Cupertino Matters

December is a changing of the guard for city council. A new mayor and vice-mayor will be chosen and sworn in on Dec. 14. This is a celebratory event, and the public is invited to join the City of Cupertino for the City Council Swearing-In Ceremony at 5 p.m. on Thursday, December 14 at Community Hall. Refreshments will be served.

The big news in Cupertino is the submission of a modification of the Vallco SB 35 project. A December 5 email press release announced the move, which included links to conceptual images on the project website. The architecture is significantly different from the original Rise, with much shorter towers and more ground-level open space. The signature rooftop park is now gone. The total number of housing units has increased 11% to 2,669  from 2,402 units, the maximum allowed under the State Density Bonus Law, though the number of subsidized housing units (BMR) has fallen to 890 units, the minimum required under SB 35 and its implementing guidelines. Retail has been reduced from 430,000 square feet to about 230,000 square feet by removing “big box” store space, reflecting the reality of today’s market of smaller store footprints and the move to experiential retail like restaurants and entertainment venues. Office space has been slightly reduced, and will be built toward the end of the project. The good news is that financing appears to be secure, and ground-breaking could start by late 2024, unlike so many other abandoned development projects in the valley.

The revised application will be reviewed and approved by the Community Development Department within 60 days, which will be challenging given the holiday shutdown at city hall. Since this is an SB 35 application, city council and the Planning Commission will be briefed, but do not have authority over approval. Full details of the application can be found at this webpage under What’s new?  The Rise – 2023 Modification Application. As readers will recall, Vallco is a critical component of the city’s draft Housing Element, which is currently undergoing review by the state Department of Housing and Community Development. If the project cannot be delivered, then the city’s Housing Element compliance will be in serious question.

The Fremont Union High School District is holding Trustee Area Community Workshops to provide the opportunity for the community to learn about the transition to elections by By-Trustee Areas, review the preliminary election map scenarios, provide feedback and input, and learn how to use the mapping software to design their own maps. Dinner will be provided. Register here  for the last workshop.

Thursday, December 14, 2023, 6:30-8:00 PM, Quinlan Community Center
10185 N. Stelling Rd., Cupertino

The Preliminary Maps and the mapping tool can be found on this webpage:   https://www.fuhsd.org/newsroom/trustee-areas/maps

UPCOMING  – Planning Commission – Tues, Dec. 12, 2023, 6:45 p.m., Regular Meeting

Agenda and Presentations 

Item No. 2: Application to consider the construction of a seven-unit townhome development and associated environmental review. The application includes demolition of an existing four-plex, subdivision for condominium purposes only, architectural review, and associated tree removal. (Application No(s): DP-2023-001, ASA-2023-002, TM-2023-001 & TR-2023-008; Applicant(s): Leon Hu of Top Mission Realty & Investment, Inc.; Location: 10046 Bianchi Way, APN: 359-07-021.) This proposal is a small infill development on a 14,753 square foot lot, just off Stevens Creek Boulevard next to Union Church, on the VTA bus line, within walking distance to De Anza College, and retail establishments, including Whole Foods. Units will be approximately 2000 square feet, with 3 bedrooms, 3.5 bathrooms and two car garages. One unit will be Below Market Rate (BMR). Several waivers are being requested which are reasonable with respect to the size and location of the proposed development.

Item No. 3: Sign Exception to allow two wall signs for a single tenant (Shane Co) at an existing retail building (Application No(s): EXC-2022-004; Applicant(s): Kevin Tallman, Shane Co.; Location: 19900 Stevens Creek Blvd.; APN: 369-05-044). Shane Company, a jewelry store, moved from the old Oaks Shopping Center to a location on Stevens Creek Boulevard, previously a furniture store. The store is renovating the landscaping and has requested two additional lighted signs on the east side of the building, in addition to the sign on the front and a ground sign closer to the sidewalk. Staff is recommending granting the sign exception to allow one additional sign, rather than the two requested by the applicant..

RECAP  – CITY COUNCIL – Tues, Dec. 5, 2023, 6:45 p.m., Regular Meeting; Study Session, 5:00 p.m. 

YouTube:  Part 1 – 1hr. 35 min; Part 2 – 1 hr. 34 min. (ended at 10:20)

Agenda and Presentations 

Study Session: Receive presentation regarding revenue tax measure options for the City’s General Fund and provide direction to staff on which revenue tax measure(s), if any, to explore for feasibility through opinion research for the November 2024 election. Council was briefed on four potential tax measures to increase revenue to compensate for the loss of $30 million due to the state tax audit. Such a revenue measure would be placed on the November 2024 ballot. Measures and potential revenue were identified as follows:

  • Transaction and Use Tax (TUT) – a quarter of a percent increase in sales tax from 9.125% to 9.375%, estimated to generate $5.4 million. This tax is paid by visitors/daytime workforce as well as residents. Staff recommended this measure because it generates the highest revenue, only requires a majority vote, and shares the tax burden across different populations.
  • Transient Occupancy Tax – (TOT) – this “hotel tax” could be increased from 12% to 15%, to generate an estimated $1.9 million. This option represents the smallest amount of revenue.
  • Parcel Tax – This would require a supermajority to pass and has to be for a specific purpose, not General Fund. At $250 per parcel, it would generate $3.7 million. This tax measure would be unlikely to pass, given the failure of the CUSD parcel taxes of the last few years.
  • Business Operations Tax – Also known as “headcount tax” paid by local businesses. Cupertino lacks business diversity, so this tax would fall on a few major taxpayers. Even at a high rate of $75 per employee, it would generate $4.1 million, which is less than the TUT.

Public comment generally favored the staff recommendation of a small increase in the local sales tax. In addition, lack of outreach to the business community emerged from public comment. As a result, Councilmember Fruen, seconded by Vice Mayor Mohan, made a motion to direct staff to (1) delay election viability polling, (2)  conduct outreach to the business community, and (3) return in early January with an update. The motion passed 4-1 with Chao voting nay.

Consent Calendar Item No. 6, to adopt a maximum rate schedule for Rate Period Four for Recology to provide recycling, organics, and solid waste collection, recycling and organics processing services, and transport for disposal as calculated using the allowed and approved methodology in the Franchise Agreement, was pulled by Councilmember Moore. The underlying agreement was approved in December 2020–this item involved a rate increase pursuant to the methodology adopted inside that agreement. Consideration of this item ran 40 minutes, even though council had to allow this contractually allowed rate adjustment of $2.01 per month. Council ultimately approved the item 4-0-1 with Moore abstaining with no reason given. 

Councilmember Moore also pulled Item No. 8, to accept Silicon Valley Clean Energy Community Resilience Grant in the amount of up to $233,963 to purchase two (2) Electric Vehicle Autonomous Renewable Charger (EV ARC) portable solar-powered charging systems, to ask questions that had already been answered by staff prior to the meeting. Council then approved 5-0. Councilmember Chao pulled Item No. 8  Cancellation of the December 19, 2023 City Council meeting, without taking into account that a city council meeting is scheduled for Dec. 14, and the city closes for the holidays between Christmas and New Years. After a brief discussion, Council then approved unanimously.

Item No.10: Municipal Code Amendment to Chapter 19.76 and a Conditional Use Permit and Parking Exception for the use of a former public school site by a pre-kindergarten through 9th grade private educational facility and associated Categorical Exemption under CEQA. (Application No.: MCA-2023-003; U-2023-002; EXC-2023-009 Applicant: City of Cupertino; Grace Stanat on behalf of Tessellations; Location: BA-zoned (Public Building) properties in Cupertino; 1170 Yorkshire Drive This item to approve the use of the closed Regnart Elementary school campus by a private school (Tessellations) focused on alternative learners required four approvals.  Council discussion was robust, revealing that large parts of the Municipal Code have not been updated since the 1970s. Public input was primarily from parents, praising Tessellations for meeting the challenging needs of their students. Council ultimately approved 5-0.

Item #11: Proposed amendments to Municipal Code Chapter 19.12, Chapter 19.28 and Chapter 19.112 regarding Two-Story Permit and Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) laws. (Application No. MCA-2023-002; Applicant: City of Cupertino; Location: City-wide)

(This item was continued to allow for re-noticing.)

Item No. 12: Council Reports (now submitted in written form) were provided by Mayor Wei, Vice-Mayor Mohan, and Councilmembers Fruen and Moore. There was no report from Councilmember Chao.

CUPERTINO COURIER: December 8, 2023

The front page photo and on page 5 is entitled Simitian to run for Congress:  Santa Clara County supervisor seeks to fill Anna Eshoo’s open seat. Community briefs are (1) Swearing-in ceremony, (2) Trustee area workshops, (3) League seeks volunteers and (4) Free holiday concerts. There are no legal notices.

Warm regards,
Jean Bedord
Cupertino Matters
Publisher and Editor