Cupertino Matters

Happy New Year, and welcome to 2022. The city welcomes a new City Manager, Jim Throop (pronounced “troop”) who started Jan. 3. The omicron variant of  COVID-19 is causing a great deal of concern for schools and businesses, though hopefully the impact will peak soon.

In a significant step forward for the community, the last component of the Westport/Oaks project with significant senior housing was finally approved at the Dec. 21 council meeting. KT Urban bought the site in 2015. It has taken almost 6 years and multiple proposals plus an inordinate amount of staff time to reach visible progress on the site. The final development is complex with (1) 88 for-sale townhomes/rowhouses, (2) 48 senior below-market-rate housing units, and (3) a senior rental living community with 123 assisted living units and 35 memory care units. With KT Urban’s sale of each part of the property, each component will have different builders and financing structures. Readers can review more details in this article Cupertino real estate deal helps push housing developments forward: Three different residential projects are slated to sprout at Cupertino sites.

This week council will consider two additional housing projects which were postponed from their Dec. 21 meeting: Bateh Bros. (9 units) and Foothill Market (18 units) projects. According to news reports, the previously approved Marina project is also being revisited to incorporate more housing instead of the hotel originally included in the plan. Each of these projects has taken many years to reach this point.

Does council recognize the barriers to approvals for housing in Cupertino? Council just approved 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? 

Cupertino’s reputation for housing obstruction is obvious from this Dec. 29, 2021 clip from Metro: Housing Chaos, Cupertino Style. At the traditional mayor’s presentation for the January Chamber of Commerce Legislative Action Committee, Mayor Paul did not mention the city’s major project for this year, the Housing Element update, which will significantly impact the city over the next 10 years–instead, he complained about features of the Vallco project and played up his own bona fides, including making the claim that he would be the best city attorney for Cupertino.

UPCOMING – CITY COUNCIL – Thurs., Jan. 13, 2022, 6:45 p.m., Special meeting

This special meeting is to consider the two items postponed from the Dec. 21, 2021 council meeting.

Item #1 Consider a development proposal to demolish an existing commercial building and residential unit, remove and replace four (4) protected trees, and construct a mixed-use development consistent of 18 units (five apartments, five single-family homes, and eight townhomes), and 4,500 square feet of commercial space. (Application No(s): EA-2018-06, Z-2018-02, DP-2018-07, TM-2018-04, U-2018-04, ASA-2018-09, TR-2018-39; Applicant(s): Dan Shaw (SCR Enterprises); Location 10625 South Foothill Boulevard; APN#s 342-16-087, -088). This is the site of the now-vacant Foothill Market and Cupertino Bike Shop. It’s 1.5 acres and a mixed-use project with both housing and retail, which has taken 2.5 years to reach the approval stage. It’s another primarily housing project and conforms to the General Plan. This project was unanimously approved by the Planning Commissioners on Nov. 23, 2021.Though the commission as a whole was positive, Vice-Chair Scharf expressed skepticism about the viability of retail in that location, though the broader commercial zoning allows service businesses to occupy the space.

Item #2  Consider a development proposal to demolish an existing commercial building and construct a new nine (9) unit single-family home development including one (1) home containing an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU). (Application No(s): EA-2020-001, Z-2020-001, DP-2020-001, TM-2020-001, ASA-2020-003, and U-2020-001; Applicant(s): Alan Enterprise LLC; Location: 22690 Stevens Creek Boulevard; APN#s 341-14-066, 342-14-104 & 105). This is the site of the old Bateh Brothers Liquor store at Stevens Creek and Foothill Boulevard, an eyesore at a main entrance to the city. The proposed project for this 3/4 acre site fits the “missing middle” housing generally absent in Cupertino. The Planning Commission approved this project at the Nov. 23, 2021 meeting, on a 4-1 vote, with Chair Wang voting nay due to his personal objections to the process. The project was surprisingly contentious, centering on the General Plan designation as a “neighborhood center” liquor store which is being replaced by badly needed housing. Instead of acknowledging that this Bateh Brothers site has many challenges due to the small size (3/4 acre) and the extensive right of way work required, Chair Wang berated planning staff for a perceived misinterpretation of the Municipal Code, contending that the site should have gone through the arduous General Plan Amendment process, failing to acknowledge that the addition of 9 for-sale homes, and a more attractive gateway to the city, benefits the community more than numerous meetings and reports consuming more staff time and delaying projects. Will council be more judicious in recognizing the need to actually get housing built?

UPCOMING – PLANNING COMMISSION – Tues, Jan. 11, 2022, 6:45 p.m. Regular  session

Item #2  2021 General Plan Annual Review/Implementation Plan. This is a state  required annual review of  progress in implementing the city general plan. No action is required by the commission.

Item #3 2022 Mayor’s Meeting with Commissioners. Commissioners need to decide who will attend the monthly Mayor’s meetings.

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

YouTube: Part 1 – 3 hr, 10 min.; Part 2 – 1 hr. 48 min. Westport/Oaks

After spending over 2 hours on routine reports and items on the consent calendar,  council commenced consideration of the two substantive agenda items at approximately 9 p.m. Mayor Paul reordered the items to ensure that Item #25 passed before midnight.

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 went into effect Jan. 1, 2022, so this was 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–one more than prior law allowed–which is 91% of the land area in Cupertino, without one-by-one approvals by city councils. Council struggled with this item, trying to be as restrictive as possible.The interim ordinance, among other things, limits new homes to 2,000 square feet, bans basements and condo conversions, imposes tandem parking garages in some instances, and limits the difference in size between homes. These are likely to be revisited as pointed out in the Mercury News article by Grace Hase: Cupertino: SB 9 ordinance may violate state law, housing group says:  YIMBY Law says limiting new homes to 2,000 square feet could violate the Housing Crisis Act of 2019. This is an interim ordinance so council will have to pass a revision in 2022, likely after further guidance by state Housing and Community Development (HCD). Has the council learned its lesson from the Housing Density Bonus Law debacle which consumed scarce planning staff resources and inflated legal expenses in 2021?

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). Despite spending over 2 hours at the council meeting on Dec. 14 on the minimal modifications needed for an assisted living facility, council rehashed the same issues before moving on to clarifying HOA responsibilities and other minor issues. Public comment was overwhelmingly favorable, citing the need for senior housing in Cupertino. Finally, shortly before midnight, the modifications were unanimously approved.

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, January 7, 2022

The front page photo and community brief on page 5 are titled Cupertino native at Rose Parade:  Fremont High grad uses engineering skills in float build. Community briefs on page 5 include (1) Safe routes videos and (2) Creative cards for the library. Page 15 is Cupertino and other cities’ back local housing initiative, previously published in the Mercury News. Legal notice on page 21 is Public Hearing for redevelopment of an existing storage facility at 10655 Mary Avenue scheduled for the Jan. 18 council meeting.

CUPERTINO COURIER, December 31, 2021

The front page photo and community brief on page 5 are titled At-risk youth get two-wheelers:  Bike ‘allows them to experience the joy and spirit of the season’, a project led by Cupertino Rotary. Community briefs on page 5 include (1) Help sought for city commissions and (2) Youth needed for task force.Page 10 is Evan Low to run in new Assembly district, Page 11 is Group speaks out against SB9 ordinance; YIMBY Law says limiting new homes to 2,000 square feet conflicts with Housing Crisis Act of 2019. Grace Hase wrote both articles previously published in the Mercury News. Legal notices on page 20 are Public Hearings for 10625 South Foothill Boulevard (Foothill Market) and 226900 Stevens Creek Boulevard (Bateh Brothers Site).scheduled for Jan. 13, after postponement from the Dec. 21 council meeting.

CUPERTINO COURIER, December 24, 2021

The front page photo and community brief on page 5 are titled VaxUp video winners: Cupertino High School students take third place in county health promotion contest. Community briefs on page 5 include (1) Road safety plan and  (2) Transgender survey. No legal notices appear.

Warm regards,
Jean Bedord
Cupertino Matters
Publisher and Editor