November 2023 Newsletter: July 4th fireworks defunded, Cupertino’s first Builder’s Remedy apartment project, and more

What’s in this issue:

  • Cupertino Cancels July 4th Fireworks
  • Cupertino Receives First Builder’s Remedy Development Application
  • Will High Capacity Transit Come to Cupertino?
  • Apply for Cupertino Commissions

Cupertino Cancels July 4th Fireworks

While many residents were preparing for their Thanksgiving holiday, the Cupertino City Council decided to cut its July 4th fireworks display.

There was no community input taken in staff’s recommendation to axe the popular fireworks show, enjoyed by thousands of residents for decades. The suggestion to defund the celebrations was hidden as a one-liner within agenda item #11 for the November 21, 2023 City Council meeting.

Differing opinions

Councilmember Kitty Moore cast the lone dissenting vote against defunding the fireworks. “I don’t feel this decision has the input from the public,” Moore stated. “It’s being done at a time when the public isn’t here to comment on it, because it’s buried on this agenda.”

Moore said that funding can be made available to support the fireworks. “We have 14 positions which aren’t filled, at an average of $180,000 per position,” said Moore. “We do have money available if we are looking into the budget, in areas where there has actually been leftover year over year.”

On the other hand, Mayor Wei voted to get rid of the July 4th fireworks. The reason Wei gave was that there are worse budget cuts planned in January 2024, so it would be “responsible” to start cutting now.

A Tale of Two Cities

The reason cited for eliminating the July 4th fireworks was Cupertino’s $15M structural deficit. However, Cupertino’s handling of this deficit has been inconsistent. On November 7th, Council approved cost of living (COLA) raises for both non-unionized and specific unionized employees, ranging from 3-5%, and added two new fully paid holidays. On October 17th, Council voted to pursue a brand new City Hall building, rather than a renovation of existing buildings for a fraction of the cost.

Meanwhile, the City has chosen to cut community services. Eliminating the fireworks in 2024 yields a one-time savings of $140K. The city also cut its $30K funding to Shakespeare in the Park, and a $10K teen boba event.

What’s in Store

Council voted to retain July 4th morning activities at a reduced scale compared to prior years, at a cost of $7K. Councilmember Liang Chao asked for the Parks & Recreation Commission to explore creative ways to celebrate July 4th without fireworks, and to fund future July 4th events.


Cupertino Receives First Builder’s Remedy Development Application

Cupertino has been vulnerable to the “Builder’s Remedy” since it missed its January 2023 deadline for an approved Housing Element from the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD). The “Builder’s Remedy” is a State law that allows developers to bypass local zoning laws for projects that offer affordable housing.

Builder’s Remedy Reaches Cupertino

Menlo Park developer Acclaim Properties has submitted Cupertino’s first Builder’s Remedy application: a 141 home apartment complex on 1.63 acres, at the corner of Stevens Creek Blvd and N. Blaney Ave. The site is zoned for commercial use, with a maximum height of 45 feet. However, the developer’s application uses the “Builder’s Remedy” to circumvent these rules, raising its height to 70 feet, and leaving no space for commercial businesses. If this project proceeds, the development will force businesses like Vidyarambh Preschool and Daycare Center and Be Natural Music to vacate the site.

Source: Builder’s Remedy Project Proposals, Cupertino.org

Mayor Wei appears either unaware of or indifferent to existing height limits. Via the Mercury News, Wei stated that “five-stories on one of the city’s busiest thoroughfares isn’t unusual,” even though there currently are no other buildings of that height nearby. Wei also said that “there will be more in the next eight years.”

A Loss of Local Control

This project, like Vallco using the SB 35 law to tear down our mall, or Westport using the Density Bonus law and decreasing the Oaks Shopping Center area, lowers Cupertino’s retail base at a time when the CDTFA audit is expected to reduce our sales tax revenue by $30M annually, plus back payments.

Cupertino faces difficult fiscal decisions ahead. The lack of local control in retaining retail can have a dire effect on healthy economic planning. Most importantly, these laws will not help lower housing costs. It is unknown how many more “Builder’s Remedy” projects will be proposed while we wait for the City to get an approved Housing Element.


Is High-Capacity Transit Coming to Cupertino?

Via the Stevens Creek Corridor Vision website: Santa Clara, San Jose, Cupertino, Santa Clara County, and the Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) are conducting a two-year transportation study for the Stevens Creek Boulevard/West San Carlos corridor. Their goal is to create a vision including multi-modal transportation improvements and possible high-capacity transit connecting Diridon Station in San Jose to Santa Clara and the De Anza College/Highway 85 area in Cupertino.

Share your feedback by filling out the survey on StevensCreekVision.com, or attend upcoming events:

Community Advisory Group Meeting #2 (In-Person)
Santa Clara Central Park Library
2635 Homestead Rd, Santa Clara, CA
Thursday, December 7, 2023
5 – 6:30 p.m.

Apply for Cupertino Commissions

The City of Cupertino is now recruiting for its commissions. Those interested in getting more involved in City affairs may visit the Commissions Vacancies page to learn about open positions, and the Commissions page for instructions on how to apply.

Here is a list of vacancies as of 11/28/30:

  • Audit Committee: 3 available seats
  • Housing Commission: 2 available seats
  • Parks & Recreation Commission: 2 available seats
  • Public Safety Commission: 3 available seats
  • Sustainability Commission: 3 available seats
  • Technology, Information, and Communications Commission: 2 available seats

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