4/23/2013 Council Summary

Another very long night.

We started with a really interesting study session regarding possible reallocation of street space on Mary Avenue from Fremont up to Maude, to support bicycle lanes. This represents a significant gap in our bicycle path network, so it’s of great interest.  But there are difficulties making bike lanes work on all portions of Mary.  Staff has broken up that stretch into four pieces.  1A is Mary from Fremont up to El Camino, 1B is from El Camino to Evelyn, 2 is from Evelyn to Central, and 3 is from Central to Maude.  There are different approaches for different pieces, including

  • removing a driving lane in each direction, adding a center turn lane, and adding bike lanes (called a 4-3 conversion)
  • removing parking on one side of the street to support bike lanes
  • narrowing existing lanes, sidewalks, and/or the center median to support bike lanes

Part of this depends on the volume of traffic on the roads.  Staff said that typically, a 4-3 conversion is only reasonable when traffic is 12.000 vehicles or less per day.  And while 1A, 1B, and 2 are below those levels, 3 is not.  I’m going from memory, but for 1A, I believe staff is proposing a 4-3 conversion – remove one travel lane in each direction, add a center turn lane, and add bike lanes on either side.  For 1B, staff is proposing removing parking on the west side of Mary.  The west side has some 90 spaces, and typically, no more than 19 of them are used at any one time, with lots of off-street parking available nearby.  For 2, I believe staff is recommending narrowing the lanes and the median to make space for bike lanes.  And for 3, I think they’re proposing the same.

We then went to the general meeting.  We started with a Special Order of the Day recognizing National Crime Victims’ Rights Week.  This was followed by the awarding of prizes to the K-5 students who had the best Earth Day posters.  We also recognized several green businesses throughout Sunnyvale, including my dry cleaners (Nature’s Best), which is a green practices dry cleaner.  Jackie Davison from Sunnyvale’s Environmental Services Department received an award from the California Water Environment Association.  And we had a public announcement regarding the ongoing Lawrence Station Area Plan.

The consent calendar passed 7-0, except for a couple of no votes on the minutes and list of bills as per usual.

Public comments were interesting.  We had a decent chat about CalPERS’ recent changes to their dues requirements for cities.  A gentleman expressed concerns about cardboard recycling and phone books (they were good points).  And a Jackson Street resident came to thank us for last week’s decision and proposing some changes to Murphy Park to make it cleaner and more secure (again, interesting ideas).

Item 2 was a whole lot of fun – discussion of the art proposals for Seven Seas Park.  Staff presented three proposed projects, but it really came down to two – a pair of blue metal reef-like designs as entryway features, and a very large umbrella and seating fixture (called “Under the Umbrella”) as an interactive feature within the park.  Staff recommended the entryway features, while the Arts Commission preferred Under the Umbrella.  This provoked some discussion about the merits of both projects, which was a great discussion.  After the discussion, I moved to approve “Under the Umbrella”, with some thematic changes, and we approved the motion on a 7-0 vote.

Item 3 involved the ongoing challenges being faced by owners in Fair Oaks Mobile Home Park.  This is a serious problem, because the situation is forcing residents out of their homes, and they’re extremely unhappy with the conditions at the park.  There are some really heartbreaking stories coming out of there, and some people that really need help.  The problem is that their situation is primarily a landlord/tenant (private) dispute, and the homeowners’ best alternative to paying huge amounts for a private attorney to defend their rights is Project Sentinel – which hasn’t been an option for them so far.  The limited tools available to us either aren’t legal for us or wouldn’t have any effect.  It’s really a challenge.  After some discussion, we voted 7-0 to direct the City Attorney to prepare a report to us on all of our legal options, using the Council’s remaining discretionary budget set-aside on outside council if necessary.  A second motion was made to direct a letter to the owner about a potential hearing to revoke his business license, but it failed 1-6 after the City Attorney advised that the approach likely wasn’t legal.  Another motion was made to consider legislative advocacy positions regarding cities’ authority over mobile home parks (in other words, “start telling our legislators to fix the problem”), and it passed on a 7-0 vote.  A final motion was made to consider a future rent stabilization ordinance, but it failed on a 3-4 vote (I dissented).

Item 4 involved creating a community facility district to fund future infrastructure repairs for The Estates at Sunnyvale, which is the single-family housing development on half of the Corn Palace.  This was a very formal process because it created a Mello-Roos tax district for those homeowners.  I’m not going to list off all of the votes, because their effects are a little ambiguous anyway, but we cast four votes in the process of establishing the district, all of which passed on 6-1 votes (I agreed).

Item 5 involved consideration of our future Zero Waste Strategic Plan.  Zero Waste is the goal of reaching the point where all garbage that we produce is diverted from landfills – to recycling, converted to energy, whatever.  To put this in perspective, nobody believes we can reach 100% diversion.  But some cities have already reached 95%.  Staff has been analyzing our solid waste stream to determine what we’re tossing away and not diverting now, and they have a good idea what is involved.  A lot of the diversion will involve either recycling or converting to energy through anaerobic digesters, plasma incinerators, or whatever.  But this isn’t just a “recycle everything” problem. We also need to reduce waste upstream, by reducing packaging and eliminating certain kinds of wastes from even being created in the first place, through programs such as Extended Producer Responsibility.

Staff proposed taking steps to increase our solid waste diversion rate to 70% by 2015, 75% by 2020, and 90% by 2030.  We’re currently at 66%.  Staff has a specific approach for reaching 70%, and general ideas for reaching 75%, but the 90% goal is a little uncertain so far.  Staff anticipates that the infrastructure and process changes necessary to reach 70% will require a one-time garbage rate increase of 1% sometime in the next three years, and 75% will require a one-time garbage rate increase of 4-7% (sometime some years from now).  And achieving 90% is an unknown.

After some discussion and a fair bit of public input, a motion was made to approve staff’s proposal, and it passed on a 5-2 vote.  I dissented, as did a colleague, for the same reason – we wanted more aggressive goals.  After talking with staff later, it was probably best that we didn’t set more aggressive goals, as staff doesn’t think anything more aggressive is doable in the time frames I was contemplating.  On the solid waste side, our staff is pretty aggressive and innovative, so I trust them, and I probably should have asked more and better questions in advance of the meeting.

After this, we had committee reports, and that was about it.  Next meeting is April 30th, which includes a chat about a possible Transit Occupancy Tax ballot measure, a move to one-year rotating mayor, and a vote on the Armory affordable housing proposal


4/23/2013 Council Summary — 2 Comments