Cupertino Councilmembers accused in ‘back-door’ attempt to modify General Plan

The Cupertino Today staff wants to hear from you about what you want to see happen at Vallco mall.The Cupertino Today staff wants to hear from you about what you want to see happen at Vallco mall.

Two Cupertino Councilmembers are being accused of engaging in “backroom planning” to change the city’s General Plan with the sole aim of obstructing the latest redevelopment plans for the declining Vallco Mall.

Councilmembers Steven Scharf and Darcy Paul are attempting to swiftly and quietly amend Cupertino’s General Plan before the holiday break, according to Residents for a United Cupertino, a coalition of Cupertino residents “who want to see the City return to the Regular Order and bring a Revitalized Vallco to the City’s regular Planning Process”.

In an action alert posted Wednesday, United Cupertino said the two Council Members spent the last 20 minutes of a 4-hour Council meeting on Nov. 4 to propose “sweeping” changes to the General Plan that would have citywide impacts, including significant consequences for the Vallco development plan that was resubmitted last month and has yet to receive public input.

“Paul and Scharf are using a new state housing bill as their foil to falsely push to undo the 2014 General Plan by the end of THIS year,” according to the report.

City staff has recommended discussing the issue in closed session.

The move to amend the General Plan was noticed by Cupertino native and former Tech Crunch reporter Kim-Mai Cutler. In a tweet Thursday, Cutler noted how the Council Members “are strategizing on how to downzone the suburb” at the same time as the city invites a 14,000-person Apple campus.

The Council Members’ actions are being viewed by some as a slap in the face to 60-percent of the voters who rejected Measure C in November last year, which in part attempted to rezone the Vallco mall site to prohibit residential and office use, allowing only retail. The measure, led by another local group called Better Cupertino, would have also raised allowable building heights across city neighborhoods, a point that Councilman Scharf is challenging through litigation. United Cupertino alleges that Better Cupertino has again sought the help of Scharf and other favorable Council Members to rush through the land change to accomplish what it was not able to at the ballot boxes.

While Council Member Paul did not respond to the “back door” planning allegations of United Cupertino, he expressed his concern about the upcoming state legislation. In a written statement to the Cupertino Today staff, Paul said that “we need to evaluate this issue to make the best determination possible as to the effect of the new legislation and what we should do in response.”

Residents for United Cupertino are encouraging community members to write to Cupertino City Council and demand full public vetting of any changes to the General Plan.

To watch the City Council meeting from last Tuesday, Nov. 7, click here.

EDITOR’S NOTE: A previous version of this story stated that city councilmembers had requested closed session meetings over the proposed amendment to the General Plan. The story has been updated to reflect that it was city staff who recommended the closed session meetings.

3 Comments on "Cupertino Councilmembers accused in ‘back-door’ attempt to modify General Plan"

  1. This is outrageous, nothing more than a back-door plot to thwart the revitalization of Vallco using SB35 as the Trojan Horse for defeat of any plan by a property owner to turn that dead mall into something wonderful for our community and the region.

    Just when we thought back-door planning over cigars and bourbon was history, this pops up out of nowhere. Highly suspicious. The state Attorney General needs to take a close look at what is transpiring in Cupertino.

  2. As everyone knows, our regional housing shortage is ruining the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of our neighbors. The Bay Area city governments are playing a game of cruel musical chairs. The “winners” face rents going up 8-15% year after year. The “losers” face living in vehicles on the street, or commuting for over an hour, even the teachers and firefighters who serve our cities.

    In this time of crisis, I am aghast that any city would consider actually downzoning residential.

    It is a moral imperative that every city government allow new housing construction, especially more dense, affordable housing — the kind that would satisfy the unmet needs of the community. Plus, dense housing near jobs, retail and transit is better for the environment than exurban sprawl.

    Housing advocates have been working for years at the city and state level. We’re finally about to turn the corner on the housing affordability crisis. It would be a slap in the face for Cupertino to bar the door to housing, especially after Cupertino recently approved construction of a massive office building without adding any additional housing for the ten thousand new workers.

    The 20th century shopping mall is not coming back. Millennials want strong towns, mixed use zoning, dense housing, and lively walkable streets. We don’t need more asphalt wastelands. We need more homes for people.

    I believe the best of people, so I believe that Cupertino will do the right thing.

  3. What a joke. We all understand that the rezoning for housing and office was “paid for” by the development group that has the most to gain from this. City council members have done their job for the development groups expressly stating in council meetings that the planning commission’s goal is to maximize the profit of the developers. In one town hall meeting Barry “Brought to you and paid for by the Sand Hill Group” Chang expressly said that the developers need to maximize their profit.
    Cupertino does not need more housing, or more office space. This will crowd our schools, tax our infrastructure, clog our traffic, and make Cupertino an unpleasant place to live.
    The real question is when did the developers sneak in the change to zoning that was voted down in city council when the discussion first began?

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