Cupertino Matters

Welcome to May, with Mother’s Day and Memorial Day just around the corner. Cupertino businesses are gradually reopening, though customers are slow to resume patronage.

This week, the campaign over Measure A–the parcel tax to support the Cupertino Union School District–draws to a close. Today is the last day to vote. If you haven’t voted yet, you may return your ballot to any one of a number of ballot dropboxes.

Residents have started to question construction delays at Vallco, given the resolution of the lawsuit by Friends of Better Cupertino, Kitty Moore, Ignatius Ding and Peggy Griffin, in May, 2020. However, the city has not yet issued the necessary permits. Then on April 13, 2021 the city sent a letter to Vallco with comments on an Excavation Management Plan (EMP) provided by a third-party reviewer and former Santa Monica city council candidate. These comments reveal late-surfacing environmental concerns that had supposedly been resolved in 2019. Why this shift? There has been a change in city attorneys initiated by Mayor Darcy Paul, and behind closed doors, a new land use attorney from southern California, who is unfamiliar with Cupertino and SB35, but with a reputation for obstructionist tactics to stall redevelopment was hired. The tone of the letter clearly sets the stage for an intensely costly lawsuit against the city. The city’s legal budget is already over $2 million. Does this action help the community move forward? Can Cupertino afford to lose any litigation provoked by these actions? 

UPCOMING – CITY COUNCIL Tues., May 4, 2021, City Council,  6:45 p.m., Regular Session; Study Session 5:30 p.m.

There will be a Study Session on the Capital Improvement Programs (CIP): Review of Projects Proposed for Fiscal Year (FY) 21/22. Sixteen new projects are proposed for FY21-22. Overall, the FY21-22 Amended CIP budget totals $41.6 million for 40 projects  at various levels of completion over multiple years, representing a substantial investment in our city infrastructure.

Listen closely to the report out from the Closed Session on April 29, regarding two cases of existing litigation and two cases of potential litigation. As previously noted, at least one case–for a change–includes a potential for cost recovery–a civil fraud claim against a former city accountant who is due to stand trial in a parallel criminal case later this year. Former city employee, Jennifer Y. Chang is charged with having embezzled almost $800,000 from the city from the early 2000s until her sudden retirement after a change in city management in 2015. You can read the city’s filing here.

Initial items on the agenda have been reordered by Mayor Darcy Paul. Ceremonial Matters are (1) Proclamation for Public Works Week, May 16-22, 2021, and (2) Presentation from Mid-Peninsula Regional Open Space District with an update on activities. Immediately after Oral Communications, there is a new Item #3, which is councilmembers’ activities and brief announcements to allow councilmembers to respond to comments made in Oral Communications; Item #4 is the city manager’s update on emergency response efforts, and Item #5 is a report on committee assignments. The Consent Calendar appears to be routine, but recent council meetings have pulled consent calendar items for considerable deliberation.

Item #11: Consider and act on Ordinance No. 21-2226 “An Ordinance of the City Council of the City of Cupertino to adopt changes to Chapter 19.56, Density Bonus, of the Cupertino Municipal Code to allow increased density bonuses for projects providing higher percentages of affordable units in a housing development project.”  This is the second reading of an ordinance approved April 20 on a 4-1 vote with Wei voting nay. This his is likely to pass, despite the potential for state agency action in response, litigation, and continued attention to the city’s poor track record on housing. Numerous housing advocates pointed out the risk at the April 20 meeting, including this detailed letter at page 198 of written communications.

Item #12 Consideration of Municipal Code Amendments to the Cupertino Municipal Code, Chapter 10.90, expanding existing policies to reduce exposure to secondhand smoke, including in multi-unit housing, entryways, public events, service areas, and outdoor worksites. (Postponed from April 20) This is another postponement from previous meetings.The first reading of this ordinance was conducted on March 2, 2021, but was sent back to staff for additional consideration of restrictions for single-family homes with ADUs. While there is overall agreement on the benefit of reducing exposure to secondhand smoke, inclusion of single-family homes (SFRs) with ADUs (both the SFR and the unit) in this restriction is controversial. Does the ordinance infringe on property owner rights? Does it unfairly target renters? Many ADUs are built for extended family members. Does the ordinance discriminate against seniors, who are more likely to be smokers? Has the community been sufficiently notified of this regulation of SFRs and future ADU projects? Will this discourage production of ADUs, violating the supposed city policy of encouraging such homes?

Item #13: Consideration of proposed Fiscal Year (FY) 2021-22 Fee Schedule Update. (Postponed from April 20) This annual process typically includes an inflation factor, apparently 1.6% for this year, as well as the cost of labor at 5.7% increases. Fees are set based on recovery of costs, so the list of fees is lengthy, particularly for any type of construction. Many fees remain unchanged, however, there are substantive changes in Parks and Recreation fees. Typically, these fees are market-driven with comparisons to neighboring cities. There is a new Community Garden User Fee structure, together with increases in athletic field fees, which have been heavily subsidized, detailed in Agenda Item #14.

Item #14: Consider approving the updated Athletic Field Use Policy. (Continued from April 20. The public comment has been closed and remains closed). Likely, there will be extensive discussion on two issues (1) the proposed change from per player fees to an hourly fee structure in line with neighboring cities, that will increase costs to leagues, and (2) more general Sunday reservation of fields for leagues. Traditionally, fields are allowed to “rest” and be open to recreational resident usage on Sunday, rather than league play. Another consideration is that Parks and Recreation has only been recovering 7% of their costs, whereas other cost recovery targets are at least 20%, with consideration given to 25% to 40% cost recovery. Estimated annual costs to the city for maintenance and operation is $1,874,539.There are 15 sites to manage – the same number as Palo Alto which recovers $550,000 a year vs. Cupertino’s estimated recovery of $140,000 per year.

Item #15:Consideration of a City Council summer recess and cancellation of meeting(s).  Traditionally, the council has cancelled one or two meetings during the summer. But this year, council needs to move forward on the new Housing Element–a planning item that only occurs once every eight years.

As usual, listen closely to council reports and future agenda items at the end of the meeting.

UPCOMING – CITY COUNCIL – Wed., May 5, 2021, Study Session 6:30 p.m.

There will be a Study Session on the Capital Improvement Programs (CIP): Review of Projects Proposed for Fiscal Year (FY) 21/22. Sixteen new projects are proposed for FY21-22. Overall, the FY21-22 Amended CIP budget totals $41.6 million for 40 projects  at various levels of completion over multiple years, representing a substantial investment in our city infrastructure. The report is dense, but worth perusing, noting  priority votes by each council member. Based on those priorities, council will decide which projects to pursue, with the potential to add and remove projects.

RECAP – Tues., April 27, 2021, 6:15 p.m. Special joint study session meeting with City Council, Planning Commission, and Housing Commission on the Housing Element update

YouTube: 2 hr. 43 min.

This Housing Element Kick-off session lasted almost 3 hours, and provided background for the upcoming process. It was facilitated by the Santa Clara County Planning Collaborative’s technical support team. Producing the new Housing Element will be challenging for this group, with a number of members displaying a woeful lack of knowledge about housing laws. Cupertino For All, a local advocacy group, provided a compact summary in this Twitter thread for the session.

Cupertino will be required to plan to produce over 4,500 new homes in the next 2023-2030 cycle. Based on guidance from the California Department of Housing and Community Development, the city must plan for the realistic likelihood of development under AB 1397 (2017) and distribute that housing in such a way that it affirmatively furthers fair housing under AB 686 (2018). As a result, Cupertino will have to zone for considerably more housing than the 4,588 homes in its Regional Housing Needs Allocation. 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

CUPERTINO COURIER, April 30,  2021

The front page photo and story on 5 is The Road to Safety: Safe Routes teaches bike skills to middle schoolers this summer. The community briefs on page 5 are (1) Crest nominations extended, and (2) Open studios online for artists this year.There is one minor legal notice on page 25 regarding the Density Bonus Ordinance to be heard at council at the May 4 council meeting.

Warm regards,
Jean Bedord
Cupertino Matters
Publisher and Editor