Cupertino Matters

February was gone in a flash. Welcome to March and Women’s History Month!

Sadly, turmoil continues at Cupertino city hall. Jim Throop, who started in January, is the 6th city manager (3 interim, 3 permanent) since 2018–a span of just four years. Last week, the Public Information Officer resigned. This week, the Finance Manager resigned. Three planners resigned in the last six months, including a senior planner in December after a contentious Planning Commission meeting. The Director of Public Works has retired. This exodus of experienced employees represents a significant drain of talent, institutional knowledge and know-how that has contributed to Cupertino’s reputation as a well-run city. There are currently 18 vacancies, not all advertised on the city website. Cupertino appears to be on a similar trajectory as Santa Clara: City employees leaving because of council’s ‘unacceptable behavior’: In exit interviews, employees are citing council dynamics as one of the reasons they’re leaving. The city has excellent employees, so why are managers leaving?

For readers following developments at the Lehigh Cement Plant, Supervisor Simitian’s annual Public Meeting on Lehigh will be held on Wednesday, March 2, 2022. This meeting will cover current developments as well as offer an opportunity to ask questions about the study exploring options for the county to purchase the 3,150 acre property.

UPCOMING – CITY COUNCIL – Tues., March 1, 2022, 6:45 p.m., Regular meeting, 5:30 Study Session

Study session: Consider a Study Session on the proposed ordinance language and phasing for a Single-Use Plastics Ordinance. State laws have been passed aimed at reducing the amount of single-use foodware and polystyrene packaging going to landfills. Requiring food businesses to switch packaging is a complicated process, with  mixed costs and benefits. The proposed ordinance would go beyond state mandates, and require extensive outreach to affected businesses, which have been negatively impacted by COVID-19. The cost of this program is estimated at $100,000, with $40,000 budgeted for the Single-UsePlastics Ordinance and Mayor’s Cup Challenge City Work Program item, and $60,000 for a technical assistance consultant to work with the approximately 200 food service businesses in Cupertino.

Ceremonial Matters and Presentations include a (1) Proclamation declaring March as Youth Arts Month on behalf of those who advocate for art education to all elementary, middle and secondary students, and a (2) Proclamation proclaiming March as American Red Cross Month.

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. Note that Item #9 is Receive the Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA) Distinguished Budget Presentation Award for Fiscal Year 2021-22 Adopted Budget. This is the 24th consecutive GFOA Distinguished Budget Presentation Award received by the city. This award comes on the eve of the resignation of the city’s Finance Manager.

Item #10: Consideration of Vacation of a Public Pedestrian Walkway Easement through Tract 9405, which runs through Campo De Lozano subdivision, located near 20138 Rodrigues Avenue. If approved, council would “gift” a pedestrian path worth approximately $1 million to the Lazano Lane Homeowners’ Association, closing off a 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-home development, with only 1 house immediately adjacent to the pathway. The easement has existed ever since these homes were built, so owners bought these homes knowing that the pathway existed.

The HOA intends to fence off the current, publicly accessible pedestrian pathway that runs along the edge of the 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 cityWalk-Bike Cupertino, which advocates for bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure in the city strongly opposes this and offers additional insight and commentary on its website. Will this council listen to residents?

Item #11: Consider accepting the Mid-Year Financial Report for Fiscal Year 2021-22; consider adopting Resolution No. 22-032 approving Budget Modification #2122-189 increasing appropriations by $9,457,951 and revenues by $10,220,000. This is a routine report, with no significant changes in financial position for the city. Sales tax collection continues to remain higher than pre-COVID-19 revenues. Transient Occupancy Tax is recovering, though it still sits below pre-pandemic levels. The most significant changes are (1) authorizing $910,000 for pre-development work to clear debris and trespassers from the Lawrence-Mitty park site, and (2) reducing the community fund-raising goal for the all inclusive play area at Jollyman Park to $1 million and reducing the total project budget by $1,847,699 by adjusting project features.

Item #12: Progress update of the Housing Element Update, and review, discuss, and approve selection of stakeholders group. EMC Planning Group, the consultancy for the city’s 6th Cycle Housing Element will present a progress report on community outreach. Thirty applications were received for the stakeholder group, which EMC then anonymously scored to recommend ten names which provide broad community representation. The council is expected to approve the stakeholders in this meeting, so expect a vigorous discussion. Approving the group is an important step in keeping the process on an already-tight schedule.

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.

RECAP – CITY COUNCIL – Tues., Feb. 23, 2022, Special meeting

YouTube: 2 hr. 16 min

Though not widely communicated to the public, this was the first time the city council met as a whole with Assemblymember Evan Low and State Senator Dave Cortese. The 2022 legislative platform for the city was presented, then legislators spoke about upcoming budget sessions in Sacramento and bills that they are introducing. The city has also now hired a new lobbyist, Joe A. Gonsalves and Sons.

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

YouTube: 3 hr. 0 min. 

Item #2: Housing Element Update study session focusing on the establishment of a housing sites inventory. This discussion was robust, but reiterated previous study session information. Questions from the Commissioners revealed a general lack of preparation for the meeting, including a failure to use the “Balancing Act” housing simulator tool provided by EMC Planning Group. Instead, time was spent complaining about the unfairness of the state requirements, including a suggestion from multiple commissioners that the city should instead sue the state over the issue. At the end of the meeting, the commissioners had not engaged with the inventory of eligible housing sites to make recommendations to enable  the CEQA process to begin. As a result, the meeting was continued to Monday, March 28, but was subsequently canceled.

CUPERTINO COURIER, February 25,  2022

The front page photo and article on page 4 are titled Expanding representation: Foothill-De Anza district to elect trustees in Cupertino, Sunnyvale this year as a result of redistricting. Community briefs on page are (1) School leadership award and (2) Lehigh update set. There are no legal notices.

Warm regards,
Jean Bedord
Cupertino Matters
Publisher and Editor