9/11/2012 Council Summary

Yep, this one is late.  Things have been a bit hectic.

We started the evening with a closed session regarding the City Manager’s performance.  More on this in the next summary.  There were no presentations or special orders.  There were announcements about a Planning Commission vacancy, “Legally Blonde” being performed by the Sunnyvale Community Players, and an upcoming (now past) Democratic Club of Sunnyvale meeting.

The list of bills was pulled by a colleague, and the Lawrence Station Area Plan contingency award and the tract map approval were pulled by a member of the public.  The Mayor asked for seconds on the motions to pull the three items, and the contingency award and tract map were seconded, but the list of bills was not.  The balance of the consent calendar was passed on a 7-0 vote.  We then had public comments on the Civic Center, a resident who has tree problems (magnolias are apparently evil), comments about the Governor’s pension reform legislation, and the Jackson properties.  Then it was on to business.

First up was the Board and Commission appointments.  We recently approved a change to use a paper ranked-choice voting method.  But when staff and I did some dry-runs on the new method, we found cases where bad things would happen.  Specifically, the proposed method can result in a candidate with four votes winning over a candidate with seven votes, which would be very difficult to explain.  So we kicked the new voting method back to the subcommittee, and we used the traditional, individual voting method instead.

First commission was the Board of Building Code Appeals, and we appointed the lone applicant, Sachihiko (Mike) Michitaka (I agreed).

Then came the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Commission.  We appointed Kyle Welch, and then after a tie-breaker, we appointed Dave Jones (I voted for both).

Next was the Board of Library Trustees, and we appointed the lone applicant, Daniel Bremond (I agreed).

Next was Heritage Preservation, and after a tie-breaker, we appointed Sachihiko (Mike) Michitaka (I agreed).  Normally, a person can only serve on one commission, but we have an exception for the Board and Building Code Appeals, because it is so difficult to fill those slots.

Next was Housing and Human Services, and we appointed the lone applicant, Diana Gilbert (I agreed).

Then came Sustainability, and we appointed Andy Frazer (I voted for Nancy Jackson).

That was it.  This was a very difficult round of appointments.  As I’ve mentioned, when I do my votes, I pick the N best candidates for the N vacant slots, and I don’t cast extra votes.  That was tough this time, particularly for the Sustainability and BPAC appointments, where there were many highly qualified candidates that I couldn’t vote for.  That bodes well for the city, because we had our pick of good candidates.  But it’s unfortunate for the good candidates that we couldn’t appoint.

Item 3 was the Pastoria Avenue Street Space study, which was misnamed, since it looked at Pastoria, Charles, Sutter, Sunset, and Olive.  This was the elephant in the room, because a lot of residents were concerned about the impact to their own streets and homes, while cycling advocates want the city to make progress towards developing complete streets.  And thanks to the very narrow options available to us in this area of the city, the two interests are in conflict.  This was made worse by how this came to be.  We were offered outside funding for the development of the bike lanes, but it was contingent on the city going with the Pastoria option, with the other options providing us less or no outside funding.

There was a lot of resident input on this issue, and in the end we voted 5-2 to explore bike options for a route on Pastoria to Olive to Charles (I agreed).  This was pretty easy for me in the end, because the Pastoria option just didn’t sit right with me, given the very narrow width of the road.  Outside funding isn’t a good enough reason to pursue a solution that isn’t right for our neighborhood.  The Charles Street route may be more acceptable to residents, and it would still get us a route we want.  But the motion really starts the whole process over from square one, which means renewed resident and community outreach.  So we’ll get a chance to find out what the residents really think.

I’m also hopeful that this will cause us to take another look at some of the problems that have been occurring on Charles.  I knocked on doors prior to the vote, to find out what residents think about the various proposals.  And while the reaction to the notion of bike lanes on Charles was mixed, there was pretty universal feedback that Charles has problems that the city needs to fix.  They keep getting people turning on to Charles and hoping to connect to Evelyn, only to drive to the end, make a u-turn, and drive back.  Worse, some drivers apparently ignore the closure at the end and hop the curb, drive on the pedestrian curb cut, or whatever it takes to get to Evelyn.  I heard stories of frequent speeders, fender-benders from u-turns, noise, exhaust, and headlights intruding into the homes of the northern-most residents, and other problems.  Hopefully, this will result in some of those problems being addressed.

Item 4 involved an appeal of a planning commission decision regarding a children’s day care home on Cordilleros.  This was a very difficult one, because again, we had to balance conflicting interests.  The residents there have had very bad experiences with another day care on the block, and they aren’t interested in increasing their problems.  But the homeowner wants to fully enjoy the use of her property, and the city has an urgent need for more day care, most of which tends to be in smaller, home-based facilities like this one.  So we had a number of residents speak on this topic, most of them against, but a few that were neutral or had mixed reactions.

After the discussion, we voted 5-2 to grant the appeal with some additional restrictions, such as the number and time of outdoor play hours for the kids, limiting the use permit for a year and subject to a review at the end of that period, and so on.  I agreed with the vote.

This was difficult, because while I voted to support the residents’ concerns on the Pastoria issue, I felt I had to disagree with the residents on this one.  One problem I had was that a number of the more vocal residents seemed to be saying “we’ve had a lot of problems with owner A, so you should penalize owner B”.  I wasn’t happy with the notion of punishing someone for someone else’s behavior.  The other concern was simply what owners are allowed to do without city approval.  This whole thing came up because the house in question is 294 feet from another day care facility.  Had the home been 300 feet away, the owner could have done what she wants without requiring a public hearing – it’s just a right that every homeowner has.  So given that owners can usually do what they want with their property in cases like this, I needed a compelling reason why that wasn’t the case here, and I couldn’t find it.  Finally, we subjected the owner to a lot of conditions, plus a limited use permit and a mandatory review, which is a lot of protection for the neighbors.  But given the difficult time that the residents have had with the other, nearby facility, it was difficult to say no to them.

A couple of my colleagues also sponsored a study issue to examine the day care facility rules, to see if they can be modified to deal with the problems like what the Cordilleros residents are experiencing.

Item 5 involved changes to the taxicab ordinance to deal with some issues that staff has identified.  It’s all pretty wonkish, although the franchise operators had some concerns about the impact on their businesses.  After some input from taxicab operators, we approved the changes to the ordinance on a 7-0 vote.

Item 6 involved changing the city’s bicycle licensing process.  Currently, Sunnyvale does its own licensing of bikes.  After basically no discussion, we voted 7-0 to change Sunnyvale’s process to use the National Bike Registry.

We then returned to the two consent calendar items that were pulled, and after a resident spoke to them, we passed both on a 7-0 vote.

We then had various councilmember reports, mostly regarding the recent League of California Cities Conference, and then we adjourned.  That’s about it.

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