06/21/2016 Council Preview – Pensions, Utility Rates, and Land Use Appeals

Very long day.  We start the afternoon unusually early for a lengthy presentation on Sunnyvale’s current and future CalPERS obligations. In short, Sunnyvale tends to use its own actuarials to forecast our pension obligations, rather than depending entirely upon the State to tell us what’s going to happen.  We’ve found that it can take the State years to finally getting around to taking certain actions, and we can lessen the impact on Sunnyvale by doing our own forecasting and taking action sooner rather than later. In this case, our actuarials have some forecasts based on the two very bad years of CalPERS investment returns, and they will be presenting their long-term projections.

We start our usual set of meetings with another closed session regarding labor negotiations.  We don’t have any special orders or presentations, so we get right to business after that.  The consent calendar is pretty short, since we just had a meeting last week (with a long consent calendar). We don’t even have any meeting minutes.  There’s a contract for refurbishing the water plant at Mary and Carson. There’s a modification of the existing contract for the Mary Avenue bike lanes – staff had recommended rolling out the planning portion in phases, but they identified additional funding, so they’re suggesting to modify the existing contract to design the full project.  There’s a contract for designing bike routes on Fair Oaks in three locations (from Old San Francisco to Evelyn, From Wolfe to Ahwanee, and from California to Arques).  And then there’s the second reading of the ordinance for Moffett Towers II.

Item 2 has us considering upgrading our friendship city relationship with Iizuka Japan to an actual sister city relationship.  We don’t have any sister cities, and we have a long-standing policy of only forming friendship city relationships (and spending no city resources on them).  However, after forming a friendship city relationship with Iizuka, a community group formed to support it, and to create exchange programs between the two cities. And the leadership of Iizuka has asked us to formalize a sister city relationship.  So we will discuss it.

Item 3 is likely the big one – consideration of this year’s water, wastewater, and solid waste utilities fees for the next year. Staff is proposing the following increases, expressed as average single-family household monthly increases:

  • Water: $3.42
  • Wastewater: $3.18
  • Solid waste and recycling: $1.54
  • Total: $8.14

Here’s the background on this. We run these utilities as an “enterprise fund”, meaning they’re self-contained.  Prop. 218 requires us to charge customers exactly the cost of the utility service and no more, so running it as essentially a self-contained, non-profit business is the way we accomplish this.  What that means is that the amount we bring in in rate payments has to match the cost to run the business.

This year, increased costs are coming from a number of sources. 59% of your water bill comes from the cost for Sunnyvale to buy water from the two wholesalers.  One wholesaler is increasing their prices 19.9%, the other 8%.  This alone would trigger a 8.07% increase in everyone’s bills.

But there are a lot of other factors that figure into the increase – the drought, the replacement of the Water Pollution Control Plant, other issues.  Part of this comes from the statewide elimination of tiered rates, where users of more water would pay higher rates than users of less water. And we did a rate survey, to determine exactly what service costs are for the different classes of customers.  That survey indicated, for instance, that mobile homes and multifamily parks weren’t paying all of their costs, while single-family homes were paying slightly more than their costs.  So there are various adjustments that resulted from that survey, which hadn’t been done in several years.

Item 4 has us looking at changes to Wolfe Road from El Camino to Homestead. Staff and the BPAC are recommending changes to the Wolfe/Fremont/ECR triangle, and removing parking on Wolfe from Fremont to Homestead to make room for bike lanes and a center turn lane.

Item 5 is an appeal of the special development permit for a project on Pastoria and El Camino. A resident disagrees with several provisions of the permit

Item 6 is an appeal of the special development permit required for resuming work on the Town Center.  A resident has appealed the change in plans to make the owner-occupied housing to be rental units, at least for the near future.

Item 7 has us looking at new smoking regulations for public spaces. This is a bit more complicated because of the presence of a hookah lounge on Murphy.

Item 8 looks at fixing an inadvertent change to our non-residential parking requirements.

Item 9 has us submitting our 5-year Urban Water Management Plan.

Item 10 looks at adopting changes to the city’s water reduction targets based on changes ordered by the Governor.

Item 11 has us picking a third councilmember to serve on the Council Subcommittee on Board and Commission Bylaws Amendments.

Finally, item 12 has us possibly ratifying Mayor Hendricks’ appointment to the County Airport Land Use Commission.

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