The Marin Post

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Cupertino up-ends a half century of local government policy about growth

As reported by the Silicon Valley Business Journal, this week the Cupertino City Council voted down a proposal by the Sand Hill Property Company to build “1.8 million square feet of office space and 400,000 square feet of new retail space,” on property that is about a half mile from the new Apple office campus. However, they continued to endorse the ability of the developer to build about 2,400 units of housing, half of which are slated to be affordable under state law.

For a city to turn away the highly profitable tax revenues that commercial and retail development provide is unprecedented in modern times. Historically, cities have bent over backwards to attract businesses—just look at the mania surrounding the location of Amazon’s new headquarters.

According to the Journal, in explaining the Council’s reasoning, Mayor Steven Sharf said, “No one here is opposed to building more housing. We are opposed to worsening our jobs-housing imbalance, which always comes back to bite us. The state will legitimately say, 'Hey, you added so many jobs, where's the housing?”

In other words, Cupertino has come to the realization that if it wants to break the vicious cycle of its escalating and seemingly never-ending housing crisis, the only way to do that and maintain a manageable city able to provide proper public services is to stop building more and more commercial and retail space.

According to Councilmember Willey, the proposed office space at the 50- acre site of the former Vallco Town Center mall, would have created about 10,000 new jobs. Addressing those concerned about the lack of housing in Cupertino, he commented, "When we talk about adding 2,400 or 2,600 housing units and 10,000 workers, have we helped you?”

As economically counter-intuitive as the Council’s move might seem, it is really the logical outcome and perhaps the only choice many cities will have to survive under the cascade of draconian state laws being dumped on their shoulders – laws that threaten to drive small cities into bankruptcy when they are unable to provide critical public services without raising sales taxes and fees to stratospheric levels.

This is yet another of the unintended consequences of what growth advocates such as Senator Scott Wiener and his YIMBY comrades have wrought. The Cupertino City Council noted that this predicament was primarily driven by the requirements of SB 35, signed into law by Governor Brown in the fall of 2017.