Cupertino Matters

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, with friends and families having to decide whether to gather in person for the holiday. COVID-19 vaccine injections for 5 to 11 year olds have just become available, so they will not be fully protected until closer to Christmas.

Last week’s firestorm of public criticism of Vice-Mayor Liang Chao’s comments denying the racist genesis of the Chinese Exclusion Act, continues. In addition to those noted in last week’s edition, the Silicon Valley Asian Pacific American Democratic Club issued a statement condemning the remarks. More locally, Cupertino for All likewise issued a statement calling on the Vice-Mayor to apologize and explaining why her comments to date remain insufficient and troubling.

Despite this ongoing scandal, this evening’s city council meeting agenda features a full plate of substantive items, with housing-related issues front and center. Lack of production of new homes in Cupertino has had major implications for both our residents and local government finances. Our city and school districts rely on property taxes to fund their operations – 31% of the city budget comes from property tax, though the city’s share of each $1 is only 7 cents. The city’s Budget-at-a-Glance gives the example of a recently purchased home assessed at $2,185,000 (slightly under the median single-family house price of $2,780,000) which pays $21,185 in taxes but provides only $1,530 to support city services. That said, this amount is far larger than homes long held, which maintain a lower assessment value under Proposition 13.

This phenomenon hides a bigger problem. Only 263 single-family residences (SFRs) have sold in 2021. Only 260 SFRs sold in 2020, with less than 300 SFR sales in years 2015 through 2020. That’s less than 2% of the approximately 20,000 households in Cupertino that result in reassessments generating higher property taxes each year. Long time homeowners often pay less than $10,000 a year in property taxes, and may be as low as $2,000. For some people remaining in the same home–even if too large–and aging in place is a choice, but many others simply lack options to downsize and stay in or near the communities they’ve known for years. The result is two-fold: less turnover in homes, resulting in lower total tax assessments benefiting the city, county, and school districts, and declining enrollment as roomy homes especially attractive to families with children remain unavailable on the market–an additional housing-related driver of school closures as recently highlighted in the Mercury News’s “Why are California schools losing students,” which specifically cites the example of Cupertino.

New state housing laws and the Housing Element revision process are intended to encourage new housing in cities like Cupertino, which produced a mere 20 homes in 2020: 19 ADUs and 1 SFR. Our state-mandated planning allocation for the next cycle is 4,588 homes units, or about a 20% increase in the overall number of homes citywide over the next 8 years. The type of housing and locations will significantly impact the future of our city, so your voices will be important. You can join the city and community in shaping that conversation tonight.

UPCOMING – CITY COUNCIL – Tues, Nov. 16, 2021, 6:45 – Regular  session, 5:15, Study session

The study session at 5:15 includes two presentations: (1) Housing Element Update: Sites inventory and upcoming community engagement. A public workshop is scheduled for the Housing Commission on Dec. 9 which will include a “Balancing Act” mapping exercise for the public to suggest appropriate housing sites. In addition, staff is compiling a list of property owners potentially eligible to be considered for housing to determine their level of interest for this cycle of the Housing Element due by January 2023. (2) Consider Climate Action Plan Update draft measures, with summaries of the workshop and surveys.

The Ceremonial Matters and Presentations is Proclamation to Women Impacting Public Policy (WIPP) and the Small Business Saturday Coalition supporting Small Business Saturday in Cupertino. Oral Communications follow immediately. Reports should be routine. The Consent Calendar appears to be routine. It includes acceptance of community donations of  $80,000 from fund-raising by  the Cupertino Library Foundation to offset costs for the Library Expansion Project.

Item #14: Consider appointment of the selected candidate as City Manager, approval of the employment agreement, and amending the Appointed Employee’s Compensation Program.  Details were not posted in advance, but  will be provided at the council meeting. Council will be asked to authorize appointment of the new city manager, effective Jan. 3, 2022.

Item #15: City Manager’s First Quarter Financial Report for Fiscal Year 2021-22. FY 2021-21 expenditures for the city were $22.9 million lower than budgeted due to position vacancies and reduction of part time staff, as well as project savings primarily in Parks and Recreation and Public Works. Revenue was stronger than expected., particularly compared to the same time period last year with full-blown COVID-19 impacts. Resignations and retirements have resulted in staff vacancies, which have been difficult to fill. Overall, the city remains financially well-positioned.

Item #16: Consider approval of a Final Map, the Subdivision Improvement Agreement, and the Affordable Housing Regulatory Agreement and Declaration of Restrictive Covenants (the BMR Agreement) for Westport Cupertino Development Project; Tract No. 10579; Applicant: 190 West St. James, LLC (KT Urban); Location: 21267 Stevens Creek Boulevard; APN #326-27-042 & 043. These are engineering documents required for final approval for a three lot subdivision and up to 88 residential condominiums.  In addition, KT Urban is requesting a short deferral of payment of parkland fees until Dec. 31, 2021, as well as clarification that the federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program rules take precedence over the city Below Market Rate (BMR) manual in the case of conflict.

Item #17: Consider conducting a first reading of an ordinance that prohibits parking along the west side of Vista Drive between Forest Avenue and Merritt Drive, and along the south side of Merritt Drive between Vista Drive and the western end, to accommodate the construction of a Class IV bicycle lanes. The School Walk Audit Implementation Project identified street improvements in the vicinity of the fourteen public schools in Cupertino that would enhance the safety of schoolchildren walking and biking to school. One of the improvements identified was the installation of a two-way separated bike path along the roadway fronting Lawson Middle School. Removal of street parking on the Lawson school property side (not in front of homes) is required to construct the bicycle lanes. The project is funded by Apple, so there is no impact on city finances.

Item #18: Consider conducting a first reading of an ordinance to make minor and technical corrections to the Cupertino Municipal Code as follows: (1) enacting new Sections 2.36.085 and 2.74.075 and new Chapter 2.110; (2) amending Sections 1.12.010, 2.48.020, 2.60.050, 2.68.050, 2.74.040, 2.80.090, 2.86.070, 2.92.090, 3.23.060, 8.06.030, 14.04.125, 14.18.090, 16.52.043, 16.52.053, 18.04.020, 19.102.030, and 19.104.220 and Table 19.124.040; and (3) repealing Section 11.08.020   Municipal code is complex and changes over time. These changes reflect annual housekeeping to ensure consistency between different sections of the code.

YOU CAN EXPRESS YOUR OPINION: Readers are encouraged to speak at council meetings, either at Oral Communications on any topic, or on specific agenda items. Speakers have three minutes, and coaching is available!  You should introduce yourself and have a clear statement of your position. Readers are also 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.

CUPERTINO COURIER, November 12, 2021

The front page photo and article on page 5 are titled As good as new: Rotarians help Cupertino homeowner on Rebuilding Day. Community briefs on page 5 are (1) COVID-19 test site returns, (2) Bulk compost available, (3) Apply for artist awards  and (4) Holiday light map. Page 8 has the previously published article Stringent housing standards considered: Senate Bill 9 law allows property owners to split lots, regarding actions of the Cupertino city council to inhibit housing production. Legal notices on pp. 31-33 are a Public Hearing for 10625 South Foothill Boulevard, the former Foothill Market, before the Planning Commission on Nov. 23, 2021.

Warm regards,
Jean Bedord
Cupertino Matters
Publisher and Editor