Cupertino Matters

Hope everyone had an enjoyable 4th of July, in spite of the heat. There is good news from The Rise (the former Vallco) that construction work on the site is slated to commence in the late July/early August timeframe with utility work on the west half of the mall adjacent to the I-280 freeway.

Council has been very busy with back-to-back meetings to complete business prior to their August break. On July 2, the city achieved a major milestone to reach compliance with the Housing Element required by the state Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) by approving Zoning Amendments to actually implement the conditionally approved Housing Element. In reaching approval, the dysfunction on the council was quite obvious. Councilmembers Kitty Moore and Liang Chao voted against approval of the required zoning changes, just as they also failed to vote to adopt the Housing Element itself on May 14. Without this plan in place and certified by HCD, the city remains at risk of poorly-sited projects under the “builder’s remedy” and risks breaching its stipulated judgment resolving litigation over the Housing Element. Shouldn’t councilmembers be considering the overall financial and planning risk to the city for failure to approve a compliant Housing Element?

The Sunday farmers market at De Anza community college has been in the news. The current operator, West Coast Farmers Market, failed to submit an application for the RFP (request for proposal) required by the college. Consequently, in accordance with their contract, the college sent a formal termination notice of June 30, 2024. Their competitor, Pacific Coast Farmers Market Association, current operator of the Friday farmers market at Creekside Park, submitted a proposal in accordance with  the RFP. As the sole applicant, this proposal was recommended for acceptance on the consent calendar at the June 10, 2024 Foothill-De Anza Community College District (FHDA) Board of Trustees meeting. However, numerous community members submitted letters requesting reconsideration in favor of the current operator, claiming misunderstanding, so the board voted to reject the proposal and to re-initiate the RFP process instead. This result would have exposed the college district to litigation.

The Mercury News covered the story:  Cupertino’s farmers market left in limbo for the summer: The market is held every Sunday at De Anza College’s parking lot  as well as the  San Jose Spotlight Popular Cupertino farmers market up for grabs a second time  Some of the claims in the articles are misleading. Farmers and vendors sell at more than one market, so they will not be completely out of work. They also have the opportunity to work with a new operator. In addition, West Coast Farmers Market operates other markets.

As a valuable service to the community, particularly West Valley Community Services,  De Anza College has stated its commitment to continuing the farmers market, regardless of the operator. The FHDA Board of Trustees met in a special meeting on Wednesday, June 26, to resolve the situation. The Board voted to grant the Facility Agreement for the De Anza farmers market to the Pacific Coast Farmers Market Association, the sole applicant to the RFP, effective August 4, 2024. To ensure a smoother transition between operators, West Coast Farmers Market was granted a month-long extension to operate during the month of July.

At request of the council, the city provided an informational memo evaluating alternative locations in the city, specifically closing Torre Avenue every Sunday morning. This would be disruptive to the library which opens at 10 a.m. as well as to cricket players on Library Field. City costs for the farmers market are estimated at $4,288 vs. De Anza’s costs of $1,132 per week. Parking would likely be inadequate, particularly for vendor trucks. West Coast has professed that it is unable to pay these costs despite being a for-profit operation.

UPCOMING – CITY COUNCIL – Tues., July 9, 2024, 6:45 p.m., Regular Meeting; 5:00 Closed Session

Agenda and Presentations

Closed Session:
Item No. 1 Conference with real property negotiator pursuant to Government Code §54956.8 Property: 19400 Stevens Creek Blvd., Cupertino. This is a potential site for an interim city hall. The most recent internal audit report corroborated prior internal audits and the Civil Grand Jury report that employees remain concerned about the documented seismic safety of the current city hall. Regardless of future development there, employees can’t work in a construction zone, so moving employees to another location is better done sooner rather than waiting several years to decide the future of the current city hall site. Real estate transactions at this stage of discussion ordinarily occur in closed session pursuant to a specific exception to the Brown Act because exposure of things like maximum purchase price would put the city at an unfair disadvantage when negotiating prices and terms.

Special Meeting:
The Consent Calendar contains one routine item. 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 an item is pulled from the Consent Calendar, it will ordinarily be addressed after all action items, unless Council votes to reorder them. Members of the public may comment on that item when it is considered.

Item No. 3: Adoption of Vision Zero Action Plan. Cupertino’s Vision Zero Action Plan (Plan) is an important step towards eliminating citywide multimodal traffic fatalities and serious injuries. The goal is to identify strategies and implement safety improvements to reduce fatalities and serious injuries to zero within the next 16 years. Nine collision profiles are identified: (1) pedestrians and bicyclists are most vulnerable; (2) unsafe speeds; (3) improved intersection safety for all; (4) pedestrian code violations; (5) majority of bicycle collisions are broadside collisions; (6) teenagers biking near schools and parks; (7) driving under the influence; (8) bicycle collisions and automobile right-of-way violation; and (9) collisions near transit stops. Priority corridors constitute the High Injury Network (HIN), which includes Stevens Creek Boulevard, Homestead Road, McClellan Road, De Anza Boulevard, Stelling Road, Wolfe Road/Miller Avenue, Bollinger Road, and Blaney Avenue. Adoption of a Vision Zero Plan significantly strengthens the City’s application for safety-related transportation grant funding and is a requirement for some grant programs including the Safe Streets and Roads for All (SS4A) Program administered by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Item No. 4: Implementation of an on-street two-way Class IV bike lane on Vista Drive and Forest Avenue (Alternative 3) along the Lawson Middle School frontage and prohibition of parking along the west side of Vista Dive between Forest Avenue and Merritt Drive for the accommodation of Class IV bicycle lanes and adoption of an Ordinance Municipal Code Table 11.24.150, relating to prohibition of parking along certain streets. The Lawson Middle School Bikeway Project was initiated as a result of the School Walk Audit Implementation Project to enhance safety of students walking or biking to the City of Cupertino’s fourteen public schools by identifying projects to enhance roadway safety. One improvement is the installation of a two-way separated bike path at Lawson Middle School to provide a safe and convenient way for students to access the campus bike cages. During the morning drop-off and afternoon pick-up times, the sidewalks adjacent to the school are crowded with students, and the streets around the school experience significant vehicular traffic. Installing the bike path would provide cyclists with a separate, dedicated space, keeping them away from vehicles on the road and pedestrians on the sidewalks. If approved by Council, the second reading will be scheduled for the September 17, 2024, City Council meeting. Staff will then proceed with design and implementation, with full funding provided through the Apple Donation Grant Agreement. Design and project bids would be anticipated to occur during Fall 2024, with construction occurring Spring 2025.

RECAP – CITY COUNCIL – Tues., July 2, 2024, 6:45 p.m., Regular Meeting; 5:30 Special Meeting

YouTube: Part 1: 3 hr. 33 min; Part 2: 1 hr. 46 min. 

Agenda and Presentations

Special Meeting:
Item No. 1 Accept the Enterprise Risk Assessment Final Report and FY 2024-25 Internal Audit Work Plan. The Audit Committee received the 2024 Enterprise Risk Assessment Report and FY2024-25 Internal Audit Work Plan at the June 24 meeting for discussion. The same assessment was done in 2020, so this report assesses changes in risk assessment. The overall assessment from executive summary:

“Compared to 2020, the 2024 risk assessment results show that 42% of the City’s risk categories have remained flat in their risk rating. There has been an increase in risk rating for 32% of categories, and 26% of categories have decreased in their risk rating. Increased risk ratings are largely driven by the change in the City’s financial situation, while decreased risk is due to the City’s efforts in the intervening years to deploy risk mitigation strategies. This has involved additional studies over the past three years to address areas of risk, including an Enterprise Leadership Assessment, Budget Review, Capital Program Effectiveness Study, and Procurement Operational Review.”

Several findings are notable:

  • The City established a City Council Procedures Manual in 2023 to define bylaws and procedures related to Council operations and activities. Itl supports clarity in Council processes, roles, and responsibilities and reflects the City’s ongoing efforts to enhance governance. As a result, the total number of council meetings in 2023 declined to 37 meetings lasting an average of 4.0 hours  (under Mayor Wei) from 2022 with  64 meetings lasting 5.2 hours (5 lasting past midnight under Mayor Paul).
  • The impacts of the CDTFA audit have impacted employees’ outlook on the City’s financial future. Employees who are concerned about organizational financial stability may be less engaged in their work and may be more motivated to seek employment elsewhere.
  • Concerns about the seismic safety of City Hall were a major theme in the staff survey. Over half of surveyed employees (60%) rated the physical security of their workplace between average and terrible: average – 39%, poor – 13%, terrible – 8%. Ongoing concerns over the physical structure of City Hall drive this rating. Previous engineering studies have indicated that City Hall’s structure is deficient in seismic force resistance. The safety of employees, and their perception of safety, can have significant impacts on City operations.
  • Overall turnover rate has decreased from 14.9% in 2022 to 10.5% in 2023.  While a turnover rate around 10% is considered reasonable, the City’s 2023 turnover rate remains higher than the national average of 1.6% for state and local governments.
  • Retaining manager-level employees has reportedly been a particularly difficult challenge. Change in management-level positions can create a sense of instability throughout the organization and impede the continuity of Citywide initiatives and actions. In 2021, the City’s management level turnover rate was 7%. In 2022, it was 18%, and in 2023, it was 13%. Constant changes in directives, goals, and expectations due to shifting leadership styles can create confusion among staff members. These figures track with the numerous changes in City Managers from 2018 through 2022.
  • As of January 2024, 36.4% (71) of the FTEs at the City were eligible for retirement in five years.
  • While IT is highly rated, one of the needs employees identified related to IT was a desire for IT to continue to strengthen system integration and data flow automation to reduce manual processes. The City lacks some key systems that would contribute to increased efficiency and effectiveness. This lack of investment in integrated computer software needs to be considered.

Regular Meeting
The sole Ceremonial Item was Recognition of July as Parks and Recreation Month.  Councilmember Liang Chao pulled Item No. 5: Status update for prior Internal Audit Work Plans in Fiscal Year (FY) 2021-22 and FY 2022-23, from the Consent Calendar, which was considered at the end of the meeting. Her questions regarding disagreements with Moss-Adams recommendations could have been answered prior to the meeting rather than wasting council and staff time. Council approved unanimously.

Item No. 7: Municipal Code Text, Specific Plan, Below Market Rate Mitigation Manual and Zoning Map Amendments related to implementing the 6th Cycle Housing Element (Application No.(s): MCA-2023-001, SPA-2023-001, CP-2024-002, Z-2024-001, EA-2024-001; Applicant: City of Cupertino; Location: city-wide). HCD previously made a conditional approval of Cupertino’s most recent Housing Element (HE), which council adopted on May 14, 2024. However, to become fully and legally compliant, the city must first amend its Municipal Code to rezone various sites, specifically Priority Housing Element sites. This action required adding two new chapters to the Municipal Code: (1) R-4 Multiple Family Residential Zones to allow densities greater than 35 dwelling units per acre on designated sites, and (2) the Townhome (TH) Combining District to provide a variety of housing types as a buffer in existing single-family homes/neighborhoods.

There was extensive technical discussion centering around zoning changes regarding development of duplexes and unnecessary restrictions, particularly parking minimums (requiring 4 vs. 6 parking spaces per lot). Public input favoring relaxing standards to encourage housing development outweighed public comment favoring a more restrictive option. The city received formal comment letters from a number of housing advocacy organizations–some of which, like the Housing Action Coalition, have previously sued cities over such shortcomings in the past–pointing out shortcomings of the city’s Missing Middle Program implementation. HCD accords the views of such organizations great weight in determining whether to certify a city’s housing element. A substitute motion by Vice-Mayor Fruen, seconded by Councilmember Hung Wei, to approve the staff recommendations with modest edits answering housing advocates concerns was approved 3-2 with Councilmembers Moore and Chao voting nay, despite the importance of approving this to achieve full Housing Element compliance.

Item No. 8: Review Lawrence-Mitty Park and Trail Project Final conceptual Design and consider the proposed Initial Study/Mitigated Negative Declaration. There was limited discussion of this item, with council recognizing that this project has been in the capital improvement pipeline for a number of years. Council approved unanimously.

Item No. 9: Repeal of the existing General Plan Amendment (GPA) Authorization procedure and process. During councilmember questions, staff acknowledged that this GPA authorization procedure could fairly be described as “asking for permission to apply” for a GPA–a thing any person has a legal right to do. After confused public comment and a brief council discussion, Councilmember Moore moved, and Vice-Mayor Fruen seconded, the staff recommendation to abolish the city’s “permission to apply” process with the added referral of consideration of community benefits program to the Planning Commision. Council approved unanimously.

CANCELED – Planning Commission- Tues., June 25,  2024, 6:45 p.m., Regular Meeting

RECAP – CITY COUNCIL – Tues., June 18, 2024, 6:45 p.m., Regular Meeting

YouTube: 3 hr. 50 min. 

Agenda and Presentations

Item Nos. 11 and 12 were pulled from the Consent Calendar. Items were reordered to first consider: Item No. 12 to consider acquisition of property located at 19400 Stevens Creek Blvd, and appointment of real property negotiator for acquisition of property. This was simply an authorization for the city manager to commence negotiation for this property as a potential site for city staff while a permanent solution for city hall is addressed, a process that will take years. Any solution would require moving city staff out of the construction zone, so taking this step earlier rather than later, addresses the immediate safety concerns about the current building. No details are publicly available, yet this item consumed almost an hour of dais time, drawn out by objections from Councilmembers Moore and Chao. Council approved 4-1 with Moore voting nay.

Item No. 11 was the sale of a city-owned property at 10301 Byrne Avenue. The city received one offer of $3.11 million, which was over $100,000 over the listing price for this barely habitable house with significant hillside and structural challenges. Councilmembers Chao and Moore spent over 30 minutes second-guessing the staff and professional real estate broker recommendation. Council approved 3-2 with Chao and Moore voting nay.

Item No. 13: Proposed Municipal Code Amendments to Chapter 19.48 (Fences), Chapter 19.12 (Administration), and Chapter 19.08 (Definitions) and related CEQA exemption. Discussion was minimal and focused on benefits to homeowners on revisions to this fence code cleanup, updating sections which date back over 50 years. Council approved unanimously.

Item No. 14: Future agenda items requested by City Councilmembers (“TBD List”). This item consumed nearly an hour for discussion for nine additional agenda items requested by Councilmembers Chao and Moore. While there was some clarification of individual items, the staff recommendations were reasonable.

Item No. 15: Council Reports, (now submitted in written form) were provided by Mayor Mohan, Vice-Mayor Fruen, Councilmember Moore and Councilmember Wei. Councilmember Chao failed to submit a report at the time the agenda was released.

CUPERTINO COURIER: July 5, 2024

The front page photo and Community brief  on page 3 is entitled Pitch a tent:  Families invited to the Cupertino Campout at Creekside Park.  Additional community briefs are (1) Free YMCA membership and (2) Olympiad winners.  The sole legal notice is Consideration of Lease with San Jose Water Company to be heard at City Council on July 16.

CUPERTINO COURIER: June 28, 2024

The front page photo and Community brief  on page 3 is entitled America is in tune: Special morning set at Memorial Park provides Fourth of July entertainment. An additional Community brief is entitled Having the authority. Also on page 3 is a previously published Mercury News  article entitled Local farmers market left in limbo for the summer: Gathering, which opened in 2011, held on Sundays at De Anza College’s parking lot. The sole legal notice is Consideration of Lease with San Jose Water Company to be heard at City Council on July 16.

CUPERTINO COURIER: June 21, 2024

The front page photo and Community Brief on page 5 is entitled Rules of the road:  Registration is open for Middle School Bike Skills workshop series. Community briefs on page 5 include (1) Bike skills workshops, (2) Summer music series and (3) Night Out set. Legal notices are (1) Adoption of  Cupertino Sanitary District fees for Fiscal 2024-25 effective July 1, 2024, (2) City of Cupertino bid invitation for 2024 Concrete Reconstruction Project, and (3) Public Hearing on the Housing Element Related Zoning and Other Updates at City Council on July 2, 2024.

Warm regards,
Jean Bedord
Cupertino Matters
Publisher and Editor