Accomplishment is eye-opening–our city staff have been remarkable on their achievements, given the challenges of working from home and COVID-19 restrictions.

The proposed budget is $121 million, a $10.4 million increase over the bare-bones FY2020-21 budget. The majority of Cupertino’s General Fund operating revenues result from property taxes (31%) and sales taxes (31%), followed by charges for services (14%) and intergovernmental sources (6%). The revenue figures highlight the city’s dependence on the volatile business-to-business sector. With the loss of Seagate, the city is even more dependent on Apple sales. Property tax is more stable. Lack of building activity, including the delays at Vallco and Westport and other approved projects, has suppressed growth in this area.

On the negative side, the City Attorney budget remains at nearly $2 million, yet the budget for our essential Planning – Mid-Long Term is only $1.5 million, at a time when our RHNA housing allocations for the next 10 years will include 4,588 new homes, an approximately 22% increase in our housing stock. Given the importance of conducting a Housing Element process that results in a program the state will certify, is council correctly apportioning city resources?

Item #17: Recommendation from the Parks and Recreation Commission to approve funds in the amount of $92,900 for the Fiscal Year (FY) 2021-22 Community Funding Grant Program, annual funding for the Cupertino Historical Society in the amount of $20,000, and approval of final funding amounts for the Community Funding Program, to be included in the Recommended Budget for FY 2021-22. Parks and Recreation evaluates community funding requests using an approved methodology, but council has tended to impose their own judgment on allocations. The minimal funding for the Cupertino Historical Society is a separate line item that keeps getting questioned, despite the service that this nonprofit, established in 1966, provides to the city. In addition to its museum and stewardship of city and county historical artifacts, its collection is responsible for the production of at least one book per year, and it operates as the city archive for older public records. Neighboring cities such as Los Altos, and Campbell provide much more robust support.

RECAP – Tues. May 11, 2021, 6:15 p.m. Special joint study session meeting with City Council, Planning Commission, and Housing Commission on the Housing Element update

YouTube: 3 hr. 18 min.

This valuable session was lightly attended, with commissioners missing. It introduced best practices for the required sites inventory and Housing Element policies to encourage production of housing, including rezoning and the relaxation of other artificial constraints on development–actions resisted by the council majority. Local community advocacy group, Cupertino For All, summarized the session.

More information can be found on the city website. Presentation materials are available for download at

EXPRESS YOUR OPINION: Readers are encouraged to email individual members of the council, the council as a whole, the city manager, and the city clerk. Note that emails to city council as a whole are forwarded to the city manager, whereas emails to individual councilmembers are not. Clearly include in your subject line the topic or agenda item on which you are commenting.  These become part of the public record. Contacts at


The front page photo and community brief on 5 is Grand Reopening: Community Garden at McClellan Ranch has been undergoing makeover. Page 5 also has the story Rotary aids COVID-10 relief efforts in India, as well as the community brief, Students for Safe Routes. Vignesh Swaminathan, urban planner and CEO of Cupertino-based Crossroad Lab is featured on ‘Mr. Barricade’ rides to stardom on TikTok on page 23.  Minor legal notices appear on page 29.

Warm regards,
Jean Bedord
Cupertino Matters
Publisher and Editor