Vallco redevelopment wins big in court

Difficult meeting in Vallco Specific Plan process

A major legal ruling came down late Wednesday, clearing the way for continued work at Vallco Town Center.

Santa Clara Superior Court Judge Helen Williams, in a 62-page ruling, summarily picked apart and rejected arguments against the project.

The lawsuit filed by Friends of Better Cupertino, including now-Chair of the Cupertino Planning Commission Kitty Moore, sought to stop the project, which was approved by City of Cupertino planning staff in 2018.

The project was approved under a Senate Bill 35 process, a state law by State Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) which allows for expedited approvals for projects that meet certain parameters, particularly around affordable housing.

The City of Cupertino had repeatedly refused to defend its own staff’s actions in court. That left developer Sand Hill Property Company, and its legal team, to mount a defense.

“We are grateful to the Court for its comprehensive review and for finding in favor of the project,” said Reed Moulds, Managing Director at Sand Hill Property Company.

1,200+ affordable housing units moving forward

Plans for the revitalization of Vallco Town Center include more than 2,400 units of housing. 1,201 of the units will be at affordable rental rates. State officials have reprimanded Cupertino in the recent past for not approving or building enough low-income housing.

Advocates for increased housing in the West Valley were ecstatic about the ruling.

“This is a gigantic win for housing advocates specifically, and a huge win for proponents of development in general,” J.R. Fruen, a housing advocacy leader, told the Mercury News.

With the ruling in hand, Sand Hill is looking forward to continued activity at the defunct shopping mall site.

“It is time to set aside our past disagreements and come together in cooperation of building a better and more sustainable future for Cupertino,” Moulds said.

Demolition at the Vallco site to remove the defunct shopping mall buildings has been underway since late 2018. Crews recently removed the mall’s pedestrian bridge that spanned Wolfe Road.

An example for future legal challenges

Williams’ ruling does not set binding precedent, but it continued the train of success for SB 35 in court. Last week, Williams ruled against the City of Los Altos. In that case, the city had attempted to stop a development that had applied for approval under SB 35.

It remains to be seen if Friends of Better Cupertino will attempt an appeal of the ruling.

The City of Cupertino commented on the ruling Thursday afternoon, in a statement.

“The Court’s Order upholds the City’s approval of the Vallco project under SB 35’s streamlining procedures. The City continues to process and issue permits to prepare the Vallco site for development.”