Cupertino Matters

Hope all of you had an enjoyable holiday season with a welcome break from work and school. The rain is welcome, but hopefully, it will slow down and let residents, city, creeks and hillsides accommodate all the moisture.

Cupertino has received extensive press coverage as a result of the 51-page grand jury report published on Dec. 19, 2022,  A HOUSE DIVIDED: CUPERTINO CITY COUNCIL AND CITY STAFF. It was highlighted by the Mercury News in its Jan. 6, 2023 Editorial: Civil grand jury nails Better Cupertino councilmembers’ misbehavior:Culture of distrust and violation of city codes created constant turnover of city staff. The editorial concludes “The election of Fruen and Mohan to the council gives the city good reason to hope for a better future. But Cupertino still has a lot of work to do to escape its image as one of the most mismanaged cities in the South Bay.”  This letter to the editor provided  one resident’s  reaction to the editorial:

Cupertino council must re-examine City Hall plan

Re. “Better Cupertino councilmembers nailed in report,” Page A6, Jan. 6:

The editorial correctly branded the dysfunction of the previous Cupertino City Council.

Before leaving, the old council voted 4-1 to renovate the 1966-era City Hall to current seismic standards for $25 million. Neither the council discussion nor staff report considered the city’s own Climate Action Plan, lifecycle cost-effectiveness or achieving carbon neutrality. Did four councilpersons forget the climate emergency declaration in 2018?

The new council must re-examine this decision.

Gary Latshaw

An earlier Mercury News article, published on Dec. 22, summarized the grand jury report: Cupertino city government ‘a house divided,’ civil grand jury report says Report outlines toxic relationship between city staff, councilmembers

Cupertino faces an additional challenge with its state-required Housing Element (see Item #21 referenced below) by submitting its first  draft by Jan. 31, but approval is likely late in 2023 due to required review periods.  According to the Dec. 29, 2022 issue of the Mercury News,  ‘A lot of areas of concern’: Cupertino could miss state deadline for housing plan: Cities in California need to have an approved housing plan by Jan. 31.

So how difficult is governance in Cupertino? The Metro Year End Review had this comment:

You Think Your Job is Difficult

On June 21, Jim Throop became Cupertino’s third city manager in four years to quit. Counting the three interim city managers, seven have served in the position since 2018. At the time, local group Cupertino For All called Throop’s resignation a “scathing indictment of the current city council leadership.” Six months later—after an election that saw two CFA-endorsed candidates win seats on the council—the 2022 Santa Clara County Civil Grand Jury released a 52-page report, titled “A House Divided,” alleging that councilmembers “berated and belittled” staffers and “interfered in the day-to-day operations.”

In response to the grand jury report, the city is responding with a Governance Reform Package which will be considered at the study session on Jan. 17 (see below). The primary objective is to streamline city council processes by adopting written procedures. These address resident complaints about meetings ending in the wee hours of the morning by modifications to ensure meetings end no later than 11:00 pm., preferably 10:30 p.m.

On a positive note, the Cupertino Community Library is one of eight libraries included in recognition of our library system: Santa Clara County Library District earn 15th straight 5-star rating

UPCOMING – CITY COUNCIL – Tues., Jan. 17, 2023, 6:45 p.m. Regular, 5:00 Study Session

The Study Session has two significant items, both likely to be controversial.

Item #1: Consider adopting Cupertino City Council Procedures Manual. The city lacks a formal procedures manual, particularly crucial for incoming councilmembers, but also essential in ensuring that city council operates efficiently. The intent is to reduce the number of meetings (60 special and regular meetings last year) to less than 30 per year. It also formalizes the process for public input to the council.

Item #2 Study Session to consider modifying Municipal Code Title 2 regarding compositions and responsibilities of existing Commissions and Committees. The city has a very high number of commissions and committees all of which require significant staff time to support. Consolidation of committees will free up staff to do their day-to-day jobs of serving residents, rather than just city council members.

At 6:45, the regular meeting will commence. The Ceremonial Matters and Presentations item is a certificate of appreciation to Captain Neil Valenzuela to welcome him back to the Cupertino Community as Captain of the West Valley Patrol Division of the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office.Oral Communications then follow. Reports should be routine.

The Consent Calendar  is lengthy with 21 items, mostly routine, though some items may be pulled for more discussion. Items of note are:

  • Item #18 Designating Councilmember Kitty Moore as primary and Councilmember Liang Chao as alternate to the Historical Society Advisory Board
  • Item #21 Status update on the 6th Cycle Housing Element
  • Item #23 authorizing rejection of bids for Blackberry Farm Pool Improvements originally scheduled to be completed for the Summer 2023 season, due to high costs
  • Item #24 award of contract for Wilson Park basketball court construction
  • Item #25 award of contract for new community garden at Wilson Park
  • Item #26 to approve design direction for the Lawrence-Mitty Park and Trail

Item #27: Abatement of public nuisance from weeds or other fire hazards pursuant to provisions of Cupertino Municipal Code Chapter 9.08 and Resolution No. 22-138; hearing for impacted property owners to contest the matter of proposed abatement.  This is a routine public hearing required by the county for their annual weed abatement process.

Item #28: Consider approving amendments to Elected Officials’ Compensation Program. This housekeeping item regards (1) Elimination of the Health In-Lieu Payments as an option for councilmembers, and (2) Replacement of the $4,000 technology allowance with standard technology issued and maintained by the Innovation and Technology Department.

CANCELED – Planning Commission, Tues. Jan. 10, 2023, 6:45 p.m., Regular

RECAP – City Council – Tues., Dec. 20 2022, 6:45 p.m. Regular

YouTube: 3 hr. 24 min. 

This should have been a shorter meeting than the 10:15 p.m. adjournment since the only business was the Consent Calendar with 9 items, of which 4 were approval of minutes. Four items were pulled for additional discussion:

Item #5 Consider adopting a resolution authorizing continued remote teleconference meetings of the legislative bodies of the City of Cupertino for the period December 20, 2022 through January 19, 2023 pursuant to the Brown Act, as amended by AB 361. Following discussion of the value of remote teleconferencing, approved unanimously.

Item #7 Consider the Mitigation Fee Act – an annual and five-year report for Fiscal Year (FY) 2021-2022 (Continued from December 6, 2022). Council spent 26 minutes on this item pulled by Councilmember Kitty Moore due to lack of understanding of account reconciliation, which could have been resolved prior to the meeting.  Approved 4-1 with Moore voting nay.

Item #8: Consider approval of response to 2022 Civil Grand Jury of Santa Clara County Report Entitled, “If You Only Read the Ballot, You’re Being Duped” Item pulled by councilmember Kitty Moore for comment was approved unanimously.

Item #9: Consider appointment of 2023 Councilmember Committee Assignments. This item generated extensive public comments, both pro and con, as Mayor Wei reassigned appointments to committees to incorporate new councilmembers.. Approved 3-2 with Moore and Chao voting nay.

CUPERTINO COURIER: January 13, 2023

The front page photo and article on page 5  is entitled ‘Spaces of Belonging’ Exhibit at DeAnza College features local artists.  Community briefs on page 5 are (1) ‘Belolnging’ at Euphrat and (2) League needs board members, specifically, the League of Women Voters.  On page 9 is the previously published Mercury News article Cupertino could miss housing deadline:  All cities need a plan for building new homes OK’s by Jan. 31.  Approval may take months.Legal notices are (1) Appeal of a two story permit at 11226 Bubb Road to be heard at the Planning Commission on Jan. 24 and (2) Public hearing for 7752 Orion Lane to be heard at the Administrative Hearing Meeting on Jan. 26.

CUPERTINO COURIER: January 6, 2023

The front page photo and article on page 5  is entitled Cement plant under scrutiny:  County looks to amend or review use permit after violations identified.  Community briefs on page 5 are (1) Preschool open house, (2) SV Reads kickoff and (2) Hiking 101.  On page 9 is the previously published Mercury News article Cupertino could miss housing deadline:  All cities need a plan for building new homes OK’s by Jan. 31.  Approval may take months. There were no legal notices.

CUPERTINO COURIER: December 30, 2022

The front page photo and article on page 5  is entitled Path clears for fish: Stevens Creek project restores habitat.  Community briefs are (1) End-of-life videos and (2) Swinging new store, about the new PGA Tour store in Homestead Square. The article on page 10 is the previously published Mercury News article Cupertino blasted as ‘a house divided’: Civil grand jury report: Toxic relationship between city staff, councilmembers.  There were no legal notices.

CUPERTINO COURIER: December 23, 2022

The front page photo is entitled Digital age for book patrons:  District launches webpage, virtual tours for online visitors to explore libraries, featuring community librarian Clare Varesio. The article on page 5 is Santa Clara County Library district launches webpage, keeps 5-star rating.There were no legal notices.

Warm regards,
Jean Bedord
Cupertino Matters
Publisher and Editor