Long night, but interesting.
We got down to business pretty quickly. A member of the public pulled item 1D, the reprogramming of money related to the East Channel Trail Project, and the rest of the consent calendar was approved on a 6-0 vote. The member wanted to express concerns about delays in the project, while still being hopeful that it would be revisited as proposed by staff. And then we approved the East Channel funding reprogramming on a 6-0 vote as well.
There was a bit of a scene during public comments, because a member of the public wanted to comment on procedural problems with item 2, and there was disagreement over whether that could happen during public comments or during the discussion for item 2. Regardless, we quickly got general business. We rearranged the agenda to hear item 3 before item 2, so that the one speaker on that item didn’t have to wait a couple of hours to speak towards a pretty straightforward issue.
Item 3 involved adopting a master plan for the Orchard Heritage Park, which was something of a misnomer – it was more to authorize staff to develop a plan. This came to us almost a year ago, with a proposal to simply install a new shed, in a way which intruded into the Heritage Orchard, which aroused the ire of orchard supporters, pitting them against the determination of the Heritage Museum supporters in what promised to be an epic battle. But staff pretty quickly backed off of that, and after some thought and discussion, the proposal is now to examine reconfiguring the site to more thoroughly resolve some problems that exist – problems with visibility, access, storage, and so on. After a minimum of discussion, we voted 6-0 to have staff return to us with a plan (including timeline and budget) for reconfiguring the area.
Then we got to item 3, a study issue considering possible regulations or procedures regarding firearm sales businesses. Sunnyvale doesn’t have much in the way of firearm businesses. There are two storefronts, an auction house that occasionally sells firearms, and an additional storefront that is licensed to sell firearms but which primarily deals with things like telescopic sights. There are also four home-based businesses, which don’t have storefronts or operate drop-in businesses. But when US Firearms showed up without any warning to residents last year, residents asked us to look into it, and we did. Staff proposed some additional licensing and establishing a 200′ buffer around existing schools.
There’s been a lot of hype on both sides of this issue, and it was a bit of a challenge to focus on the facts. There was also more than a little misinformation about what was going on, plus some rather… interesting views on what the law says we can and cannot do. Working through all of that was a little bit difficult. There were a number of speakers, but unlike past meetings, the “don’t add regulations” folks were mostly residents, the “staff’s proposal doesn’t go far enough” were almost entirely not (mostly a couple of speakers from the Legal Community Against Violence). I don’t think any actual residents showed up to support the proposed restrictions. I will say that at least three residents expressed their support for staff’s recommendation to me in private, telling me that they were too intimidated to speak at the public hearing. That’s disappointing, but this issue brings out passions on both sides.
After the public discussion, the first motion was to ignore the 200′ buffer, to adopt the additional licensing requirements suggested by staff, and to additionally require a use permit (which requires a public hearing). It was seconded for the purpose of discussion, but it failed on a 1-5 vote. I opposed this, mostly because I didn’t like the notion of forcing business people to go through a pro-forma hearing to get a permit. If we’re going to require a use permit, it has to be for a reason that might actually provoke us to deny the use permit under certain circumstances (or otherwise the application process is just a pointless exercise in jumping through hoops). And nobody seemed inclined to quantify the conditions under which a permit would be denied.
Then the next motion was to take no further action on this topic, and after some discussion, it passed on a 4-2 vote. I supported this for several reasons, much as I’m not a fan of firearms. First, the proposed regulations were pretty much pointless. The proposed 200′ buffer really didn’t do much of anything. And given the state and federal regulations that already exist regarding firearms dealers, anything we did would either be largely meaningless or require a prohibitive amount of enforcement. Second, I take civil liberties pretty seriously, and I need a compelling reason to impinge on them, even when I’m not a fan of the civil liberty in question. Firearms bear scrutinizing because of the danger they pose, but dealers are already scrutinized quite tightly, and they haven’t historically been a serious problem in Sunnyvale. And the times where they have been a problem wouldn’t have been curtailed by the proposed regulations.
But it was a bit of a challenge, because I’ve been following the online discussions about this issue, and, well, let’s just say that I’m less than pleased with some of the stuff I’ve read – it’s been a combination of misinformation, some really bad armchair lawyering, and an astonishing amount of contempt. As I told the folks who showed up, if I was on one side of this issue, all I’d need to do is make a printout of some of the conversations, show them to every councilmember I could find, and I’d never lose one of these votes ever again.
Staff pulled item 4 from the agenda, since the issue was a non-issue.
Item 5 also went pretty quickly. It involved possibly sponsoring a candidate forum. We voted 6-0 to have the subcommittee organize a candidate forum for a date TBD. We had a proposed date, but it was recognized on the dais that it conflicted with a League of Women Voters forum for the Sunnyvale School Board. So the subcommittee will be coming up with something. It will be a single candidates forum, and we won’t be doing anything for the two ballot measures (vote yes on B!).
And that was pretty much it. We’ve got another meeting this Tuesday, then we’re off for two weeks.