Cupertino Matters

Welcome to September, as Cupertino Matters resumes publication following the city council recess. I hope you had a relaxing Labor Day weekend and are looking forward to fall activities. Traffic has increased with the start of school, so be extra vigilant to keep everyone safe.

Though the city council has been on hiatus, city staff have made significant progress on major projects. The city published the Memorial Park Final Design Concept Plan, which incorporates the softball field, a full-sized basketball court, improved ADA access, an expanded plaza at the Senior Center, and dedicated pickleball ball courts. The next steps are environmental review and the Specific Plan Design.

Want to learn more about the city Housing Element that identifies where, how, and how much housing Cupertino is required to plan for between 2023-2031? There will be a  Community Open House: Focus on Rezoning of Housing Sites, which will take place on Saturday, Sept. 9, 1-3 p.m. during the Silicon Valley Fall Fest at the Quinlan Community Center, 10185 N. Stelling Road. There will also be a virtual session of this open house on Thursday, September 14 at 6 p.m.

The City Council is also seeking input from the public to revise the ineffective Ethics Policy cited in the Civil Grand Jury Report in December, 2022. Share the values you want local officials to uphold by taking this survey. The results will be provided to the City Council as they consider adopting a revised policy. The survey is open now through Thursday, September 7. The City’s Ethics Policy will be on the agenda for the Tuesday, September 19, City Council Meeting.

In school news, the Fremont Union High School District is moving from at-large to trustee area elections. This is a move to meet the provisions of the California Voting Rights Act (CVRA).  Foothill-De Anza Community College went through the same process last year, just as the city of Sunnyvale did two years prior. Visit for more information and updates, as well as opportunities for public input. School attendance boundaries will not be affected.

In good news for students and seniors, as reported in the Mercury News, County Supervisor Joe Simitian and Foothill-De Anza Board of Trustees President Patrick Ahrens are spearheading a significant project to provide county health care services to West Valley cities: New Santa Clara County Valley Health Center could be at De Anza College: The site would provide access to thousands of underinsured residents and college students

There has been significant progress regarding the Lehigh Cement Plant, as reported in the August 17, 2023, issue of the Mercury News: Cupertino quarry won’t restart cement production after entering into legal agreement with Santa Clara County: The cement kiln has been closed since April 2020.  More detailed coverage is provided in the San Jose Spotlight: Santa Clara County solidifies cement plant closure.

UPCOMING – CITY COUNCIL – Wed. Sept. 6, 2023,  6:45 p.m., Special Meeting rescheduled from Tues., Sept. 5, due to Labor Day 

Agenda and Presentations (note new order for the agenda)

The sole Ceremonial Item is a proclamation recognizing September as National Suicide Prevention Month. The Consent Calendar has four routine items. Members of the public may speak on any or all consent calendar items when the mayor asks for public comment on the Consent Calendar. If a member of the council pulls an item from the Consent Calendar, it will be addressed after all action items. Members of the public may comment on that item when it is considered.

The three Action Items on the agenda all relate to improvement in City Council governance.

Item No. 6: Enterprise Leadership Assessment Audit Final Report. In 2020, the city began an internal audit program. The initial Enterprise Risk Assessment was released to the City Council on July 20, 2021.  This report was followed by approval of the FY 2022-23 audit work plan which included the Enterprise Leadership Assessment.  This Final Report presents observations and recommendations in the context of the independent  Fact Finding Report, which verified the Grand Jury Report released in December, 2022. The recommendations focus on (1) City Council, (2) Commissions and Committees, and (3) City Staff. Overall, the report indicates significant improvement, though more progress is needed for the council to function effectively. Some key findings:

The number of meetings and length had been problematic, since the normal schedule for regular council meetings should be 20 to 24 per year. The report specifically cites the excessive number of meetings in 2021 and 2022 under former Mayor Darcy Paul (pg. 10):

“In terms of the frequency and length of meetings, the number of City Council meetings has been high in recent years, with 63 meetings held in 2021 and 64 in 2022. Council meetings have also historically extended into late hours. Between 2020 and 2022, the average length of Council meetings was over five hours (5.1 hours in 2020, 5.7 hours in 2021, and 5.2 hours in 2022). Given that meetings start at 6:45 pm, this means that participants were routinely in meetings that ran past midnight. Long meeting lengths impact the productivity, wellness, and safety of the Council members, staff, and community participants.

“The City Attorney and the Mayor play significant roles in ensuring that the meeting agenda is adhered to and that Council conversation does not stray off topic or relitigate decisions that have already been made. Interviewees noted appreciation for the City Attorney’s and Mayor’s efforts in this area.”

Another problematic area regards the relationship between council and management, as reported on pg. 12-13:

“In regard to mutual respect, there is a well-documented history of mistrust and conflict between Council and management. While interviewed staff report some positive progress in recent months, there are still regular challenges in terms of professionalism, respect, and positive intent. There is a strong need to rebuild trust within the Council and between the Council and management.

“In terms of communication, one of the most frequently cited ongoing challenges is related to email requests from Council members. As documented in the 2023 Internal Review and reported by interviewed staff, several Council members have continued the practice of sending a high volume of emails, averaging 50-70 initial emails per week, not counting any follow-up emails. This practice is ineffective for communication purposes, creates significant workload for staff, and is widely perceived to be an obstruction tactic. Council members at times request responses to questions posed by the public as if they were the Council members’ own. This pass-through of information requests without vetting creates work efforts where it may not be effective or even considered in the decision-making process. [sic]

“…the City management team has expanded the practice of offering 1:1 preparation meetings to City Council members as an option for more efficient and direct communication.

However, some councilmembers choose to ignore this communication channel. Readers are encouraged to read the entire 37-page report for the full picture of the need for improvement.

Item No.7: Review of Councilmember compliance with Municipal Code Chapter 2.17, recommendations in May 2023 Fact Finding Report, and related governance issues  Following the May presentation of the independent investigator’s report and extensive discussion, council provided additional direction to the City Attorney and the City Manager, specifically:

  1. That the City Attorney’s Office continue to monitor compliance of Councilmembers with the Municipal Code with respect to the Council-staff relationship and to report back to the Council in four to five months with a progress report.
  2. That staff return to Council with a censure resolution if insufficient progress is made toward compliance with the Municipal Code.
  3. That Councilmembers Moore and Chao be removed immediately from their respective committee assignments, subject to reassignment to these committees.

The Fact Finding Report addressed compliance with Municipal Code Chapter 2.17.  Compliance with four of the seven recommendations, is addressed in the staff report:

Recommendation 1:

Councilmembers should avoid “governance by email” and should rely on their 1:1 meetings with the City Manager to avoid adverse impacts to City operations and to facilitate communication and trust between the Councilmembers and the City Manager and City staff.

City Councilmembers have made significant progress towards the implementation of this recommendation. The number of emails per week to the City Manager from Councilmembers has decreased from 50-70/week prior to the May 1st Report to 25-30/week, with Councilmembers Moore and Chao significantly decreasing their emails to the City Manager.Staff interviewees generally noted a decrease in accusatory or caustic emails from Councilmembers Chao and Moore and improvements in their working environment flowing from greater professionalism among Councilmembers.

Recommendation 2:

Councilmembers should attempt to improve the contentious relationship that certain members have had with City staff and should communicate any concerns about staff to the City Manager, who is accountable to the City Council for her staff’s performance.

“City Councilmembers have made significant progress towards the implementation of this recommendation. As noted above, interviewed staff noted an improvement in the tone of emails received from Councilmembers Chao and Moore. In particular, emails from Councilmember Chao reviewed in connection with the preparation of this Report were almost uniformly polite and respectful. In addition, based on observations of recent City Council meetings, civility among Councilmembers and among Councilmembers and staff during Council meetings is improving.

“That said, interviewed staff noted several instances in recent months where Councilmember Moore’s conduct in particular fell below standards for civility and consequently undermined efforts to build a constructive relationship with the City Manager and her staff. (It should be noted that Councilmember Moore apologized to staff on at least one of these instances after jumping to conclusions based on incomplete information.) In addition, Councilmember Moore’s refusal to participate in one-on-one meetings with the City Manager and/or City Attorney is a serious hinderance to efforts to build an effective working relationship among Council-appointed staff and all Councilmembers.”

Recommendation 3:

Councilmembers should rely on the advice of and give weight to the recommendations of executive management staff and other professionals in considering items that come before the City Council.

Councilmembers have made significant progress toward the implementation of this recommendation. As noted below, Councilmembers have taken advantage of preparation sessions regarding major agenda items such as the budget and housing element and have generally used those sessions as an opportunity to engage constructively with professional staff. These opportunities have led to more informed discussion at the City Council meetings and have, with some exceptions, resulted in deliberations that focus on legitimate policy disagreements rather than attacks on the motivation of staff or other Councilmembers. While interviewed staff report lingering distrust and at times fundamental disagreements about the role of Councilmembers within the Council-Manager form of government (which is sometimes reflected in Councilmembers’ apparent reliance on their own research or non-expert opinion rather than staff’s expertise), there has been an observable improvement in process and tone with regards to the consideration of significant agenda items such as the budget and housing element.

Recommendation 7:

The City Manager should explore ways to resolve Councilmember needs for information, given limited staff resources (e.g., 1:1 meetings).

A challenge faced by City Manager Wu is Councilmember Moore’s, and to a significantly lesser extent Councilmember Chao’s, unwilling[ness] to participate in one-on-one meetings. While Councilmember Moore has consistently attended agenda item-specific briefings with staff, she has refused to attend one-on-one meetings offered by the City Manager and/or City Attorney. Councilmember Chao’s attendance at one-on-one meetings has been uneven, although she has not to our knowledge expressed any unwillingness to participate in the meetings. The effectiveness of the City Manager and her staff in providing professional advice to all Councilmembers will continue to be limited if some Councilmembers do not participate in one-on-one meetings.

Given that councilmembers have shown significant progress in complying with recommendations to improve city governance, the city attorney is NOT recommending a formal censure resolution.  Restoration of committee assignments is also recommended, though council may choose to wait for the normal assignment process in January, 2024.

Note: Attachments for Agenda Item No. 7 include the five reports covered in the staff report.

Item No. 8: Revisions to Cupertino City Council Procedures Manual. When this was adopted on Feb. 7, 2023, council directed the City Attorney to consider potential revisions to the Manual in six months. Implementation of the Council Procedures Manual was effective in cutting the total number of meetings almost in half, from 43 in January-August 2022 to 24 from January-August 2023.  Total meeting time was reduced by approximately one-third.  The City Attorney suggests five minor revisions, with the most significant one being a revision of the rules of order and adoption of time limits by individual speakers.

On an ongoing basis, effectiveness is contingent on behavior of councilmembers themselves: “However, as noted in the Enterprise Leadership Report, no procedural rule will be entirely successful improving Council operations without a good-faith commitment by all Councilmembers to comply with the rules and attempt to achieve their underlying goals.”

Council Reports (now submitted in written form) have been provided by Fruen and Wei. Mohan submitted late as a Supplemental Report due to travel. There were no submissions by Chao and Moore

Informational Items include: (1) Update on renewed Friendship City Organizations, (2) Receive the Treasurer’s Investment Report for the Quarter Ending June 30, 2023; (3) Receive the Monthly Treasurer’s Report for July 2023; and (4) Receive the Monthly Treasurer’s Investment Report for July 2023.

CUPERTINO COURIER: September 1,  2023

The front page photo and community brief on page 5 is entitled Public input sought to redraw boundaries:  Fremont Union High School District board aims to alter election processes.  The additional community brief is American history essay contest. There are no legal notices.

CUPERTINO COURIER: August 25,  2023

The front page photo and article on page 5 is entitled Bell Ringing for Peace: Cupertino celebrates 45 years of sisterhood with Toyokawa, Japan  Community briefs include (1) Live on Main,  and (2) CEQA Exemption for Housing.  Page 5 is an editorial by County Supervisor Joe Simitian entitled  Santa Clara County families should take advantage of transitional kindergarten.The sole legal notice is a notice of a public hearing  before the Housing Commission on Thurs., Sept. 14,regarding the PY 2022-23 Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Consolidated Annual Performance and Evaluation Report.

Warm regards,
Jean Bedord
Cupertino Matters
Publisher and Editor