Cupertino Matters

Who would have thought there would be snow in the hills around Cupertino? Spring may be just around the corner, but there’s still plenty of rain, wind, and cold weather.

The new Cupertino Council Procedures Manual was in effect for the council meeting, with changes in the order of the agenda. Following numerous oral comments from the public in oral communications regarding misconduct on the part of Planning Commissioner R “Ray” Wang, Councilmember JR Fruen moved and Vice-Mayor Sheila Mohan seconded to request that staff bring back an item to remove Commissioner Wang from the Planning Commission. The matter is now set for the March 7 council session. Commissioners serve at the pleasure of the council, and can be removed at any time, though this appears to be the first time for this process.

The council also approved the city’s response to the Civil Grand Jury Report, A House Divided: Cupertino City Council and City Staff. The city is making progress on the findings in the report, but  it will take time and political will to make the necessary governance changes.

Ignoring the micromanagement issues identified in the civil grand jury report, Council members Kitty Moore and Liang Chao continue to spend an inordinate amount of time on minutiae. Item #6 to adopt a Commemorative Bench Dedication Policy was  on the consent calendar agenda for two previous meetings, and was pulled again. Written answers to council questions were previously provided in the meeting packet  The discussion ran for almost an hour with repeated substitute motions and “friendly” amendments by Councilmembers Moore and Chao, causing the meeting time to be extended twice. The applicant has sat in limbo for almost a year, showing up for three council meetings, leaving before the vote at 11:10 p.m when the council finally approved the original item. Is this the best use of resident, staff and council time?

Item #5 to consider ratifying Accounts Payable for the period ending November 13, 2022 (continued from February 7) underscored a similar propensity. There was a delay in bringing this to council due to a glitch over Thanksgiving week. Prior to the council meeting, Councilmember Chao asked about implementation of corrective procedures. This was answered in the council packet published prior to the meeting, yet Councilmember Moore brought up the subject again. She also requested the contract for Boucher Law for recruitment of a Finance Manager which had also been provided in the council packet. Overall, the meeting–for the first time in a long time–addressed the entire list of action items on the agenda, a marked improvement on past practices.

RECAP –  CITY COUNCIL – Wed, Mar. 1, 2023, 4:00 Non-televised special meeting 

Agenda, Presentations & Written Communications

Annually, the city council goes through an arduous planning process to review the City Work Plan for the current year, and plan for the upcoming fiscal year. The process started earlier this year due to a new city council and a new city manager. Given limited staff resources and the need to adjust priorities, projects on the current Work Plan were re-evaluated by staff for progress. Approximately 90% of staff time is spent on normal daily operations, so there is limited capacity for additional projects.  Some departments, such as Community Development, have virtually no capacity for additional work, due to demands of the Housing Element and lack of staffing.

The current Work Plan has 38 items, with 11 items scheduled for completion this year. .  Staff reduced this to19 items by separating out six CIP projects, moving some programs to operational projects, and removing three that are obsolete. For next year, staff recommended rebuilding the list from scratch based on councilmember priorities.

In this special meeting, the council went through an efficient process of identifying individual councilmember Work Plan  priorities, then consolidated them into a 24 item list, ranked by number of votes. Overall, the process went smoothly, unlike the long drawn out process of previous years and showed an unusual level of consensus on key items.

CANCELED – Planning Commission – Tues., Feb. 28, 2023, 6:45 p.m. Regular

RECAP –  CITY COUNCIL – Tues., Feb 21, 2023, 5:00 Special Session, 6:45 p.m. Regular Meeting

YouTube:  Part 1- 2 hr. 18 min.; Part 2 – 3 hr. 17 min. Starting Item #10

Agenda and Presentations (Note new order for the agenda)

The 5:00 Special Session was to consider the City Hall Renovation Project update.    This was a review of the Nov. 15, 2022 direction from previous council to staff to proceed with a City Hall Capital Improvement Program (CIP) project to do only a seismic upgrade and reconfiguration of the existing City Hall at a cost of $27.5 million retaining the current 24,000 square foot building, without any increase to accommodate expected growth over the coming decades. After public comment and council deliberation, staff was directed to return to council with additional options on a 3-2 vote, with Chao and Moore voting no.

Following the new agenda process, Councilmembers Moore and Chao pulled two Consent Calendar items: Item #5 Consider ratifying Accounts Payable for the period ending November 13, 2022 (continued from February 7) and Item #6, Consider adoption of a resolution establishing the Commemorative Bench Dedication Policy and waiving the commemorative fee for Marilyn Francesco. (continued from February 7) which were then placed after the Action Calendar.

Item #10: Consider approval of response to 2022 Civil Grand Jury of Santa Clara County Report entitled, “A House Divided” (continued from February 7). Since public comment had been heard on Feb. 7, council deliberation resumed. After discussion and numerous substitute motions, a strengthened response on motion of Councilmember Fruen, the was approved 4-1-1 with Chao abstaining, and Moore voting no. The key modifications included language committing the city to:

  1. Revising its Commissioner’s Handbook to bring it into alignment with the Council Procedures Manual;
  2. Revising its Ethics Policy based on the original 2018 policy; and
  3. Directing the City Attorney to investigate and report back on instances of violations of the Municipal Code involving the council-staff relationship and the commissioner-staff relationship

Item #11: Consider (1) adopting Resolution No. 23-026 to repeal and replace Resolution No. 18-010, regarding the Legislative Review Committee; (2) establishment of an Economic Development Working Group by the City Manager; (3) amending the Cupertino Municipal Code to repeal Chapters 2.84 (Environmental Review Committee), 2.90 (Design Review Committee), and 2.96 (Economic Development Committee); to adopt Chapter 17.02 (California Environmental Quality Act), regarding local environmental review procedures; and to amend Chapters 2.32, 2.88, 9.20, 19.08, 19.12, 19.28, 19.104, and 19.124, regarding the duties of the Planning Commission, Audit Committee, and Local Assessment Committee. This was a contentious follow-on item to effectuate council’s prior direction to consolidate several council committees. Councilmembers Moore and Chao made several motions to modify the staff recommendations which all failed on 2-3 votes, with Fruen, Mohan and Wei voting nay.  The original motion to accept the staff recommendations passed on a 3-2 vote, with Chao and Moore voting nay.

Item #6: Consider adoption of a resolution establishing the Commemorative Bench Dedication Policy and waiving the commemorative fee for Marilyn Francesco. (continued from February 7). This resident applied to donate a plaque for a park bench in early 2022. The item was brought to council on May 3, 2022, then sent back to staff.  Staff research found that there have been 2 instances of park bench memorials since 2015. This would be the third. The staff recommendation was reasonable based on the practice and policies of other agencies and the lack of an existing Cupertino policy speaking directly to the issue. The staff-proposed new policy is simple and easily managed by staff, yet this item took nearly an hour of dais time to address the questions and concerns raised by Councilmembers Moore and Chao. The motion to approve the staff recommendation carried on a 3-2 vote with Chao and Moore voting nay; it  should not have taken nearly a year to bring the matter to a conclusion.

Item #5: Consider ratifying Accounts Payable for the period ending November 13, 2022 (continued from February 7). Councilmember Moore pulled this routine item to question a payment to Boucher Law for recruitment of a Finance Manager, requesting the contract. This had already been provided in the meeting packet prior to the meeting on pages 288-297. She also questioned procedures to prevent future mistakes in providing a timely accounts payable report which was answered on page 285 of the council packet. Approved 4-1 with Moore voting nay.

CUPERTINO COURIER: February 24, 2023

The front page photo and article on page 5 is entitled Celebrating 30 years, 30K acres:  Open Space Authority still working to create local greenbelt. Community briefs on page 7 are (1) Parking enforcement resumes, and (2) Commission appointments. There are no legal notices.

Warm regards,
Jean Bedord
Cupertino Matters
Publisher and Editor