Cupertino Matters

With the rapid drop in COVID-19 cases, masking requirements are finally loosening. It’s been a long two years.

City council meetings continue at cross-purposes. The two major challenges for the city this year are (1) progress on Vallco, and (2) the Housing Element update. Yet the upcoming city council meeting agenda has only one substantial item, which is a work program update to the Mary Avenue Extremely Low Income (ELI) housing project. Most of the agenda consists of minor items which should have been approved on the consent calendar, but were pulled by Councilmember Kitty Moore thus requiring more scarce staff time.

Then, there is the unprecedented agenda item which seeks council endorsement of a letter written by Vice Mayor Chao requesting that CUSD reconsider closure of Regnart and Meyerholz schools. The letter itself includes numerous factual inaccuracies, but more importantly, intervenes in the governance functions of another jurisdiction at an exceedingly late stage. Council controls land use entitlements in the city, which it could be using to address one of the root causes of declining school enrollment–the lack of supply of housing affordable to families with young children. Readers may write in or call in as outlined below to express their opinions.

UPCOMING – CITY COUNCIL – Tues., March 15, 2022, 6 :45 p.m.; Study session, 5:30 p.m.

The study session subject is to consider options for West Coast Farmers’ Market location at a city park. The Sunday Farmers Market relocated to the Senior Center parking lot after Westport/The Oaks started construction. Now that post-COVID activities at Memorial Park are resuming, this park is no longer available due to construction and festivals. The most feasible alternate location per the staff report is Monta Vista Park. While having two Farmers Markets in Cupertino is nice to have, most cities have only one.

Ceremonial Matters and Presentations include recognizing the receipt of the California Society of Municipal Finance Officers (CSMFO) Innovation Award.This 2022 Innovation Award is for the City’s Resident Tax Calculator and Budget Forecast Tool. This is the first time that the City of Cupertino has received this award and highlights the City’s commitment to innovation despite unique challenges presented by the pandemic over the past year. The Finance Department does an outstanding job in making financial information accessible to the public.

Oral Communications then follow. Reports should be routine. Item #5 is a City Manager Update. The Consent Calendar also appears to be routine.

Item #10:Progress on FY 2021-2022 Council Work Program item to develop ELI and BMR housing units for Developmentally Disabled individuals on City-owned property along Mary Avenue. Though this project has been on the council work plan beginning FY 2019-20, this is the first step in zoning city-owned land for housing. The Extremely Low Income (ELI) population has been underserved within BMR development.  Council has stated its support, but will it approve moving ahead with removing parking to build housing?

Item #11: Review of Homeless Jobs Program, FY 2021-22 City Work Program item and consider adoption of Resolution No. 22-026 accepting accounts payable for the period ending January 10, 2022. This was clarification of a city work program to provide temporary jobs to two unhoused persons through June 2022. It is funded through June, 2022, with West Valley Community Services as the only respondent to the RFP.

Item #12: Consider issuing a request to the CUSD Board for reconsideration of the future closures of Regnart and Meyerholz Elementary Schools. This agenda item is peculiar. The Cupertino Union School District (CUSD) is a different jurisdiction than the city of Cupertino, with only about 40% of students residing in Cupertino itself. Why is Vice Mayor Chao asking the city council to approve a letter to tell the school district how to manage its financial affairs? The decline in student enrollment is directly related to the failure to authorize sufficient and varied housing in Cupertino.

Item #13: Consider report on Chamber of Commerce services and payment included in the Accounts Payable report ending December 20, 2021 and approval of Accounts Payable report: The Chamber of Commerce has been a city partner for many years, with the city paying $16,000 a year for extensive outreach and service delivery to the business community, as well as a $1500 membership fee. The staff is suggesting a formal Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).

Item #14: Receive presentation on the City’s drone program and consider accepting accounts payable electronic funds transfer 32909 dated October 29, 2021, for the procurement of a Skydio X2E Drone Starter Kit. Councilmember Kitty Moore had questioned an expenditure of $15,891.97 by the IT department for a drone. The staff report justifying the purchase provided an impressive glimpse into the forward thinking of our very capable city IT personnel to prepare for disasters and improve day-to-day operations.

Item #15: 2021 General Plan Annual Report and Housing Element Annual Progress Report (APR) on forms required by the Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD). This state-mandated and formatted report is likely to generate extensive discussion. While the number of net new homes actually produced in the city has improved over last year, the numbers remain dismal overall. In 2020, a total of 20 homes were added to housing inventory–19 ADUs and 1 single-family residence. In 2021, a total of 90 housing units were produced–41 ADUs, 48 senior affordable  housing units at Westport and 1 single-family residence. One development application for 34 homes at the Coach House property was received. The ADUs demonstrate validity of reducing barriers to housing development in producing more housing as these homes were all enabled by state law which set aside many local impediments to their construction. The senior housing at Westport was largely enabled by the 2017 reform of the Housing Accountability Act and SB 330. Cupertino still has a long way to go to demonstrate a political willingness to meet its housing needs and obligations.

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., March 8, 2022, 6:00 p.m. Continuation of March 1 meeting; 7:45 Council goals and work plan.

YouTube:  Part 1  2 hr; 00 min. Continuation of March 1, 2022; Part 2  2 hr. 59 min. Work Program

There were two separate meeting agendas and recordings.

Item #1, continued  #11 from March 1, 2022: 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 was a routine report, with no significant changes in the financial position for the city. Councilmember Moore proposed sending the report to the Audit Committee before council, requiring more staff time and delays in submitting required financial reports. The staff report was approved 4-1 with Moore voting nay.

Item #2, continued Item #12 from March 1, 2022: Progress update of the Housing Element Update, and review, discuss, and approve selection of stakeholders group. 

This council continues to lose valuable time in working through the process of developing an update to the legally required Housing Element. The consultant hired to guide the city through the process to meet state requirements presented three options for establishing a stakeholder group. Councilmember objections ranged, though it was clear that councilmembers primarily did not like the composition of the list selected by the consultant to represent various cross-sections of the community. Council ignored those options, electing instead to set up a Strategic Advisory subcommittee composed of four members: Vice-Mayor Liang Chao, Councilmember Kitty Moore, Planning Commission Chair Steven Scharf and Housing Commission Chair Tessa Parish to help guid the Housing Element update process. It is unclear how this arrangement would better meet HCD guidelines. In the meantime, the 9-month long environmental review process is unable to start, pending council action on a site inventory that has yet to come before the city council. These actions raise the very real prospect that Cupertino will be unable to achieve state certification of its Housing Element.  

Special Meeting, Tues., March 8,  7:45 p.m.

Consider Fiscal Year 2022-2023 Council goals and proposed City Work Program items, and select City Work Program items for prioritization. This 3 hour session illuminated the disconnect between majority council and city staffing resources. There were 70 work projects in the plan, some dating to 2019-2020 due to the pandemic and loss of experienced staffers. Councilmembers Chao and Moore proposed adding even more projects. Councilmembers were asked to submit their priorities. Staff now face the challenge of determining which projects are doable in the upcoming year.


The front page photo and article on page 5 are Relocating red-legged frogs: Cupertino quarry’s expansion could affect vulnerable species. Community brief on page 5 is Caring Coalition for Chinese-Americans. Legal notices on page 21 are (1)  Planning Commission hearing appeal of an approval of a permit for a new two-story house and ADU at 18750 Barnhart Avenue and (2) Applications to fill a vacancy on the Bicycle Pedestrian Commission due April 15.

Warm regards,
Jean Bedord
Cupertino Matters
Publisher and Editor