Following years of community conversations and a number of failed efforts, including two competing measures on the November 2016 ballot, as of Friday, September 21st, redevelopment of the defunct Vallco Mall can now proceed under one of two approved paths – via streamlining legislation (Senate Bill 35) or via a City-approved specific plan.
Both of these paths include a significant number of new homes and affordable homes, badly needed in a city that boasts some of the highest rents in the region. Cupertino now has the opportunity to step up and play its part in responding to our shared housing affordability crisis.
What type of approvals have been secured?
The developer initiated SB 35 project was granted ministerial approval on Friday, September 21st. A project level approval grants the property owner and developer, Sand Hill Property Company, the ability to take steps to commence development on the property.
The City-initiated planning process culminated in the adoption of a specific plan, developer agreement, and environmental documents on Wednesday, September 19th, though the Council will hold a second reading on October 2nd. This plan level approval paves the way for a developer to commence work on developing and submitting a specific plan compliant project. Once it transpires, a project application will trigger steps associated with a City review that would require City Council deliberation and action to approve or deny the project.
How do the two plans differ?
|SB 35 Project||Specific Plan|
|Type of approval||Project level||Plan level|
|Total number of homes||2,402||up to 2668|
|Number of affordable homes||1,201||up to 533|
|Level of affordability||360 VLI||40 ELI for the developmentally disabled people|
|841 LI||360 combined VLI and LI|
|Retail||400,000||minimum of 400,000|
|Office||1.8 m square feet||maximum of 1.5 m square feet|
|* Amenities and benefits – the City negotiated a broad range of benefits and amenities including a performing arts center, city hall, and school and transportation benefits. Details are available on the City’s website via this link.|
What happens now?
Ultimately, last week’s actions put Sand Hill in the driver’s seat. Sandhill has the option of exercising either path; they can choose to begin redevelopment activities via the SB 35 approval or take next steps to submit a project that complies with the City approved specific plan developer agreement. The developer has indicated that, regardless of the path it chooses, demolition of the former mall will begin in the next few months.
A group of Cupertino residents continues to fight the redevelopment of the mall and favors the current retail use and a different mix. Reports have indicated that this group intends both legal action and another potential voter referendum. It is unclear how any legal action could upend the SB 35 project, which is proceeding according to California law.