June 15, 2018

Cupertino City Council Considers Housing at Vallco

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On June 4th, the Cupertino City Council held a four-hour study session to discuss the redevelopment of  the former Vallco Mall (Vallco), a 58-acre site located across the freeway from Apple’s new headquarters.  The Vallco site presents a huge opportunity for the city to respond to the need for more housing in the Silicon Valley– particularly affordable housing– near jobs and major transit hubs.

The study session was the latest conversation about the Vallco site, which has the potential for adding more than 2,400 new homes, with 50% of the units set aside for lower-income households. The process has been unlike other redevelopment proposals, as it is one of the first projects in the State to apply for approval through the SB 35 process, which requires by-right approvals of development that meets the City’s zoning and General Plan requirements.  Despite the SB 35 application, the City Council  continues to look at the project through a different lens– a Specific Plan process.  It is possible that Sand Hill Property Company, the developer, will agree to drop the SB 35 application if an agreement can be reached on an alternate development proposal.

SV@Home and other housing advocates showed up in force at the Study Session to lend our voices in support of the need for affordable housing on the Vallco site.  We support the SB35 project and its promise to deliver 1,201 affordable homes. At the same time, we respect and have continued to participate in the City-led specific plan in the hopes of a negotiated agreement that does three things:

  • First, the specific plan should deliver more housing units overall than the 2,400 currently proposed in the SB35 proposal and at least 20 percent affordability for a diverse range of households.
  • Second, the adopted plan should satisfy and meet the needs of all groups including the broader Cupertino Community, Council and their respective priorities, and the developer, who at the end of the day, needs an alternative that pencils.
  • Lastly, implementation of the specific plan should both be feasible and expedient.

We were excited that staff initially proposed the inclusion of 3,250 homes in the land use program for the specific plan. We were also glad to see references to a minimum of 20% affordability. We urged the Council to direct staff to move forward with a land use program that includes both. We also noted our concern over the prospects of litigation and further attempts to delay or deny a Vallco project to move forward.

While there was not yet agreement among the City Councilmembers on the level of housing and affordability for Vallco, during the discussion several general ideas emerged:

  • Several councilmembers noted their desire to “go long” on housing (which, though they did not give concrete numbers, implied a level of housing higher than the SB35 proposal) but to limit the amount of office space to a number that would make the project viable, and no more.
  • In terms of the number of affordable units, the council instructed staff to look at how they could incentivize a higher percentage of affordability, starting at the base percentage of 15% and going up to 20% or even 30%.
  • On the level of affordability provided by the units, several councilmembers noted their support for building 40 homes for extremely low income (ELI) individuals with disabilities.

The next opportunity to engage will be on Tuesday, June 19th at 5pm, when the City is hosting a meeting to receive public input on the Specific Plan’s Environmental Impact Review (EIR). The meeting will be held at the Cupertino City Hall and the draft EIR is available on the Cupertino City website.

If you are interested in getting involved in these discussions and advocating for affordable housing on the Vallco site, please contact David Meyer at David@svathome.org