10/16/2012 Council Summary – RHNA Numbers, Stevens Creek Trail, and a City Attorney

I’m finally getting caught up.  Seems certain WordPress plugins underwent some unexpected and unwanted changes, which broke my blog -> Twitter -> Facebook setup.  Sigh.  But it looks like things are working now.

We started the evening with a closed session regarding the lawsuit that the Building Industry Association filed against the City of Sunnyvale.  Nothing to say, sorry.

We then had a study session about the One Bay Area Planning Process and ABAG’s RHNA numbers.  There has always been some dissatisfaction with the way the Association of Bay Area Governments assigns cities their housing numbers – the number of housing units that we’re required to plan for under state law.  But it’s even worse this year, as you may have read.  ABAG has tentatively set Sunnyvale’s housing allocation at significantly more than anything we’ve ever managed to build.  That’s kicked up a lot of discussion among my colleagues and staff about how these numbers are generated and what we can do about it.  We had the benefit of an ABAG representative at the study session, which helped.  Anyway, the study session was informative, although it didn’t do much to ease our concerns about what ABAG is requiring us to do.  Hopefully, they got the message about how unreasonable their numbers are.

Then we went to the general meeting, which started with a fun event – the annual Fire Safety Poster Contest.  It’s always a lot of fun recognizing all of the elementary students who participated, and acknowledging the winners.  This was followed by (gasp) no announcements whatsoever.

There were a number of consent calendar pulls.  A colleague pulled the minutes from our last meeting, the list of bills, and the contract for replacement computers.  Staff pulled the Peery Park study issue.  And the balance of the consent calendar was passed 7-0, except for 1L which was 6-1 (I agreed).

We then had public comments on the county’s pension obligations, plus yet another round of misinformation about the city’s investigation of its civic center options.  I notice that the same couple of people have now taken to publishing their misinformation in the Sunnyvale Sun.  Sigh.  Anyway, a couple of colleagues took exception to the comments this time and tried yet again to explain exactly what the city is and isn’t doing.

But then we got into a touchier subject, as a number of residents from the Stevens Creek area of the city expressed concerns about the ongoing efforts of the four cities committee that is investigating ways to complete the Stevens Creek Trail.  Some serious resident dissatisfaction arose out of the formation of a citizen advisory committee, because of the perception that residents close to the Stevens Creek area were excluded from the selection process.  There was clearly some dissatisfaction on Council about what may have happened, but there was disagreement about how to deal with that dissatisfaction.  A motion was made to hold a study session on the feasibility study, but it failed on a 3-4 vote (I dissented).  Personally, I’m very concerned about what happened and very unhappy with how things turned out.  But the nature of the proposed study session was such that it could have led to re-hearing and re-arguing the entire Stevens Creek Trail issue, something that wouldn’t have been productive.  Had there been a way to limit the scope to just how we select subcommittees in general or this one specifically, I would have supported it, because I think we’ve had some problems.  But nobody could come up with a way to do that, and my proposal turned out to be somewhat wacky.

After that, we went to general business.  Item 2 was appointment of a new planning commissioner, and we appointed Ken Olevson (I supported him).  Both candidates were good ones, both qualified, so we weren’t going to lose on this one.

Item 3 involved the hiring of a new City Attorney, which got off to a bad start when I mistakenly tried to recuse myself (instead of on item 4).  Oops.  We had no public comments, and with little discussion, we ratified the proposed contract between the City of Sunnyvale and Joan Borger on a 6-1 vote (I agreed).  We were pretty lucky with this hire, in that Mrs. Borger is a former Sunnyvale attorney, having served as Assistant City Attorney, Senior Assistant City Attorney, and even Interim City Attorney for us.  And after the extensive interview process, she emerged as Council’s top choice for the job.  It’s also worth noting that we’re getting her for cheaper than what we paid David Kahn, by about $7k/year I think.

Item 4 involved rezoning of property on North Fair Oaks from R-3 to R-4, to allow the property to be redeveloped from industrial space to rental residential space.  Since my condo complex surrounds this property on 3 sides, I had to recuse myself.  There was apparently some discussion about the wall that separates Danbury Place from the new development, and possibly creating passageways through it to allow better pedestrian access to the future Morse Park.  The applicant spoke about the project, and there were also speakers from the Danbury Place Board of Directors and the Morse Park Neighborhood Association in favor of the project, mostly because of the ongoing difficulties of having industrial space neighboring residential properties, and all of the problems that creates.  So a motion was made to approve the project, which passed on a 5-1 vote with myself recused.  Now that the vote is over, I can say that this is a good project that fits the neighborhood, and it’ll be a positive asset.  So I’m glad it passed.

Item 5 involved a study issue regarding the Cultural Heritage of Sunnyvale, which is well-timed with this year’s Centennial.  After only a little discussion, the motion was made to approve staff’s recommendation, to direct staff to produce more research on the topic, and to return it to the Heritage Preservation Commission for further work – effectively alternatives 1, 2, and 3.  That caught me off-guard, because I expected only staff’s recommendation.  But the motion was passed 7-0.

Item 6 involved appointment of two councilmembers to a new joint committee with the Santa Clara Valley Water District regarding recycled water planning.  And with little discussion, Mayor Spitaleri appointed Councilmember Martin-Milius and myself to the committee.  This was fitting, since we both already serve on other water commissions.

Then we returned to the consent calendar.  A motion was made to add language to the minutes, but it wasn’t seconded.  I then moved to approve the minutes as presented, which passed on a 6-1 vote.  The list of bills underwent the usual stuff, and it was approved on a 6-1 vote (I agreed).

Staff had pulled the Peery Park study because council questions indicated there were concerns.  So they discussed the intent and addressed some of the concerns that were raised.  A motion was then made to approve the study.  This was followed by a formal amendment to allow staff to consider all possible land uses for the properties bordering San Aleso independent of previous council action, which I seconded, and it passed on a 5-2 vote. And then we approved the Peery Park study on a 6-1 vote (I agreed).

Finally, some questions were raised about the scope of the purchase authorization for the new computers, and we approved that on a 7-0 vote.

We then had an additional public comment from a citizen who had read about Moody’s’ re-evaluation of the credit rating for 30 different California cities, including Sunnyvale.  So we chatted a bit about that.  Sunnyvale is one of only seven cities in the state that have received an AAA credit rating from Moody’s.  And because of the pension problems and the fiscal difficulties that are happening throughout the state, Moody’s is re-evaluating the way it rates cities and the specifics behind some of them.  We don’t know why Sunnyvale was selected, but the fact that it’s one of the seven highest rated cities probably made it a natural target for inclusion.  What’s most interesting is that they don’t seem to be studying the cities known to have fiscal difficulties – they’re examining cities that are historically rock-solid, like us and Los Gatos.

We then had IGR reports.  I reported that the Cities Association had endorsed Prop. 39 and opposed Measure M.

Then the City Manager had some words.  Apparently, he had seen some flyer about the Civic Center and library, as part of an ongoing pattern of misinformation about what the city is and isn’t doing.  The most recent piece of misinformation is that we’re allegedly considering putting in “hamburger stands and coffee shops” along El Camino Real (total silliness).  The public/private partnership is also being presented by whoever as if staff just started talking about this a couple of months ago, when staff and Council has been examining this subject for about ten years now – that’s when we first started looking at how to fix our civic center problems, and the concept of a public/private partnership was first discussed.  Anyway, staff has put links on the home page of the city’s web site, so that people who are actually interested can find out what is going on, free of either deliberate or inadvertent misinformation.

And that was about it.  We’re off until the 30th.  At that meeting, there’s an application regarding a possible large development at 600 W. California, a discussion of our policy regarding park dedication fees, something about our agreement with the Fremont Pool operators, and a study issue regarding non-residential parking requirements.

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