- Update – What’s happening at Vallco?
- TONIGHT, July 20, 2021, City Council, 6:45 Regular, 5:30 Study,
Many readers have observed the lack of construction progress at Vallco. When the Santa Clara County Superior court ruled against litigation by Friends of Better Cupertino (Kitty Moore, Ignatius Ding and Peggy Griffin) on May 22, 2020, the community rightly expected the city to issue the necessary permits to allow construction to proceed. Sand Hill Properties had previously filed permits with four applications in 2018, one application in 2019 and a more recent application in 2021. The first non-demolition permit was issued 6/19/2020 (a year and a half later!) just for make-ready work on the site. NO other permits were issued by the city until 6/24/21 for an application for excavation and structural shoring filed 12/20/2018–over 2.5 years ago–just before city manager Deb Feng’s last day, and over a year after litigation was settled. Overall progress (or lack of thereof) can be tracked on this FAQ page.
Vallco’s owners have prepared for months to start active work on the new Town Center. However, their progress there has been stymied by the actions of city council which hired yet another outside legal firm to handle matters related to this SB 35 project. The lead lawyer, Sunny Soltani of Aleshire & Wynder, LLP (http://www.awattorneys.com), is based in southern California, and, as such, is unfamiliar with Santa Clara County environmental processes. A city letter under her signature regarding the Vallco Town Center SB35 Project is available on the city’s website. Vallco’s response to the city’s letter is on the same webpage, pointing out that the readily mitigatable environmental concerns apply to 1,250 sq. ft. (a small house footprint) to a depth of 10 feet out of the 1.3 million sq. ft. site (page 6). The letters implicate continued interference with staff-level approvals on the part of councilmembers.See, for example, page 4 of the same letter specifically citing Councilmember Kitty Moore, who continues her arguments on social media.
What’s been the impact of the over two year delay due to litigation and foot-dragging from Cupertino?
- Construction costs have skyrocketed
- Almost no housing has been built – only 19 ADU’s and 1 single family home in 2020. No multi-housing applications in 2019.
- CUSD and FUHSD school districts have been deprived of development fees, and increases in assessed property values to fund their programs.
- The city’s legal expenses have increased substantially, without any apparent benefit to the community.
Given the housing crisis in our community and region, are these responsible actions on the part of the Cupertino City Council? Our city council has many times claimed that it is pro-housing, and that it is working to facilitate affordable housing. Is it, instead, that the real situation is as described in a San Francisco Chronicle editorial “The term ‘affordable housing’ often functions as California code for no housing. Thanks to a scarcity of homes driven by residents and officials who pretend to support housing subject to its affordability, along with all manner of other more transparently trivial specifications, affordable housing serves as a theoretical construct excusing opposition to all actual construction.”
On a positive note, city services are slowly reopening with appointments available for in-person services for building permits, planning permits, public works-related matters, and business licenses. See full schedule for facilities and services at: https://www.cupertino.org/our-city/city-news/reopening.
Leadership at the Cupertino Union School District (CUSD) is also changing. Jeff Bowman, the chief business officer/budget director, has left to become the superintendent of Orchard Elementary School District in San Jose. His steady guidance will be missed when the district again faces school restructuring and campus consolidations.
UPCOMING – CITY COUNCIL – Tues, July 20, 2021, Regular meeting, 6:45 p.m; Study Session, 5:30 p.m.
The study session is Consider Blackberry Farm Golf Course Feasibility Study Options (includes options for minimal repairs, a renovated golf course, and returning the golf course to natural habitat). City council first discussed options for this aging recreational facility in 2016, with decisions deferred until the Parks and Recreation Master Plan was approved.The 65-year old irrigation system continues to deteriorate and needs to be replaced as well as the netting, tee boxes and greens. The Planning Commission reviewed three options: (1) minimal repairs, estimated at $1.1 million, (2) a renovated course, estimated at $2.5 million with an expanded clubhouse/meeting facility of $3.6 million, and (3) returning the golf course to a natural habitat, estimated at $1.5 million. The Planning Commission unanimously recommended pursuing option (1) and (3). Option (1) would reduce the current city subsidy of $300,000 by $18,000 savings in water costs. Option (2) is most likely to become self-sustaining, without requiring a city subsidy. Option (3) would require an estimated annual subsidy of $200,000 for maintenance and range functions. This is an opportunity for readers to voice their opinions. Significant organizational support is expected for Option (3) vs. maintaining a golf course (1). Both have substantial associated costs and will require a city subsidy.
There should be a report out on the closed session on June 22. Ceremonial matters and presentations are (1) Proclamation recognizing July as Parks and Recreation Month, and (2) Proclamation Acknowledging the Lowenthals for their Land Donation for the Stevens Creek Trail, a generous contribution by Richard and Ellen Lowenthal to expanding trail connectivity with the LInda Vista Trail connecting Linda Vista Park and historical McClellan Ranch Preserve.
Oral Communications should then occur, followed by Item #3, 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–the first by interim city manager Greg Larson–and Item #5 is a report on committee assignments.The Consent Calendar is routine, though Item #20 Consideration of Approval of a Contract Amendment with Nomad Transit, LLC (Via) to 1) Extend Via-Cupertino Shuttle Pilot Program by Extending the Contract Time; 2) Update Contract Language Due to California Assembly Bill (AB) 5, and Proposition 22; and 3) to Increase Driver Compensation may get pulled for discussion.
Item #21 is Consider and Act on Ordinance No. 21-2228: “An Ordinance of the City Council of the City of Cupertino Amending City Code Section 11.27.145, Designation of Preferential Parking Zones, to Add Serra Street (All Saturdays, Sundays, and Holidays, from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m.)”: This the second reading, so should be pro forma, since the first reading was approved unanimously.
Item #22 Hearing to approve lien assessment and collection of fees on private parcels resulting from abatement of public nuisance (weeds and/or brush) for the annual Weed and Brush Abatement Programs. This annual process for brush abatement is combined with weed abatement this year. Given the upcoming fire season, this should be a routine item, but as in the past, Vice-Mayor Chao, previously cited for weed abatement, may again contest the process.
Item #23 Consideration of the Lease, Sale or City Operation of the Cupertino Municipal Water System and Provide Direction on These Options. The city of Cupertino is serviced by three water systems, one of which is city owned,and leased to San Jose Water Company until .end of September, 2022. The system is valued at $55 million. Options are (1) A new 20 year lease, estimated to take up to 15 months to negotiate is recommended by staff, (2) Sale of the system which would provide funds for other capital projects in the city, but could take up to 4 years and potentially require an election, or (3) Operation by city staff, which would be inefficient and require regulatory approvals with potentially higher rates to residents. Options (2) and (3) were considered by previous councils but both are significantly more complex than continuing to lease with requirements for capital improvements. The city, however, has almost ROI (Return on Investment) for this asset.
Item #24 Consider Proposed Amendments to Appointed Employees Compensation Program to include City Attorney Classification and to Reflect Annual Salary Amount, and Consider Proposed First Amendment to Employment Agreement for the City Attorney Changing Appointment Date to July 20, 2021. This amends the city employment agreement to include the city attorney as well as the city manager. Compensation for the city manager is $275,000 per year and city attorney is $255,000 per year.
Item #25 Consider increasing the current 0.75 Full-time Equivalent (FTE) Community Relations Coordinator (Block Leader Program) by 0.25 to make 1.0 Full-time Position. With the retirement of the Community Relations Coordinator, the Block Leader and Neighborhood Watch programs are being reorganized under the Office of Emergency Management. This item requests consolidating two part-time positions into one full-time position, which is more efficient and attractive to qualified applicants.
Item #26 Receive Internal Audit Enterprise Risk Assessment and Consider Approving Internal Audit Plan for FY 2021-22. City council established the internal audit function in 2020, hiring an outside consultant to conduct an enterprise risk assessment. The 72-page Internal Audit Enterprise Risk Assessment with responses from city employees is well worth reviewing. Evaluation of city operational processes and risks are clearly identified. A summary is provided on page 63.
Highest risk is Procurement and Contracting which is decentralized, as well as vendor management. The IT department gets high kudos with recognition of their value in operational efficiency. Governance is identified as a Moderate-to-High Risk category, with the statement on page 13 of the report: “City does not have a strategic plan and the Council sometimes operates at more of an operational rather than strategic level, focusing on immediate action items and implementation details rather than setting long-term strategic goals. This contributes to a reactive environment where staff priorities can change depending on the Council’s interests.” This report clearly highlights the challenges facing the incoming city manager. City council, however, may not be receptive to the issues that have been identified, including the ineffectiveness of city commissions.
Item #27 Receive 2021 Drought Condition Information and Update on the City’s Ongoing Water Conservation Measures for City Operations; Provide Input to Staff on Potential Further Water Conservation Measures. This is an update to council on actions the city is taking to conserve water as well as incentive programs for residents.
As usual, listen closely to council reports and future agenda items at the end of the meeting.
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 the 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 CupertinoMatters.org/express-your-opinion
CANCELLED – PLANNING COMMISSION – Tues., July 13, 2021 6:45 p.m., Regular Session
CUPERTINO COURIER, July 16, 2021
Photos on the front page and page 5 are Patriotic Spirit: Members of the Sunny View Rag Tag Singers perform July 2, highlighting this Cupertino Senior retirement community.. Article on page 5 is Local wineries snag awards in international competition. Two Cupertino wineries are mentioned: Fellom Ranch Vineyards and Naumann Vineyards. Community briefs on page 6 are (1) Attorney wanted, recruiting for an assistant city attorney, (2) Lobbyist registration portal, and (3) Transit plan comment. There is a legal notice on page 21 for a Planning Commission hearing regarding Tentative Vesting Map for the Westport/Oaks project.
CUPERTINO COURIER, July 9, 2021
The front page photo and article on page 5 is Rational approach to rationaling: Drought-tolerant garden helps nonprofit pick up pace of water savings, a volunteer project for a Pacific Autism Center for Education (PACE) residence in Cupertino. Community briefs on page 5 are (1) City services reopening, (2) Housing survey extended, (3) Plant clinic and (4) Birding for Beginners. There is a legal notice on page 28 for consideration of lease, sale or city operation of the Cupertino Municipal Water System.
CUPERTINO COURIER, July 2, 2021
The front page photo and article on page 5 is Two years in the making: Stevens Creek Trail extension opens in Cupertino. This trail links Linda Vista Park and McClellan Ranch along an old haul road skirting Deep Cliff golf course. The photo, however, is prior to the very attractive trail improvements. Community briefs on page 5 are (1) Chi Am scholars, (2) National Merit winners announced and (3) ACTing perfect.
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