Cupertino Matters

Election day, Nov. 8 is only a week away. It’s easy to check your voter registration and ballot status at as well as locate ballot collection locations. There are drop-off boxes at Quinlan Center and City Hall, which will be picked up the same day. There are Vote Centers at middle schools with more 4-Day Vote Centers opening on Nov. 5, remaining open until 8 p.m. on Nov. 8, Election Day. These include school sites to encourage parents to vote, as well as libraries. Allow plenty of time for mailed ballots, since the post office has had erratic delivery in Cupertino this election cycle. Most importantly, vote! Only 36% of voters returned their ballots for the June 7 primary.

The LWV is particularly useful for both candidates and state propositions. Just put in your voting address to obtain a personalized list of candidates and ballot issues. In addition, Mercury News endorsements for the Nov. 8 election are available with positions on State propositions, which are also important. Digestible summaries can be found at the LWV Pro & Con webpage, as well as one hour discussion recordings. A complete list of candidate forums for both city council and the two school board races can be found at the League of Women Voters of Cupertino-Sunnyvale website.

The top issues in the Cupertino City Council race were highlighted in this week’s Oct. 28 Cupertino Courier, which reprinted the Mercury News article, ‘Nimbyism’ or ‘balanced growth’? Housing debates at center of Cupertino City Council race: The election stands to shift the balance of power in city government at a critical juncture for Cupertino’s housing future highlighting the stakes in the upcoming election. Previously, the Mercury News stated the issues and its endorsements of JR Fruen, Sheila Mohan and Claudio Bono in this article Editorial: Cupertino needs overhaul. Elect Fruen, Mohan and Bono: Voters should end Better Cupertino’s devastating, NIMBY hold on the City Council.

The state-required Housing Element plan due by Jan. 31, 2023 is stuck. The contract for a new consultant has been deferred until the Nov. 15 council meeting.  This further ensures the Housing Element will be very late, exposing the city to the “Builders Remedy”, which allows developments of any residential density, to move forward on almost any parcel in the city–and the city council would be powerless to stop them.

What does this mean for Cupertino? The city loses even more local control over development decisions.  Santa Monica, which has similar land use economics to Cupertino, was exposed to the builder’s remedy for eight months and has seen 16 projects constituting over 4000 homes protected by the builder’s remedy submitted in a short space of time. Other Southern California cities that lack Housing Element certification and with high land values are seeing a number of such project applications.  This is due to loss of calendar time due to council delays, and the ineffectiveness of the subcommittee chaired by Councilmember Kitty Moore, Vice-Mayor Liang Chao, Chair Steven Scharf of the Planning Commission and Chair Tessa Parish of the Housing Commission.

Items of Interest for Oct.  27 features the 2Q 2022 Sales Tax Update for the city. Actual receipts were down 10.4% reflecting a decrease in the online sales accounted for in county and state pools, as demand for work-at-home electronics and furnishings declined. Restaurant and hotel tax receipts as well as service station receipts increased.  Lack of diversity in the top 25 producers is troubling – 7 are restaurants, and 3 are grocery stores.

UPCOMING – CITY COUNCIL – Tues., Nov. 1, 2022, 6:45 p.m. Regular

Ceremonial Matters and Presentations are to (1) Consider a proclamation recognizing November as Lung Cancer Awareness Month, to (2) Consider a proclamation recognizing November as National Native American Heritage Month, and to (3) Consider veterans appreciation proclamation honoring veterans and military families.

Oral Communications then follow. Reports should be routine. There is an additional City Manager City Work Program update which has 41 items, of which 21 items carried over from 2021-2022. The work plan was unrealistic when adopted in June. With city staff decimated and the Housing Element significantly delayed, shouldn’t the council reduce the number of projects? The Consent Calendar has 5 items and appears to be routine, though some items may be pulled for more discussion.

Item #14: Second reading: Amendment to Title 16, Buildings and Construction, of the Cupertino Municipal Code adopting the California Buildings Standards Code and Fire Code as mandated by the State of California and making local exceptions to those standards as warranted. This should be a pro forma approval since the first reading was unanimously approved on Oct. 25.

Item #15: Consider an ordinance to implement state legislation (Senate Bill 9), that provides for ministerial approval of up to two units and/or a lot split in a residential single-family zone. Council faces a year end deadline to enact a regular ordinance to comply with SB9 requirements. Noticing periods are required, so council must finalize the ordinance at this meeting. Since the interim ordinance was enacted on Dec. 21, 2021, then extended to Dec. 19, 2022, there have been multiple rounds through the Planning Commission and council study sessions. The ordinance being considered still has significant issues with (1) building size limitations that preclude building multi-generational homes (the primary reason for this ordinance in Cupertino), (2) flexibility for flag lots, (3) banning basements, and (4) disallowing second story decks and balconies in perpetuity. The extensive restrictions on these Urban Lot Splits have chilled interested property owners who often seek opportunities to add housing for their aging parents or adult children, particularly dependent children. NO applications have been submitted, though there have been inquiries. The Attorney General’s office is already examining similar ordinances for compliance with state law and is poised to bring action against several jurisdictions.

Item #16: FY 22-23 City Work Program item: Student Internship Program. Council put this questionable item on the City Work Plan. Previously, council members have used interns to do research and provide reports on specific projects. These were clearly defined deliverables and useful for resume building and education. Individual council members did the selection and directed the work. The projects cited by Mayor Darcy Paul are routine work, normally handled by volunteers from non-profit groups. Preparing certificates, writing thank-you’s, and setting up a ribbon cutting are NOT intern level projects. In addition, this item limits the internship program to high school students only.

Item #17: Consider approval of formation of Council Subcommittee on the Legislative Aide interview process; selection of Councilmembers to serve on Subcommittee The

Better Cupertino Council majority appropriated $183,365 for a full-time Legislative Aide (classification and job definition not yet defined), over the objection of Councilmember Hung Wei. The council recommended appointment of yet another subcommittee, so staff recommends Kitty Moore and Hung Wei, who are in the middle of their terms.

CUPERTINO COURIER: October 28, 2022

The front page photo and article on page 5 is entitled “Sustain Our Shelters: Advocacy group aims to help overcrowded San Jose Animal Care Facility. Community briefs include (1) Rachelle Sander gets parks director position,  (2) Youth board reporting demo and (3) Water workshop. Page 12 is a previously published Mercury News article entitled Council race centers on housing debates: November election stands to shift the balance of power in city government at a critical junction for the development process. Legal notices include a notice of Second Reading of an  ordinance  for expediting the permitting processing for electric vehicle charging.

Warm regards,
Jean Bedord
Cupertino Matters
Publisher and Editor