Cupertino Matters

Vote counting has been slow throughout Santa Clara County, with some key races still in doubt. As of Monday night, 79% of ballots have been counted. A large percentage of voters utilized their paper mail-in ballot which takes longer to process than voting machines. For the three seats on City Council, the leading vote-getters continue to be  Sheila Mohan (7138 votes) and JR Fruen (6641 votes), with incumbent Liang Chao (6597 votes) in third place. The other candidates are Steven Scharf  (5993 votes), Claudio Bono (5747 votes), Govind Tatachari (5125 votes),Yuko Shima (1896 votes) and  Moon Kyu Choe (1705 votes). Results are updated daily, currently 5 p.m.

Results for our local school districts have not changed. There were three contested seats on the Cupertino Union School District (CUSD) board. The two incumbents, Jerry Liu (22,709 votes) and Satheesh Madhathil (19,471 votes) are winning reelection alongside newcomer Ava Chiao, who sits in second place with 21,651 votes. Current Cupertino mayor, Darcy Paul, is finishing well behind all three with 16,805 votes. The race for the three seats for the Fremont Union High School District (FUHSD) has clear winners with  incumbents Naomi Nakano-Matsumoto  (33,881 votes) and Rosa Kim (28,595 votes) and newcomer Stanley Kou (26,888 votes) all well ahead of the other two contenders, Linda Price (19,643 votes) and Andrew Arness (7,077 votes).

Of note to the community, Lehigh Southwest Cement has announced its decision not to restart cement production at its Permanente plant in Cupertino. The plant has not been operational since April 2020. It will be permanently shuttered as the company develops a long term plan for the site. Lehigh “will be submitting a new reclamation plan amendment application” which signals the company’s abandonment of an earlier proposal to expand mining. Supervisor Joe Simiitian has led the effort to have the county buy the property and convert it to other uses.

Progress on the Housing Element continues to languish. EMC Consulting submitted an Administrative Draft Housing Element on Oct. 11, 2022, over a month ago. Yet the document  has not been released to the public, Council, the Planning Commission, or the Housing Commission. The city has since quietly parted ways with EMC Planning. The council will be asked to decide whether to release it to the public immediately or to hire another consultant to modify the draft before releasing it for review–all WITHOUT an opportunity to review the actual document.

UPCOMING – CITY COUNCIL – Tues., Nov. 15, 2022, 6:45 p.m. Regular; 5:30 Study Session

The Study Session is Status update on the 6th Cycle Housing Element update. This is an overdue evaluation of overall progress of the Housing Element. Council is being presented with two options: (1) accelerate the current process by publishing the existing administrative draft Housing Element immediately (Nov. 16), solicit public feedback for the required 30-day period, allowing 10 days to incorporate responses, then submit to HCD (Housing and Community Development) by mid-January, 2023; or (2) hire a new consultant to revise the administrative draft Housing Element, so that it has a better chance of acceptance, before submitting the draft, but delaying submission until likely April, 2023, at the earliest. Regardless of when the draft is submitted, HCD has up to 90 days to review for revisions (and the agency takes all 90 days to do so). The city then has up to 60 days to respond. This process may take multiple iterations, regardless of the option chosen by council.

Ceremonial Matters and Presentations are to (1) consider a proclamation recognizing November 13 – 19, 2022 as United Against Hate Week, to (2) consider a proclamation recognizing November 26, 2022 as Small Business Saturday, and to (3) consider certificates of appreciation to volunteers at the Silicon Valley Korean School (SVKS).

Oral Communications then follow. Reports should be routine. There is an additional Update on the Administrative Services Department.  

The Consent Calendar is extensive (13 items), so some items may be pulled for more discussion. Item #16, to consider adoption of a revised Cupertino Community Funding Grant Program Policy (continued on September 20, 2022) will have an impact on non-profit funding. Item #17, to continue the Community Funding Grant subcommittee with expanded jurisdiction to review the festival fee waiver policy and application under the subcommittee of Councilmember Kitty Moore and Vice-Mayor Liang Chao may also have a negative impact on festivals at Memorial Park.

Item #22: City Council hearing to conduct second reading of amendments 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. This should be pro forma since the first reading was approved previously, and council is required to pass a regular ordinance by the end of the year.

Item #23: Consider the First Quarter Financial Report for Fiscal Year 2022-23. This is a routine report to the council reflecting minor adjustments. The full report is quite detailed, down to enumerating the city’s fleet assets, including sod cutters and chippers (Attachment I), as requested by Councilmember Kitty Moore. Attachment J lists the status of CIP (Capital Improvement Projects). Overall, the city continues to be in good financial condition. The city has been proactive in applying for State and Federal grants.  During FY 2021-22 and 2022-23, the City applied for 16 competitive grants totaling $31.2 million. To this date, the City has been awarded $17.7 million.

Salaries and Benefits came in lower than budgeted due to full-time vacancies and part-time salary savings. Of concern is this statement: “The City is experiencing a significant amount of staff turnover, due to both resignations and retirements. As a result, the City’s recruitment efforts have been greatly impacted. The City has had several positions, e.g., Finance Manager, Public Works Project Manager, and Sr. Planner/Associate Planner/Assistant Planners, that have required multiple recruitments for several reasons including, but not limited to, reduced applicant pools, competing job offers, and unexpected resignations.”

The report continues: “Recommended adjustments in Community Development for plan check show the impacts of these turnover and recruitment trends as the City needs to contract a portion of services out to backfill vacancies. The Planning Department is particularly short-handed which impacts approvals for routine home improvements, as well as the Housing Element and major projects.

Item #24: Consider City Hall Renovation Project update. This is a report from six meetings of Public Works with the subcommittee of Councilmembers Kitty Moore and Jon Willey. This report found that a renovation of City Hall to Risk Category II seismic standards, addressing deferred capital maintenance and space programming needs, is projected to cost $25.6 million for no additional space or parking. A new building, Risk Category IV, with 100 spaces of underground parking would cost $53.6 million. Does it make sense to sink $25.6 million into an old building, not up to current building standards? The committee also found that 37 parking places could be added short-term, but did not address long-term parking solutions for the library, which needs to accommodate an estimated 20% increase in population over the next 10 years.

The committee apparently did not review the November 17, 2015 council report which identified the same needs and came to the almost identical cost estimates: $27 million for remodeling city hall; $56.2 million for a new city hall with  additional community space and parking for both the library and city hall. This seven year old report identified Lease Financing as an alternative to Bond Financing.  

RECAP – Planning Commission, Thurs. Nov. 10, 2022, 6:45 p.m. Regular

YouTube:  2 hr. 17 min. 

Other than approval of the minutes from the previous meeting, there was only Item #2, the consideration of a Development Permit, Tentative Map, and Architectural & Site Approval to consider the demolition of approximately 44,000 sq. ft. of existing commercial and the construction of three mixed-use buildings with approximately 41,268 sq. ft. of commercial space and 206 condominium units and a Tree Removal Permit to allow the removal and replacement of 92 trees to recommend approval of the Marina Plaza redevelopment. After discussion, the commission unanimously recommended approval of the application. The matter will now head to the city council for reviews.

CUPERTINO COURIER: November 11, 2022

The front page photo and article on page 5 is entitled International aid: Senior center raises over $50K to run projects in Cameroon, Africa, by the Sunny View Retirement Community Foundation. Community briefs on page 5 include (1) Housing, public services funding, and (2) Night light webinar. Legal notices on pages 24-25 include (1) Second reading of ordinances of updates to municipal code building regulations, (2)  Request for bids for Blackberry Farm Pool improvements, (3) Request for bids for Wilson Park Community Gardens, and (4) Request for bids for Wilson Park Basketball Court.

Warm regards,
Jean Bedord
Cupertino Matters
Publisher and Editor