Cupertino Matters

The big news this week is that Cupertino quarry and cement plant may be bought and shut down by Santa Clara County government: County Supervisor Joe Simitian pushes for public ownership of historic, but controversial industrial site, from the Mercury News. Supervisor Simitian’s referral item calls on the Board of Supervisors to direct the county to issue a report in 90 days that outlines options for acquiring the 3,150 acre site, with the intent of closing the plant and converting it to alternative uses. Mayors of five West Valley cities expressed strong support for this measure: Cupertino, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Palo Alto, and Sunnyvale.

The current plant opened in 1939 prior to Cupertino’s incorporation in 1955, and has a long history of both building materials production and pollution and environmental violations. The city of Cupertino explored options for acquisition and shutdown several years ago, but lacked the legal and financial standing to move ahead, in large part because the land sits outside the city’s jurisdictional boundaries. Times change, however. The cement plant has new owners, Heidelberg Cement, a German multinational, with U.S. headquarters in Irving Texas, and are evidently willing to talk about options. The county, which has jurisdiction over the site, is eyeing the property for potential open space and housing.

Should feasible options be identified, the process will require many years to implement. For more details, readers can attend Supervisor Simitian’s annual Public Meeting on March 2, 2022, and can voice their opinions by emailing the members of the Board of Supervisors, or commenting on Item 18 on the City Council’s agenda tonight.

UPCOMING – CITY COUNCIL – Tues., Feb. 15, 2022, 6:45 p.m., Regular meeting, 5:30 Study Session

Study session: Commissions and Committees Workshop. Cupertino has 17 commissions and committees, more than comparable cities of approximately the same size. Each one requires substantial staff time to provide administrative support and information to assist commissioners with the process of advising the City Council. These hours add up, with a total of 3,740 hours for commissions and 812 hours for committees for a total of 4,552 hours which are not providing day-to-day services or working on the council work plan. Rather than adding any new commissions, the council could consider streamlining the current structure, particularly the Legislative Review Committee (LRC) which consumes 400 hours of staff time or nearly 10% of the total, more than any other commission/committee other than the Planning Commission (1100 hours) and Parks and Recreation (750 hours). The LRC consists solely of council and staff, plus a paid lobbyist with an annual $72,000 retainer, and has been ineffective in influencing local representatives to Sacramento or the Governor’s office.

Ceremonial Matters and Presentations are (1) Proclamation supporting United Nations Human Rights Council resolution recognizing access to a healthy and sustainable environment as a universal right, and (2) Presentation by Captain Rich Urena of the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Department regarding public safety. This includes current crime statistics and programs provided to the city and public. Cupertino remains a very safe city, with a general decline in crime, though the theft of catalytic converters appears to be on the rise.

Oral Communications then follow. Reports should be routine. City Manager Jim Throop will be responsible for Item #5 City Manager Update. The Consent Calendar also appears to be routine.

Item #18: Options for Acquisition of Lehigh Cement Plant and Quarry by Santa Clara County. This item would formally authorize the city attorney to prepare a letter in support of  Supervisor Joe Simitian’s proposal to explore options to acquire the Lehigh Cement Plant and Quarry. Given past positions taken by council regarding Lehigh, its full support is anticipated.  .

Item #19: Consider an update on the Via-Cupertino On-Demand Community Shuttle Pilot Program and proposed grant application: California State Transportation Agency (CalSTA,) Transit and Intercity Rail Capital Program (TIRCP): Initially launched in 2019 as a pilot program, then paused during the pandemic, Via-Cupertino was relaunched on Oct. 18, 2021. Ridership has been growing steadily, and the service has been adapted in response to community feedback. Staff is requesting authorization to apply for  funding from the Transit and Intercity Rail Capital Program to continue the service beyond the initial pilot phase.

Item #20: Consider an update on Stevens Creek Boulevard Steering Committee and consideration of the City of Cupertino’s participation in the Stevens Creek Boulevard Transit Vision Study: Improving transportation along the Stevens Creek Corridor in Cupertino requires cooperation with other jurisdictions. This is a request for $154,059  for the city and its stretch of Stevens Creek Boulevard to be included in the Transit Vision Study. So much of Stevens Creek Boulevard runs through Cupertino and includes important destinations like De Anza College that it is hard to see the study moving forward without Cupertino’s inclusion.

Item #21 FY 2021-2022 City Work Program Q2 Update: The primary focus is progress on the Top 10 priorities adopted by the city council on May 26, 2021, as well as 6 major projects that are underway, including the Housing Element. There is a city dashboard which has status of all  42 projects in the work program, Staff are stretched thin with so many projects and the significant turnover in senior staff.

YOU CAN EXPRESS YOUR OPINION: Readers are encouraged to speak at Cupertino public meetings, either on specific items on the agenda, or at Oral Communications on any topic not on the agenda. 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.

CANCELED – PLANNING COMMISSION – Tues., Feb. 8, 2022, 6:45 p.m. Regular  session
CUPERTINO COURIER, February 11,  2022

The front page photo and community brief on page 5 are titled A win for safety, traffic flow: Cupertino paves the way for cyclists, community shuttles. Community briefs on page 5 include (1) Work program survey and (2) Musical opening, as well as a photo of the Cupertino Rotary Design Winner. Page 16 is Battle lines drawn over housing for SB9: some communities aiming to stop law intended to add units, previously published   with a different title on the front page of the Sunday, Feb. 6, Mercury News: As new Bay Area housing applications grow, so does rift between suburbs, developers SB9 is sparking backlash in anti-growth communities  Legal notices on page 6 include (1) Public Hearing, Vacation of a Public Pedestrian Walkway, to be heard on March 1, (2) Approval of interim ordinance regarding SB 9, (3) Second readings and approvals of the Bateh Brothers and Foothill Market developments.

Warm regards,
Jean Bedord
Cupertino Matters
Publisher and Editor