Cupertino Matters

The big news in Cupertino is the relaunch of Vallco as The Rise. While still conforming to the requirements of SB35, the plans have been modified in response to community input and the changing post-pandemic environment. The mix of homes had been altered to increase the number of multi-bedroom homes, reducing the number of studios. The new plans also reduce some of the excess underground parking and improve the connectivity of the rooftop park with the homes and office space linked to it. Not surprising, given the many years of political delay, response from councilmembers has been less than enthusiastic.

This week, there will also be a relaunch of the Community Engagement process for the state-required Housing Element update. The City Council rejected the EMC Consulting Stakeholder Group which would have helped the city meet the legal requirements for Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH). Instead, council created a Strategic Advisory Committee, consisting of Councilmember Kitty Moore, Vice-Mayor Liang Chao, Planning Commission Chair Steven Scharf and Housing Commission Chair Tessa Parish, all of whom are strongly connected to the Better Cupertino political organization. The Community Engagement Plan – Strategic Advisory Committee will hold its first meeting on Wednesday, March 30 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

This change in direction has further delayed progress on the Housing Element. Mandatory environmental review of the draft Housing Element will take several months and staff presently expects that a final Environmental Impact Report won’t be available until February of 2023–after the Housing Element must be adopted. The city’s consultants have also warned that they expect to have to go through multiple rounds of revision with guidance and comment from the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD), further compressing the timeline for council action. As such, the chances of developing a Housing Element update acceptable to HCD that sufficiently plans for 4,588 homes steadily diminish. Council’s failure to timely adopt a legally sufficient Housing Element will result in dramatic loss of local land use authority.

Another relaunch in the works is the Marina Plaza project which is holding community outreach meetings on Saturday, April 2, from 9:30am to 11:30am, and on Wednesday, April 13, from 5:30pm to 7:30pm. Both meetings will be at the nearby Aloft Cupertino Hotel. Light refreshments will be provided. The community is invited to learn more about the project and to offer feedback.


Tues., March 29, 5:00 p.m. Conference with Labor Negotiators pursuant to Government Code § 54957.6 (Kristina Alfaro and Christopher Boucher)

Thurs., March 24, 6:00 p.m.  This was a last minute meeting with (1)Conference with Legal Counsel – Existing Litigation (Government Code § 54956.9(c)) a. People v. Jennifer Chang, Santa Clara County Superior Court Case No. C1899743 b. City of Cupertino v. Jennifer Chang, Santa Clara County Superior Court – a years long case and (2) Conference with Legal Counsel – Anticipated Litigation. Significant exposure to litigation pursuant to Government Code § 54956.9(d) (one case)

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

YouTube: 3 hr. 2 min.

The dysfunctionality of the Planning Commision became abundantly clear during this meeting. Vice-Chair Muni Madhdhipatla and Commissioner Ray Wang were both absent, with only Chair Steven Scharf and two other commissioners eeking out a quorum.

Item #2 Discussion of the Priority Development Area (PDA) Planning Grant funds awarded to the City by the Association of Bay Area Governments/Metropolitan Transportation Commission (ABAG/MTC) for the Heart of the City Specific Plan. The commission spent over an hour debating the merits of this $400,00 grant, which is non-binding and can be used over the next three years. Staff originally applied for the grant to help fund planning activities for Cupertino’s Housing Element update to help plan for housing near transit and jobs. Without these funds, the city will have to use local taxpayer dollars to conduct this planning exercise. Finally, a motion to recommend acceptance of the grant with the condition that a consultant not be hired until the Housing Element is approved–meaning that Cupertino will still be on the hook for paying for its Housing Element update with existing dollars and none of this grant money. The motion passed 3-0-2 with Wang and Madhdhipatla absent.

Item #3 Consider an appeal of the Director of Community Development’s approval of a Two-Story Permit to allow a new 2,271 square-foot two-story home with a 561 square-foot attached accessory dwelling. (Application No.: R-2021-056; Applicant: Jackson Lu; Property Owners: Chengzhu Liu and Cailin Huang; Appellants: Sharon Hall; Location: 18750 Barnhart Ave; APN # 375-27-042). This should have been a straight-forward decision–is there a legal basis to allow this appeal? Instead the commission spent an hour and a half placing unreasonable conditions on denial of the appeal. For an extended period of time, the commission debated whether it could require 20 foot tall shrubs or the planting of mature trees. Ultimately, the commission denied the appeal, but required as conditions for said denial that the house be reduced to 9 foot stories instead of 10 foot stories, with specific species to be planted for privacy screening. As a result, the homeowner will incur additional redesign and landscaping costs. The final vote to deny the appeal on said conditions was 3-0-2 with Wang and Madhdhipatla absent.

Item #4 2021 General Plan Housing Element Annual Progress Report (APR) on forms required by HCD. Commissioner Kapil had to leave at 9:45 so the commission spent less than 15 minutes reviewing this state-required report which documents the city’s dismal record of producing homes. 

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.


The front page photo and brief on page 5 are New parks director: Matt Morley leaves Los Gatos for Cupertino. He replaces Roger Lee who retired at the end of 202. Additional community briefs on page 5 include (1) Matadors reunion, and (2) Volunteer to rebuild with Rebuilding Together Silicon Valley. Page 10 is a previously published article from the Mercury News: Cupertino council members push back on school closures. On page 21, there is a legal notice of an invitation to bid on a traffic signal modification on De Anza Boulevard.

Warm regards,
Jean Bedord
Cupertino Matters
Publisher and Editor