8/28/2012 Council Preview – Land Sale, SPA, And A Garage

Interesting collection of events this night.  We start the evening with two hours of Board and Commission interviews.  That’s a good thing – we’ve got some vacancies that need to be filled.  Then comes the general meeting, with no special orders or presentations.

The consent calendar is a pretty big and diverse one.  The biggest item is a $2 million contract to rehabilitate the Fair Oaks bridge.  There’s also a contract to upgrade the digital recording system that the Department of Public Safety uses during traffic stops.  Basically, when DPS makes a stop or has an incident, they flip a switch to record what is taking place, in case it’s needed later for legal reasons.

General business starts with a request to do a specific plan amendment for a property on North Mathilda across from the Nokia/Apple offices.  Basically, the property owner wants to replace the low-density offices with high-density housing (very high density, actually).  There’s also a weird city frontage road requirement that the owner wants to eliminate.  This one is interesting, and there’s been a lot of misinformation about the nature of this one due to some missteps that we took.  We get requests like this from property owners all of the time, and sometimes they make sense, sometimes they don’t.  Unfortunately, this one has been portrayed as something the city is actively pursuing, long before staff even had a chance to review the property owner’s request and comment on it.  So now we get the RTC for it – and it turns out that staff is recommending to deny the density increase that the owner is requesting.  Staff is recommending eliminating the frontage road requirement (I’m not sure what all of that’s about – I have some reading to do), but no changes to the density that is already permitted on that property.  We’ll see.

Item 3 is an appeal of a Planning Commission ruling regarding a garage conversion.  As I understand it, a property owner illegally converted part of his garage to an office space.  Someone reported it (or staff just discovered it somehow).  So the owner applied for a variance to legalize it.  It was administratively denied, and the owner appealed it to the Planning Commission.  They then granted the variance with some changes.  But the Planning Commission decision was then appealed by one of my colleagues.  So this one is going to be interesting.

Item 4 involves the process for selling city-owned land next to Murphy Park.  This one’s a bit complex, and it goes back a ways, but I’ll try to summarize.  There are seven houses immediately next to Murphy Park, on the east side.  Decades ago, the city decided to try and acquire all seven houses and extend the park, and they managed to acquire three of them (I believe relatively quickly, but I could be wrong).  The city has been unable to obtain the other four after trying for decades.  And as bad luck would have it, the three that we acquired are scattered and wouldn’t extend the park in a functional way – they’re not grouped together (not even just two of them), and they’re not on the ends.  So over the past couple of years, two different councils voted to say “enough is enough, let’s scrap that plan, sell the property, and use the money to acquire park land elsewhere”.  But those decisions were made when the real estate market was bad, so Council’s instruction to staff was to sell the property when the real estate market turned around.

That time is apparently now.  There’s a bit of time pressure on this, because the properties that we own are increasingly requiring maintenance, and it wouldn’t be cheap for us to do.  So staff is proposing two options for selling the properties.  The first is a straight “sell to the highest bidder” approach.  The second is to start negotiating with Habitat for Humanity to sell the property for affordable housing.  HFH has been trying to do projects in Sunnyvale for some time, but it’s difficult for them to get land here.  So this would be a real opportunity for them. Without having read the RTC yet, it seems to be a choice between “go for the greatest money” or “get a lower price for something that will help with affordable housing”.  Whatever the end result, it looks like the money from the sale would end up in the Park Dedication fund, which we’re legally only allowed to use for park capital projects.

Item 5 involves a Council vote on the League of California Cities Peninsula Division.  Councilmember Davis is a candidate for the at-large seat.

Item 6 has us taking city positions on this year’s League of California Cities resolutions (or not).  The resolutions being considered (with staff recommendations in parentheses) are

  • a more equitable approach to fines and forfeitures (SUPPORT)
  • increase public awareness and advocacy regarding internet crimes against children (SUPPORT)
  • oppose the California Desert Protection Act of 2011 (NONE)
  • suspend some provisions of the California Global Warming Solutions Act, AB 32 (NONE)
  • foster emergency preparedness (SUPPORT)

And that’s about it.

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