Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Better Cupertino News • February 2918

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Better Cupertino News • Happy Year of the Dog!
~   F  E  B  R  U  A  R  Y    2  0  1  8   ~

It ain't progress if it doesn't improve our quality of life.


Come to our Forum on City Planning

Saturday, March 10, 6:30 - 8:30 pm

Cupertino Community Hall
10350 Torre Avenue, Cupertino, CA 95014

Our guests are Mayor Darcy Paul, Council Member Steven Scharf and Planning Commissioner Don Sun; the discussion will be moderated by Muni Madhdhipatla. This is you chance to ask questions and voice your opinion on traffic, housing, retail, and controversial developments like Vallco and the Oaks, and more!
  T  A  K  E    A  C  T  I  O  N   ~

Send your Vallco EIR comments (& here's how)

Now is the time to send comments for the Environmental Impact Report (EIR)* on possible impacts to the Vallco Shopping District Site. Refer to this Notice of Preparation document for information about what kinds of things will be studied in the EIR. Some examples are effects on air quality, traffic, and public services.

Not sure how to write your comments? Download this handy tip sheet. Comments are due on or before Monday, 3/12/2018 by 4:30 pm. Send comments to the Cupertino Planning Department. Sign up for updates related the process to change the Vallco Shopping District site at envisionvallco.org

*What is an Environmental Impact Report (EIR)?  In short, an EIR identifies and examines the likely environmental effects of a proposed project, and proposes measures to avoid, mitigate, or offset them. EIRs are written reports to inform the public and public agency decision-makers of significant environmental effects of proposed projects, identify possible ways to minimize those effects, and describe reasonable alternatives to those projects.
Ready to Vote in 2018?

2018 is sure to be a critical election year nationally and locally. It's true what they say, every vote does count. And, voting is our best means to hold our government accountable to represent the needs of the people who live within its jurisdiction, not the financial or ideological concerns of special interests located elsewhere.

Are you eligible to vote but not registered at your current address? Register online today: registertovote.ca.gov

Are you eligible for citizenship, but haven't yet completed the naturalization process? Sign up for a citizenship class today: Santa Clara County Library Citizenship Resources and Immigrant Info

Did you know since 2004 the majority of Santa Clara County voters are registered to vote by mail, and the County pays the postage? Don't miss an opportunity to vote due to Election Day travel, illness, or unforeseen schedule crunches — request to receive future ballots by mail.

REFERENCE: Registrar of Voters Post-Election Report, November 8, 2016 Presidential General
Oppose Voting In Libraries and Near Library Entrances
Better Cupertino hosts information booths in front of the Cupertino library door.
During the ballot collection window for the November 2016 General Election, the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters (SCCROV) placed receptacles for receiving mail-in ballots in front of 15 libraries and inside 3 libraries.

Unfortunately, libraries and library entrances are not acceptable locations for polling places, including mail-in ballot drop-off boxes and "early voting" in-person polling venues, because "as trusted, neutral, safe spaces, libraries are ideal institutions to lead dialogue and deliberation efforts in communities" (see note), while polling places by necessity are information silent zones where deliberation and engagement in political matters cannot occur within a 100-foot radius of the polling place.

Consider that without access to public spaces such as libraries, public plazas, and parks, community members have very few venues where they can meet each other to discuss community concerns, candidates, and ballot measures in advance of an election. When polling places are located inside libraries and near library entrances, libraries are eliminated as venues for civil deliberation and civic engagement for weeks leading up to the election and right at the time when community members are seeking information about items on their ballot.

It is Better Cupertino's understanding that on Tuesday, 3/6/2018, the advisory body for the SCCROV, the Santa Clara County Citizens' Advisory Commission on Elections, will consider a request to remove libraries and areas near library entrances as polling place locations in Santa Clara County in time for the June 2018 Primary Election and all elections thereafter. Please consider attending and speaking out against locating polling places in libraries and near library entrances. Send written comments to CACE to Deputy Clerk Jean Anton on or before Wednesday, 2/28/2018 to ensure that commissioners will receive your comments in advance of the 3/6/2018 meeting.

Santa Clara County Citizens' Advisory Commission on Elections
Tuesday, March 6, 2018, 6 pm
Isaac Newton Senter Auditorium, first floor
70 W Hedding Street, San José, CA 95110

(street parking is often available on San Pedro after 5:30 pm)

REFERENCESCCROV Post- Election Report, November 8, 2016 Presidential General

NOTE: "As trusted, neutral, safe spaces, libraries are ideal institutions to lead dialogue and deliberation efforts in communities." — American Library Association, Libraries Transforming Communities

Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin wrote on an excellent blog post about California Senate Bill 827: New Housing Bill Well-Intentioned, Yet Ultimately Wrong Approach to Development. Here are some highlights:
  • This [SB 827] would open up many now quiet residential neighborhoods to large-scale housing developments and would ruin the character of these neighborhoods. 
  • It would also eliminate parking requirements for these developments, creating further parking impacts and congestion in residential neighborhoods.
  • If SB 827 is approved, agencies like AC Transit would suddenly have power over land use decisions by simply deciding where to place a bus stop, or improving bus headways.
  • There is no question that we need more housing. But SB 827 does nothing to address affordability. In fact, the legislation actually encourages displacement by incentivizing landlords to allow properties near major bus stops or BART to fall into disrepair in order to replace them with market-rate housing. 
  • Senator Weiner argues that his legislation will cut greenhouse gas emissions, but the opposite is true: "what about working families who will undoubtedly be displaced when they can't find an affordable home? When someone lives in Vallejo but commutes to a job in Berkeley, it only puts more cars on our freeways — and adds emissions."
  • It is true that we need a way to incentivize cities to approve more housing, especially near transit. But we must do it in a way that doesn't completely override local control or undermine ongoing efforts to build affordable housing, something that Berkeley is working very hard to do.
  • We all agree that we need more housing. But getting there must happen in a way that takes into account people from all walks of life and not just the privileged few, and without destroying the very elements that made communities desirable places to live in the first place.
This article from the January 5, 2018 Silicon Valley Business Journal gives some background. Please write to the Cupertino City Council and urge them to show their opposition to SB 827. Encourage the City Council to join councils from Palo Alto, Milpitas, Novato, Beverly Hills, West Hollywood, (and more by the day!) by writing to State Senator Wiener to assert firm opposition to SB 827.
~   C  O  M  M  E  N  T  A  R  Y   ~

The Collective Wisdom of California Residents Against SB 827 (Proposed, Wiener) — PLEASE VOTE NO!
Danessa Techmanski is a 30-Year Cupertino resident and 4th-generation Californian
The introduction of SB 827 was the shot heard 'round California and it has already drawn massive criticism from city councils, sensible growth advocates, and low-income housing groups up and down the state. Letters of opposition were written to the bill's author, State Senator Scott Wiener, almost immediately by the California Sierra Club (1) and the League of California Cities (2), as well as from 37 grassroots organizations from the Los Angeles area through a collective letter from act-LA (3). Some of California's most prominent labor, conservation, and environmental justice groups have also relaunched the coalition CEQA Works against SB 827 and some of the other new housing bills. (4)

Despite Wiener's background as a San Francisco Supervisor, SB 827 shows a complete misunderstanding of the purpose of the General Plan as a city's guiding policy document for land use change and a blatant disregard for the role of community involvement in the democratic process. Furthermore, the flaws in this one-size-fits-all housing bill are easily illustrated by looking at cities like Santa Monica where there is already a good balance of housing, but the majority of their city would be up-zoned beyond their control because of the many bus routes. (5)  Zoning needs to be left to local experts. Period.

The bill ignores or overrides factors in planning such as urban form, open space, historic preservation, safety, walkability, aesthetic design, traffic concerns, future transit plans, and the ability for local agencies to address particular housing levels in their RHNAS (Regional Housing Needs Assessment). Furthermore, SB 827 stimulates development with no regard for any negative economic, environmental, or social impacts.

The intention of this document is not launch an attack or blame high-tech companies or their workers for their part in our current housing dilemma. Indeed, their benefits to California and the world are inestimable. The point is to illustrate the role that any imposing industry plays as part of the root cause in a housing shortage where land is scarce and economic inequity exists. In areas like Silicon Valley, each additional office development digs cities deeper into the housing hole.

As an example, SB 827 enriches for-profit real estate developers through "up-zoning" instead of holding local governments accountable to limit office construction to levels that ensure that new workers can be accommodated within the jurisdiction. It also absolves high-tech companies of their responsibility for our growing low- and middle-income housing problems through by-right development that is affordable to mostly high-tech workers at the expense of the rest of society.

As median housing prices rise with more luxury development and the uptick in rents, 30% of California's renters now struggle just to make ends meet. (6) There are no provisions in the bill for improvements to infrastructure, transit, public services, schools, or means of equity for existing residents whose homes are affected, while at the same time making them responsible for the continuing influx of tech workers and the 4-5 support jobs that each one generates. Those responsibilities fall squarely on the backs of taxpayers.

One cannot help but question the fact that the bill's authors, Scott Wiener and the California YIMBY group, are generously funded by the tech industry. More than 120 tech executives have signed a letter supporting SB 827, including companies like Lyft and Uber who will greatly benefit from a large influx of well-compensated tech workers living in dense housing with no parking. The majority of Wiener's top donors are from the real estate, tech and construction industries. (7)

Is this bill really designed to remedy the housing problems for the general public, or does it serve to advance the agendas and privileges of certain political groups and economic industries?

download full article to read more
~   R  E  Q  U  I  R  E  D  •  R  E  A  D  I  N  G   ~

on Development Issues
February 2, 2018 • The Marin Post • Yuppies In My Backyard: SB-827 and Deconstructing Community – PART I • Bob Silvestri
"Affordable housing" appears to be just a useful talking point that Senator Wiener and his collaborators, who call themselves YIMBYs (an acronym for "Yes, in my back yard"), use to get what they want, which is to open the flood gates to development of all kinds, regardless of the social justice, economic or environmental consequences."

February 18, 2018 • Daily Beast • Dense Ain't 'Smart' / From Disruption to Dystopia: Silicon Valley Envisions the City of the Future • Joel Kotkin
The unaffordable Bay Area, Google's new neighborhood 'built from the internet up,' and China's police state each offer glimpses of what the tech giants plan to sell the rest of us. 

February 22, • The Mercury News • Silicon Valley tech hiring outpaces rivals, but woes worsen • George Avalos
Traffic is becoming worse in Silicon Valley at a much faster pace than other tech hubs. • From 2010 through 2016, average commute times soared 18.9 percent in Silicon Valley. Over the same period, commute times rose 14 percent in Seattle, 8.2 percent in Southern California, 7.7 percent in Boston, 7.1 percent in Austin and 6.3 percent in New York City. • "An average Silicon Valley commuter now spends 72 minutes commuting per day, round trip," the report stated. "This figure has grown marginally since last year and remains second only to the commute time of New York City workers, who spend 74 minutes commuting."

February 24, 2018 • New York Times • Tech Envisions the Ultimate Start-Up: An Entire City Silicon Valley wants to save cities. What could go wrong? • Emily Badger

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Monday, January 29, 2018

Better Cupertino News • January 2018

H A P P Y  N E W  Y E A R    J A N U A R Y   2 0 1 8   N E W S  ~

Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell. — EDWARD ABBEY
Online Survey: What's your opinion on Vallco?
Please attend State of the City address January 31!
Help a new citizen register to vote
Save the date for BC-hosted forum March 10
A N N O U N C E M E N T S  ~

Online survey: What's your opinion on Vallco?
Answer just FIVE questions, and make your voice heard! The fate of Vallco has been on the minds of Cupertinians for years. There have been many "community engagement" meetings held by our City and the developer, Sand Hill Property. But have they ever really listened to us? 

Click the button below and in three minutes or less you can take Better Cupertino's online survey on Vallco — we're listening. And please forward the link to local family, friends and neighbors — the more responses we get, the more accurate the results will be!
Take the Survey

Mayor Darcy Paul will be giving two State of the City addresses on Wednesday, January 31: the usual Chamber of Commerce/Rotary luncheon speech, and for the first time, a more accessible public speech in the evening. Last year, Better Cupertino requested the speech be given at a time when more residents could attend; apparently then-council member Paul made a note of it. The evening speech is from 6:30–7:30 at The Quinlan Center, on The Issues of Cupertino and Our Day. Light appetizers will be served.

The City is NOT giving the event much publicity, so let's show up to support the evening speech and Mayor Paul for giving it. Details below and at the city website:
Join us Thursday, February 22 and Thursday, March 2 to help brand-new citizens register to vote after their swearing-in ceremonies at The Heritage Theater, 1 W Campbell Ave, Campbell, CA 95008. It's a really fun and  rewarding way to foment democracy! For more information, email us at info@bettercupertino.org with "vote" in the subject line.
Save the date for BC-hosted forum March 10
Our next community forum will be on Saturday, March 10 in the Cupertino Room of the Quinlan Center from 6:30–8:30 pm. The panel and topic to be announced; look here for more news next month. For now, SAVE THE DATE!

Just days before City Council was to vote on it, KT Urban withdrew its latest application for redevelopment of the Oaks shopping center. According to the Mercury News article, city staff said the developer is working on alternate proposals.

Representatives from Opticos Design, Inc. (Opticos), the Berkeley-based land use and architecture firm hired by the City of Cupertino and paid for by the developer of the Vallco Shopping District site, visited Cupertino earlier this month to interview community members and business representatives. For the January interviews, City pre-selected individuals to share their visions of what they would like to see included in the Vallco Specific Plan with Opticos. Opticos returns to Cupertino in February for at least three community events: 

1)  On Monday, February 5th, Opticos meets with the community for information sharing. Opticos will inform the community about the project process for developing Specific Plan for the Vallco Shopping District site. Community members will also learn how to stay involved in the process (sign up for updates at envisionvallco.org)

Kick-off Public Meeting
Monday, February 5, 2018
from 6 to 8:30 pm
Community Hall, 10350 Torre Ave, Cupertino, CA

2) On Tuesday, February 6th Opticos meets with even more pre-selected community members and business representatives in group interviews.

Group Interviews with Opticos Representatives
for seniors, youth, faith based, businesses, adjacent neighbors, parent groups, block leaders, tech workers, major employers, residents, and community activists
Tuesday, February 6, 2018, multiple sessions from 1 to 7 pm
(6 to 7 pm includes many friends of Better Cupertino)

Aloft Cupertino, 10165 North De Anza Boulevard, Cupertino, CA

3) On Thursday, February 22nd, subject matter experts meet with community members to discuss what issues should be analyzed in the environmental impact review (EIR) and any topics related to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). 

EIR Scoping Meeting
Thursday, February 22, 2018
from 6 to 8:30 pm (tentative time)
Location TBD

Didn't receive your invitation to participate in the February 6th event?
Many of us didn't either, yet we'd like to be a part of the planning process. If you are free on February 6th and would like to participate in the group interviews, contact Cupertino Senior Planner Catarina Kidd (catarinak@cupertino.org) before Wednesday, January 31st and request to be added to the invitation list for the February small group interviews.

If you can't attend one or more of the above events but would like to be notified of future events that will address planning for the Special Plan for the Vallco Shopping District site, sign up for updates on the
Envison Vallco website.

Commentary by Danessa Techmanski
While we do need to address our housing needs to more precisely match the jobs we have created in California, our housing problems will continue as long as we keep adding more offices (which brings in more jobs, which will require more housing). Not everything and everyone needs to be located here, especially when other parts of our country need the jobs, and our resources have been spread thin and we still have no Bay-Area-wide rapid mass transit.

California's new housing legislation ignores the impacts of adding additional office and it completely fails to address the means necessary to support such large amounts of new housing such as the transportation needed to move people around, funds for the schools that are impacted, and the costs of additional infrastructure. Where will the money for that come from? Taxpayers of course. Additionally, proposed
SB 828 (Wiener) will double the Regional Housing Needs Allocations (RHNA) for California cities despite that they may lack the available land and funding to reach those goals. Cities are not the builders of homes, and as such these new laws may force them to accept proposals far below their normal acceptable health, design, and safety standards in order to remain compliant. 

Under the new bill
SB 35, a development only needs to include 10-15% Below Market Rate (BMR) housing units in order to bypass city council approval (called streamlining) if it meets certain criteria. The housing bills do not specify what makes up the other 90% of that housing which is likely to be more high-end to pad the costs. That may raise the median price threshold overall and force more residents into the low-income housing bracket as their wage increases are not proportional. I have never seen any data to support that building more housing in highly desirable areas with land shortages will bring down prices. It would take a 20% increase in California's housing stock to bring prices down even 10%. The end result of not having enough affordable housing is that we will continue to lose the hourly and service workers, teachers, and others who are so vital to our economy and communities, as well as many of our young people and seniors.

In several recent surveys, 75% of millennials polled said that they dreamed of owning a single family home when they settle down. Yet these bills applaud the cannibalization of single-family homes, and prevent young people from building equity through home ownership as the bills encourage rentals over for-sale housing (that equity will instead be in the hands of developers). This will cause more people to move further out from work centers looking to buy homes, thus increasing traffic, air pollution, and lost production and family time.

Bills like
AB 678 allow for any "reasonable persons" (which includes the developers themselves) to readily challenge a city's decisions and local expertise to put constraints on developments in the courts for fines of $10,000 per housing unit if the city loses, despite the fact that developers have huge financial interests and are not responsible for the long-term health and welfare of residents where they build.

And if all this wasn't enough to make us cautious about the new bills, there's another catch: developments that include BMR housing can bypass the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). In certain instances developers can build with mass density and up to 85 ft. without city approval. Sounds like a win-win for developers. One can only imagine what this will do to already highly impacted traffic areas, or how it will affect neighborhoods with single-family homes.

We need to guard against letting our current housing crisis become a convenient situation for developers to grab power and take away local decision making. On the surface these bills appear to have the merit of increasing low-income housing, but at only 10-15% BMR it doesn't look likely, and they bring with them many other unintended consequences. One-size-fits-all legislation may overlook crucial situations unique to individual cities, and it takes away the democratic process.

this guide by The League of California Cities to learn more about the new housing laws that went into effect January 1st.
R E Q U I R E D   R E A D I N G  ~

Housing within 500 feet of freeways causes higher rates of asthma, heart disease, cancer and other health problems linked to auto pollution.

It seems odd that as our state government rushes to pass legislation to build our way out of a severe housing shortage — decades in the making — all thoughts about pollution, climate change, the lack of mass transit, and California's vulnerability to drought have magically disappeared. The state has even developed amnesia about its own recommendations against building homes within 500 feet of freeways (where people suffer higher rates of asthma, heart disease, cancer and other health problems linked to auto pollution.) Here are some articles to remind ourselves of why that's not a good idea:

Even Breathing Is A Risk In One Of Orlando's Poorest Neighborhoods  Julia Craven • Huffpost • January 23, 2018.
During the 15 years that Jacqueline Young lived in Griffin Park, a federal housing project, she always worried about the air that she and her granddaughter were breathing. • On bad days, her throat would hurt, and her granddaughter would have violent asthma attacks. Young, who often walked neighborhood kids to and from school, noticed that many of the children wore masks to protect themselves from pollution. • The air inside wasn't much better. The decrepit air-conditioning unit in Young's apartment spewed out dust and forced her to keep the windows open, even when traffic was heavy. Sometimes, soot and particles floated through the air inside her apartment "like it was snowing dust," said Young. "We could never not think of the air we were breathing," she said.
Living close to a major roadway could increase dementia risk, study says  Meera Senthilingam • CNN • January 4, 2017.
The robust observation of dementia involving predominantly urban versus rural residents opens up a crucial global health concern for millions of people.

Health Effects of Ozone and Particle Pollution  American Lung Association
The dirty, smoky part of that stream of exhaust is made of particle pollution. Overwhelming evidence shows that particle pollution—like that coming from that exhaust smoke—can kill. Particle pollution can increase the risk of heart disease, lung cancer and asthma attacks and can interfere with the growth and work of the lungs.

Birth defects linked to air pollution in new Stanford study  Erin Digitale • Scope (Stanford Medicine) • March 28, 2013.
We found an association between specific traffic-related air pollutants and neural tube defects, which are malformations of the brain and spine," said the study's lead author, Amy Padula, PhD, a postdoctoral scholar in pediatrics.

Visit Better Cupertino's website
Email us at contact@bettercupertino.org
Invite more friends to sign up for BC newsletter or make a contribution
Thank you for your support!

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