3/19/2013 Council Summary

A very long night, made even longer when a couple of our items got unexpectedly complicated.  We started the evening with a closed session involving our ongoing negotiations with the Sunnyvale Employees Association (SEA).  This was followed by a joint study session with council and the planning commission to discuss the MidPen low-income housing project on the Armory site.  The study session was a pretty good one, as there was some misinformation and confusion about the proposed project, and the discussion cleared up a lot of issues and questions.

Then we went to the general meeting.  There were a couple of public announcements, one involving board and commission recruitment, one involving the grand re-opening of the Edward Jones offices in Sunnyvale.  A colleague pulled the list of bills and the two items involving community facilities districts, and the balance of the consent calendar was approved on a 7-0 vote.  We then had a few public comments, most notably additional comments regarding the ongoing problems at Fairoaks Mobile Home Park.

Item 2 involved accepting a $2 million grant from VTA to begin work on a redesign to improve the Monster Interchange.  And since improving the Monster Interchange is a major priority, this was approved on a 7-0 vote with virtually no comments.

Item 3 is where things got complicated.  This was the first of three items to look at possibly modifying the Downtown Specific Plan.  This item involved a possible rezoning of the property north of Evelyn on either side of Sunnyvale Avenue.  This got complicated because it involved three different blocks.  And one of my colleagues has a property interest within 500′ of two of the three blocks, while another owns property within 500′ of one of the three blocks.  Accordingly, we divided this issue into three parts, with two colleagues recusing themselves from the first part, one from the second, and none from the third.

Items 3-5 involved development proposals at two locations near the Downtown.  One is located where the commercial buildings are located north of Evelyn at Bayview.  The other is the old hotel located at the corner of Evelyn and Bayview.  In order to approve them, one of the two required rezoning of property from commercial to residential.  And in examining the issue, staff proposed examining the zoning of additional parcels nearby, plus inclusion of parcels in the Downtown Specific Plan.  There were a number of items of consideration with this.  The big motivation was that the chunk of commercial property in question is an isolated chunk that is completely surrounded by residential property.  That renders it relatively incompatible with the neighborhood, and it also damages that property’s commercial viability, since the success of commercial property depends on the quantity in one location.  There was also the issue of the density of the proposed development, which was higher than existed in the surrounding neighborhood.  There was also the issue of the hotel, which was once proposed to be a heritage building, although that was later abandoned.

So I got to be the Mayor for the initial part of this.  After a staff presentation regarding block 21, a lot of procedural discussion, and a little discussion on the policy issues, a motion was made to approve staff recommendation regarding block 21, including it in the DSP and rezoning it for mixed use, and it was approved on a 4-1 vote (I agreed).  This was pretty simple, as it preserves what’s there and creates opportunities in the future.

At that point, the Mayor returned, and we considered block 22, which is the site with Murphy Square.  After a similar amount of discussion, a motion was made to approve staff recommendation regarding block 22, except to preserve the zoning as commercial, and it passed on a 5-1 vote (I agreed).  This one was a little different, because staff’s proposal was to rezone the area to support mixed-use, both commercial and housing.  But in looking at the property in question, Sunnyvale Avenue creates a pretty clear delineation between commercial on the west and residential on the east.  Allowing residential to encroach further into the commercial area didn’t make sense to me, and it clearly didn’t make sense to most of the council either.

At this point, we were a full council again, as we looked at block 23, the single-story commercial office buildings on the north side of Evelyn.  This got into more of the actual development proposal, since it concerned the specific parcels involved in the proposal.  We had more questions and comments from council and the public.  Then a motion was made to incorporate block 23 into the Downtown Specific plan but with zoning reflecting the current usage, and it died for lack of a second.  A second motion was made to add block 23 to the DSP with zoning permitting 34 units per acre, and it died for lack of a second.  A third motion was made to add block 23 to the DSP with zoning permitting 48 units, which I seconded, but it failed on a 3-4 vote.  Finally, a motion was made to add block 23 to the DPS with zoning permitting 36 units per acre, and it passed on a 5-2 vote.  And after all of that we took a short break.

We then returned to item 4, the specific development proposal for block 23.  However, the original development proposal was based on getting zoning that permits a higher density than we approved.  So after a little discussion, I moved to refer the item back to staff, which passed on a 6-1 vote.

Item 5, the development at the old hotel site across the street on Evelyn, wasn’t contingent on zoning, so we were still able to consider this item.  There were a number of speakers on this item, and then we approved the proposal as presented to us on a 5-2 vote (I agreed).

After it passed, I proposed a study issue, which was co-sponsored.  This project is the first in Sunnyvale to use “stacker spaces” – parking spaces using car lifts so that vehicles can be stacked on top of each other.  They’re very common in high-density urban areas, but not so much in our area.  Mountain View just had its first case of stacker spaces as well.  Approving them for this project meant approving a variance, since our codes don’t currently recognize stacker spaces as legitimate spaces.  So I proposed a study issue to look at whether or not we should permit stacker spaces as part of our parking requirements.  Either we should always permit them as a legitimate option or not (or maybe something in between), but we should develop a policy, to avoid having to consider variance after variance from now on.  [Note – a planning commissioner pointed out that the stacker spaces in this item didn’t actually require a variance]

Next up was item 6, the draft request for proposals for the sale of the Raynor Activity Center.  This was mostly procedural, not substantive to the issue of the actual sale, and the goal was to make sure the RFP that we issue captures the city’s interests when attracting bidders that will use the property for purposes appropriate to the location.  For the most part, there was little discussion on any issue other than timing.  After a little discussion, a motion was made to approve the draft RFP as proposed.  A friendly amendment was made to add a week to the proposed schedule to make it a full month to solicit responses, which was accepted.  A formal amendment was made to add another week, but it wasn’t seconded.  And then the motion was passed on a 6-1 vote (I agreed).

Item 7 was our annual review of the city’s Code of Ethics and Conduct for Elected and appointed Officials.  This was mostly the existing Code, except to add terms we had previously directed staff to write up, involving elected officials who fail to sign the Model of Excellence (which simply has an elected official acknowledge having read and understood the Code).  After a little discussion, a motion was made and seconded to approve the Code as amended by staff. I then made two friendly amendments, both of which extended the penalties for not signing the Model of Excellence from not just intergovernmental committees but also to council subcommittees.  In looking over the Tentative Council Calendar, I noticed that we’ll be forming a subcommittee to review election ethics in a few months, and it doesn’t make much sense for someone who hasn’t read or acknowledged our Code of Ethics to serve on that subcommittee (or others, for that matter).  Both friendly amendments were accepted.  And then the original motion passed on a 5-1 vote with one abstention (I agreed).

We then returned to the pulled consent calendar.  As usual, the list of bills was approved on a 6-1 vote (I agreed).  And the two items involving the Community Facilities District were approved on 6-1 votes (I agreed).

After that, we had non-agenda items.  I proposed something related to the new stadium.  Staff has said for some time that our Transit Occupancy Tax (what we charge hotel guests) is very low – the second lowest in the county, only better than Gilroy.  I pointed out that with the stadium coming in and with Santa Clara making a bid for Superbowl 50 in 2016, this would be the time for us to look at whether or not to raise the TOT to be on par with surrounding cities.  Mayor Spitaleri agreed to put this discussion on a future agenda.

Then a colleague proposed placing on a future agenda an item to switch our mayoral appointment scheme from a 2-year mayor to a one-year rotating mayor.  Since the Mayor disagreed with this, council voted 4-3 to put this discussion on a future agenda (I dissented).

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