Cupertino Matters

With the availability of the  COVID-19 vaccines early in 2021, Christmas this year is inching toward a “new normal” though the new Omicron variant of COVID-19, as well as Delta, is causing concern. Travel, particularly business travel, continues to be down and Apple has extended work-from-home for its employees indefinitely which impacts local Cupertino businesses. Overall, the hospitality industry continues to be hard hit.

Housing issues continue to dominate the city council agenda. Time is running out for the two major items on the council agenda with the failure of the council to approve the minor modifications for the Westport project and the consideration of an emergency ordinance to implement SB 9.

In 2020, this city added only 20 homes to its housing stock, consisting of 19 small accessory dwelling units (ADUs) enabled by state law and 1 single-family residence.  Senior housing at Westport would add 123 housing units and 35 memory care units to city housing inventory. Legally, the project as approved in 2020 won’t be built due to licensing requirements, so council needs to approve the minor modifications to move the project forward, instead of an empty lot for the indefinite future. This council claims to be pro-housing so why obstruct an improved housing project that is clearly responsive to our community housing needs?  

Postponement of the Bateh Bros. (9 units) and Foothill Market (18 units) projects means that no multi-family projects will be approved in 2021. Westport was approved in 2020, and there were no multi-family projects in 2019. Yet council is considering  an emergency ordinance restricting housing development under SB9–a modest law allowing homeowners to split certain lots and build up to two homes on each lot. Is this council capable of planning a Housing Element for 4,588 new homes required by state law?

UPCOMING – CITY COUNCIL – Tues, Dec. 21, 2021, 6:45 – Regular  session

Ceremonial Matters and Presentations are (1) Recognition of 2021 STEM Winners from the City of Cupertino who participated in the Santa Clara County 2021 Synopsys Championship Science Fair, and (2) Proclamation recognizing 25 years of volunteer work by the Shin Shin Educational Foundation

Postponements until 2022 include previously noticed public hearings for (1) 22690 Stevens Creek Boulevard (Bateh Brothers Site) and (2) 10625 South Foothill Boulevard (Foothill Market).

Oral Communications then follow immediately. Reports should be routine. Acting City Manager Diane Thompson will be responsible for Item #7 City Manager Update   Though lengthy, the Consent Calendar appears to be routine.

Item #24: Consider modifications to the approved Westport Development project which include adjusting unit mix in the assisted living facility (Building 1) to 123 assisted living units and 35 memory care rooms, reclassification of approximately 8,000 square feet of public dining area to private dining, reducing the underground parking to reflect adjustments in uses, and reduction of massing on the top floor to accommodate a sixth floor aqua therapy pool; (Application No(s): M-2021-002, ASA-2021-007, EXC-2021-003; Applicant(s): Related California (Cascade Zak); Location: 21267 Stevens Creek Boulevard; APN #326-27-043). Council sent this back to staff and the applicant at the Dec. 7 council meeting, ignoring the voices of the senior community and the overwhelming need for assisted living and memory care in Cupertino. Due to council demands, Atria, a large and experienced senior living operator, then had to rework the plans, costing time and money that could have been spent on the project itself. The revised application now includes a 3,500 sq. ft. expansion of the retail space (equivalent of a large single-family home), and added back 40 parking spaces for seniors, who may not even have a car. Will this council approve this badly needed housing?

Item #25: Consider an Interim Ordinance to implement new state legislation (Senate Bill 9), that provides for ministerial approval of up to two units and/or a lot split in a residential single-family zone (Application No.: MCA-2021-005; Applicant: City of Cupertino; Location: Citywide in all residential single family zones). This state law goes into effect Jan. 1, 2022, so this is a last-minute action by the city council to impose restrictions under the guise of “objective standards.” The law allows up to four housing units on lots currently zoned for single family homes, which is 91% of the land area in Cupertino, without one-by-one approvals by recalcitrant city councils. Council will have to decide whether to restrict construction of ADUs on subdivided lots. The staff report is 10-pages of technical details, so expect a protracted discussion.

RECAP – PLANNING COMMISSION – Tues, Dec. 14, 2021, 6:45 p.m. Regular  session

YouTube: 1 hr. 44 min. 

This was a short meeting. The new assistant city attorney, Michael Woo, from Berkeley,  was introduced. There has been significant turnover in the Planning Department, with the loss of 3 planners, including Erik Serrano, a senior planner. The day-to-day workload has increased due to more home improvement projects, as well as commercial projects. This is in addition to the state-mandated Housing Element and required sign ordinance update, so staffing will be a major challenge.

Item #2 Consider Development and Architectural and Site Approval permits that would allow the replacement of seven (7) storage buildings, with three (3) new buildings between one (1) and three (3) stories in height to allow for a 166,845 sq. ft. storage facility; Consider a Fence Exception request to allow electronic vehicular gates and a Tree Removal Permit request to allow the removal and replacement of eight (8) protected trees. (Application No(s): DP-2019-05, ASA-2019-05, EXC-2019-04, TR-2019-048; Applicant(s): Emilia Samudio (Jordan Architects); Location: 10655 Mary Ave.; APN: 326-06-050).  Discussion was limited on this non-controversial redevelopment of an existing property. Approved 4-0-1 with Commissioner Kapil absent.

Item #3 Discuss potential City Work Program proposals for Fiscal Year 2022-2023. This was a rambling discussion derailed by a focus on school enrollments and funding which is not the purview of the city. The commission ignored their responsibilities for design ordinance updates and mixed-use design standards. Instead, proposed projects included balconies and 5G.

YOU CAN EXPRESS YOUR OPINION: Readers are encouraged to speak at Cupertino public meetings, either at Oral Communications on any topic, or on specific agenda items. Speakers ordinarily have three minutes, and coaching is available! Readers are also encouraged to email individual council members, 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 emails become part of the public record.

CUPERTINO COURIER, December 17, 2021

This issue had several articles specific to Cupertino. The front page photo and article on page 5 are titled ‘Kindness, Resilience and Hope’ :  De Anza’s Eurphrat finds ‘common ground’ with new exhibit. Community briefs on page 5 are (1) Holiday lights highlighting  the Cupertino Holiday Lights map, (2) Shop local with  e-gift cards, (3) Spelling bee for elementary school students and (4) Young artist contest. Page 6 is Cupertino: Council defers decision on housing. Page 9 is an article previously published in the Mercury News, Cupertino: City fights NIMBY label, faces housing mandate by Grace Hase featuring Neil McClintick, chair of Cupertino for All, a community advocacy group. Page 14 is Darcy Paul, Liang Chao re-elected as mayor; vice mayor.  Minor legal notice on page 21.

Warm regards,
Jean Bedord
Cupertino Matters
Publisher and Editor