After marathon meeting, Council approves Oaks redevelopment

Westport Cupertino. Image from City of Cupertino website. Architect: C2K Architecture Inc.

Following more than five hours of debate and a roll call vote just after 4:20 a.m. early Wednesday morning, the Cupertino City Council approved a major redevelopment project that will bring hundreds of housing units – including senior-specific apartments – to the city’s west side.

The Westport project will redevelop the existing site at the Oaks on Stevens Creek Blvd. across from De Anza College. Its approval comes after several years of project work. A previous City Council opposed the project in August 2018 and the developer subsequently withdrew it.

Following redesign, developers resubmitted the project. The city’s Planning Commission recently approved the project and then in a subsequent meeting disapproved a modified iteration.

With its approval, developer KT Urban will now embark on the project. It includes 267 units of housing spread across two large buildings, townhomes, and rowhouses. More than 175 are senior apartments including dozens at affordable rates as well as in-demand ‘memory care’ spaces.

“This project has been carefully designed to address three distinct housing types that are needed in Cupertino and blend beautifully into a cohesive neighborhood,” said Mark Tersini of KT Urban.

Public commenters also pointed out the need for more senior housing options, as Cupertino’s population ages.

“The number one concern of Cupertino seniors is housing and specifically the availability of appropriate and affordable housing alternatives that allow adults to remain in the community as they age and their needs change,” said Richard Adler of the community group Age Friendly Cupertino.

Adler added, “This project really does play a big role in filling that need.”

Fatigue, tested nerves challenge the process

During the council meeting that ran more than nine-and-a-half hours Tuesday night into Wednesday morning, debate was spirited.

Numerous questions from several council members, including Councilwoman Liang Chao extended the debate. Several legal adjustments around waivers and concessions for building height and affordable rate unit placement throughout the complex led to lengthy delays as the City Attorney and her colleague rewrote portions of the approval on the fly.

With debate pushing into the early morning hours, councilmember patience was tested. One back and forth led to particularly strong words between Councilmember Rod Sinks and Vice Mayor Darcy Paul.

Sinks noted his displeasure at the council’s inability to work with developers on greater community benefits.

“Given the propensity of this council to minimize everything, we don’t have the luxury of getting a transit hub,” Sinks said, noting that a hub is now more likely to be built on an overpass above Hwy. 85, at significantly higher taxpayer expense.

Paul was having none of it, pushing back strongly and commenting that if Sinks didn’t want to have the detailed discussion, he should leave the meeting.

“Putting this kind of density in puts a lot of strain on and I don’t think its worth it from my own perspective to sell out our community for something like that that will actually make congestion worse,” Paul said.

Eventually the council granted approval on a 4-0 vote, which subsequently adjusted to a 5-0 vote when Councilmember John Willey rejoined the meeting to vote aye.