The November ballot in Cupertino will include a voter-driven initiative to place artificial limits on Cupertino’s General Plan, in response to efforts that a developer is making to redevelop the Vallco shopping center. But now it turns out that the initiative’s poorly-drafted language may actually increase the potential heights of residential neighborhoods. It seems that the residents who drafted the initiative neglected to consult with the Cupertino City Attorney. And their poor choice of wording, intended to limit heights in the Vallco area to 45′, may actually raise the height limits in all residential neighborhoods to 45′, allowing for four-story residential structures where they weren’t previously permitted.
Cupertino commissioned a 9212 report (just like Sunnyvale did), and that report identifies the potential unanticipated consequence of this initiative, confirmed by the Cupertino City Attorney. The Cupertino City Council will be debating amending the ballot measure’s language to reflect this flaw in the initiative. The proposed amendment is likely fatal to the initiative by changing three words. Where the ballot measure previously said “establish a 45 feet maximum building height in the Neighborhoods”, the proposed amended language would say “increase to 45 feet the maximum building height in the Neighborhoods”. For an anti-growth initiative, such a change would be the kiss of death.
This is yet another example of what happens when people organizing a voter initiative fail to do the job properly. Typically, such initiative-backers meet and confer with the City Attorney when drafting language, specifically to avoid screw-ups like this, and to also gain the insight of someone actually familiar with the city’s operations, procedures, and resources. When that doesn’t happen, gross mistakes occur which can doom an initiative like this, or others.
Lesson learned the hard way, I guess.