Cupertino Matters

This week, Santa Clara County Moved to Buy Lehigh Cement Plant Site. The Board of Supervisors quickly and unanimously approved issuing 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. Realistically, this is just the first step in a long process that will take years to decades to play out. For more details, readers can attend Supervisor Simitian’s annual Public Meeting on Lehigh on March 2, 2022.

Conversely, in Cupertino, council will consider “gifting” a pedestrian path worth approximately $1M to the Lazano Lane Homeowners’ Association, closing off city-owned public easement to the $5 million Regnart Creek Trail scheduled to open later in 2022. This easement dates to 2002, and was a condition of approval for an 8 house development, with only 1 house immediately adjacent to the pathway. The easement has existed ever since these homes were built, so each owner knew it would be there.

The HOA intends to fence off the current, publicly accessible pedestrian pathway that runs through their property to restrict public access through the area, which requires trail users to utilize streetbound sidewalks as alternative pathways. The approved Parks & Recreation Master Plan calls for greater connectivity between trail paths and the community to ensure the utility of the trails. The proposed action runs contrary to that intent and would set a new precedent for closing other public paths in our city. Walk-Bike Cupertino, which advocates for bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure in the city, offers additional insight and commentary on its website. Readers may offer their opinions to council as laid out below. This item is currently scheduled to be on the council agenda on March 1.

Redistricting for Foothill DeAnza Community College District has now concluded with a 5 district final map approved on a 4-1 vote, with Trustee Gilbert Wong dissenting. As reported by the Mercury News, Foothill-De Anza district to elect trustees in Cupertino, Sunnyvale this year, two districts will hold elections in 2022, the other three districts will elect trustees in 2024. One district seat, which includes most of eastern Cupertino, is home to two trustees–Patrick Ahrens and Pearl Cheng–and will go to the ballot in 2022, along with a second district in Sunnyvale, where no incumbent resides.

YOU CAN EXPRESS YOUR OPINION: Readers are  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.

UPCOMING – PLANNING COMMISSION – Tues., Feb. 22, 2022, 6:45 p.m. Regular  session

Item #2 Housing Element Update study session focusing on the establishment of a housing sites inventory, Progress on the Housing Element is the sole public hearing. The deadline for the public stakeholders group was extended through February 11, though no stated reason was provided. There are now 22 participants in the Housing Simulator (up from 7), but the results are similar for the special areas, with some divergence in the neighborhoods.

There is a 4+ page report that lists all the potential housing sites that fit the HCD guidelines between 0.5 acres to 10 acres. Letters have been sent to property owners, but there has been no indication of response rate. Many sites are small–less than 1 acre–which naturally limits capacity. Given that 91% of the residential land in the city is zoned exclusively for single-family only use, extensive upzoning will likely be required. One of the major obstacles to building more housing is Cupertino’s high parking requirements–requirements so high, they were specifically featured in Vox as a constraint on new housing development. The site inventory must be finalized in order to move on to required environmental review, and to a timely submission of a draft Housing Element to the California Department of Housing and Community Development.

RECAP – CITY COUNCIL – Tues., Feb. 15, 2022, 6:45 p.m., Regular meeting, 5:30 Study Session, Adjourned to Thurs., Feb. 17, 7:00.

YouTube: Part 1, 2 hr. 16 min. Study Session and Presentations; Part 2, 3 hr. 34 min. Through Item #20; Adjourned Meeting,  1 hr. 48 min.

While Mayor Darcy Paul has been successful in ending council meetings by midnight, discussions on this week’s agenda continued to be protracted, even for items broadly supported in the community and which received unanimous support, such as approval for a letter of support for Supervisor Joe Simitian’s proposal that the County study acquiring the Lehigh Cement Plant and Quarry. As a result, the meeting was adjourned to a second night to consider Item #21, Update on the City Work Plan.

Study session: Commissions and Committees Workshop. This was a long session that barely ended before the start of the regular meeting. Council was not open to addressing the abundance of commissions, and chose to focus on their areas of interest. Despite the high cost (400 hours of staff time and $72,000 retainer for a paid lobbyist) of the Legislative Review Committee (LRC) and ineffectiveness in influencing local representatives to Sacramento or the Governor’s office, Mayor Paul stated that the LRC was the “finest work coming out of the community.”

Ceremonial Matters and Presentations included an insightful update from Captain Rich Urena of the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Department regarding public safety. This included current crime statistics and programs for the city. Cupertino continues to be a very safe city, with a general decline in crime, though the theft of catalytic converters classified as grand theft (value > $950) has increased.

Item #18: Options for Acquisition of Lehigh Cement Plant and Quarry by Santa Clara County.  Earlier in the day, the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved moving forward with a study on acquisition options in less than 5 minutes. The council took nearly an hour discussing concerns and trying to impose conditions, despite their lack of jurisdiction, before unanimously authorizing the city attorney to prepare a letter in support of Supervisor Simitian’s proposal.

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): This was a detailed presentation on the restart of the community shuttle service. Caltrain and the high schools are the most popular destinations. The most frequent request is expansion of service beyond Cupertino, so collaboration with adjoining cities is being explored.  Council voted unanimously to authorize staff 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: In 2020, Cupertino declined to participate in this study. In the meantime, staff from the adjoining cities continued to meet and refine the scope of  work. There was extensive public input in favor of Cupertino joining the study by authorizing an estimated $154,059 in funding. After lengthy discussion, council added the stipulation that the study be expanded to extend from De Anza College to Foothill Boulevard. Council approved unanimously.

Item #21: FY 2021-2022 City Work Program Q2 Update. This routine agenda item lasted almost two hours. Though councilmembers acknowledged the quality of work in keeping the project statuses up-to-date, the city dashboard with status of all 42 projects in the work program is underutilized by councilmembers, so additional reports have to be generated by staff for these deliberations.

CUPERTINO COURIER, February 18,  2022

The front page photo and article on page 5 are titled Meeting the need:  More Cupertino residents using nonprofit’s food, rental assistance spotlighting West Valley Community Services. Community brief on page 5 is County expands mental health program.  Page 10 is  City Council ready to consider plan for county to purchase Lehigh cement plant,  previously published  with a different title in the Mercury News: Cupertino quarry and cement plant may be bought. There are no legal notices.

Warm regards,
Jean Bedord
Cupertino Matters
Publisher and Editor