Cupertino Matters

As events unfold in Ukraine, the Silicon Valley Reads 2022 theme of The Power of Kindness, Resilience, & Hope strikes a particularly resonating note.

Closer to home, the state mandated Housing Element process has hit some rough patches, and faces a major time crunch. At the last regular Planning Commission meeting, commissioners failed to review the site inventory of parcels between ½  and 10 acres in size. It was clear that commissioners had not engaged with the housing simulator tool provided by EMC Planning Group. A followup meeting was scheduled for last week, then rescheduled for this week, then canceled again. The preliminary site inventory has to be approved to start the environmental review process, which EMC Planning expects will take nine months to complete. It’s already March and a draft needs to be submitted in the June time frame in order to address expected feedback from the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD).

Subsequently, at the March 1 regular city council meeting, council failed to approve a stakeholders group which would help the city meet the state’s legal requirements for Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) to combat housing discrimination, eliminate racial bias, undo historic patterns of segregation, and lift barriers that restrict access in order to foster inclusive communities. This is a new requirement for this Housing Element revision cycle. It mandates the inclusion of voices which have not been engaged in the past. The meeting was then continued to Tuesday, Mar. 8, to continue deliberation.

Just before the deadline for today’s meeting, a new staff report provided an option for the council to rescore the applicants. This option favors council’s biases. Council is at serious risk of HCD’s rejection of Cupertino’s Housing Element on AFFH grounds through council’s efforts at manipulating the process to prejudice the selection of stakeholders. As noted in the recap below, council’s negative reaction to EMC Planning’s outreach to West Valley Community Services–which works daily with underserved populations with special housing needs–was especially problematic. HCD’s AFFH standards require outreach to exactly such groups. Councilmember Moore went so far as to question the judgment of EMC Planning for its proposed inclusion of a representative of WVCS in the stakeholder group. Comments such as these increase the very real risk that Cupertino will fail to timely adopt an HCD-certified Housing Element. Numerous consequences attend such failure, including significant loss of local control over development.

As a prelude to upcoming housing discussions, the League of Women Voters will host a Racial Wealth Gap Simulator community discussion on Sat., Mar. 12, 2-4 p.m. online.  This event will explore many of the underlying policy issues that inform AFFH standards.

On a more practical note, the Westport project on the site of the former Oaks shopping center, continues to move ahead. KT Urban, which bought the property years ago and has now managed to get final project approvals (after 6 years, multiple iterations, and legal pressure), sold the property to three developers for actual development, largely independent of each other. Mayor Darcy Paul, organized an unusual self-congratulatory ground-breaking ceremony. Ground-breaking ceremonies are usually organized by the builders, who invite the media, public, and dignitaries to attend. This past weekend’s event was, instead, primarily a photo-op rather than an event for the general public.

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

This is noticed as two separate meetings with separate agendas.

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 should be a routine report, with no significant changes in the 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 fundraising 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 #2, continued Item #12 from March 1, 2022: Progress update of the Housing Element Update, and review, discuss, and approve selection of stakeholders group. As noted above, EMC Planning Group, the consultancy for the city’s 6th Cycle Housing Element presented a progress report on community outreach and a recommended stakeholder list to help meet state AFFH guidelines. The council was tasked with approving the list. Instead, council spent significant time discussing the purpose of the group (to obtain focused and cross-sectional feedback), and questioning the composition of the group. Thirty applications were received for the stakeholder group, which EMC then anonymously scored to recommend names which provide broad community representation. The breadth of experience of those committed to the time-consuming process was impressive, including people who had experienced homelessness and renters. The last-minute addition of Option C, allowing council to rescore and pick applicants of its choosing, is unlikely to pass HCD muster, which requires outreach to people with unmet housing needs. If council chooses to seat a group that cannot represent those needs, that action raises the very real prospect that Cupertino will be unable to get HCD certification.  

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 year, the city used a survey to get community input to the work program. Residents focused heavily on the need for dog off-leash areas (DOLAs), as well as walk-bike items. Many items on the city work plan are multi-year projects, so there is limited capacity to add additional items. In addition, there are state mandated work items. Will this council be realistic, given the turnover over in staff and resources required for the Housing Element?

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

YouTube: Part 1 1 hr. 00 min, Study Session; Part 2: 3 hr. 22 min. through Item #10;  Part 3:  1 hr. 50 min. 

Study session: Consider a Study Session on the proposed ordinance language and phasing for a Single-Use Plastics Ordinance. This was a comprehensive discussion of state requirements and impact on local businesses, including the concerns about boba tea containers. Concern was expressed over availability of compliant containers to meet the needs of the approximately 200 food service businesses in Cupertino. Staff will return with more details and options.

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. Council spent over two hours on this item, with 24 speakers and  more than 80 written comments. The overwhelming public sentiment was that the city should retain public access by denying the item. To avoid taking a vote, council then spent over an hour sidetracked on safety and whether a crosswalk should be constructed. Councilmembers waffled, then finally cobbled together a motion to direct staff to bring back an analysis of pedestrian traffic and options regarding a potential crosswalk at a future date. The motion passed 4 -1, with Wei voting no.

Item #11 and Item #12 were continued. See continuation and discussion above.


The front page photo and article on page 5 are Trying to limit chaos: Silicon Valley lawmakers introduce bill to quell disruptions at public meetings, highlighting work by Assemblymember Evan Low and state Senator Dave Cortese. Community briefs on page 5 are (1) Empowering event, (2) Zonehaven webinar, and (3) Wildflower weekends. There are no legal notices.

Warm regards,
Jean Bedord
Cupertino Matters
Publisher and Editor