Cupertino Courier

`Nine months to a year': City lags on compliant housing plan to state

- By Vandana Ravikumar vravikumar@ bayareanew­

It could take several more months, or even up to another year, for Cupertino to submit its compliant housing plan to the state.

During a status update on its state-mandated housing plan, acting Community Developmen­t Director Luke Connolly said the city aims to submit only a draft of the plan by the Tuesday deadline. He noted that would still allow the city to receive feedback from the state Department of Housing and Community Developmen­t by April and incorporat­e it into Cupertino's housing element in the following months.

As a result, the city is not likely to have a plan in compliance with the agency's requiremen­ts for quite a while, Connolly said at the Jan. 17 Cupertino City Council meeting.

“We have a long process ahead of us — nine months is probably the shortest, but I would say nine months to a year,” Connolly said. “Our goal is to get something to HCD by the certificat­ion date — that does not mean we have a certified housing element.”

The city released a first draft of its housing element — or its state-mandated housing plan that accounts for the creation of thousands of homes in the city across several income brackets over the next eight years — in November. The draft came after weeks of criticism from local residents and community advocates, who said that the City Council was too apathetic about the process and was putting the city at risk of missing the statewide deadline for housing elements set by the California Department of Housing and Community Developmen­t.

But the draft released by the City Council late last year also was criticized as being inadequate for various reasons. For example, it included vague descriptio­ns of programs and policies to be implemente­d in the coming years, pages of red text with words struck through, and notes describing informatio­n to be included later on. The dominant criticism of the draft, however, was the timing of its release. The draft was released just two months ahead of the deadline for a plan in compliance with state guidelines, even though it could take several months for the first draft of a housing element to receive the kind of review and feedback necessary to become compliant.

Cupertino is one of many cities in California that's not likely to have a compliant housing element anytime soon. Now, Cupertino is likely to be affected by the builder's remedy, a controvers­ial measure that forces noncomplia­nt cities to accept large housing projects, even when the proposed developmen­ts exceed local zoning limits, as long as they include some affordable units.

Local advocates who encouraged the members of the last City Council to approach the housing element with urgency say they aren't surprised that the city is now in this position.

“We are most certainly behind,” said Neil Parkmcclin­tick, president of the advocacy group Cupertino For All. “It's something we've been trying to make very clear for months and months … I think we'll be subject to the builders' remedy for many, many months at this point.”

But at the same time, the city now has an opportunit­y to approach the housing element with more focus, potentiall­y using the coming months to create a more ambitious housing plan that better incorporat­es the feedback residents have provided to the council, Park-mcclintick said.

“There's so many recommenda­tions and suggestion­s that have been written out by the community for to implement — they have a lot to work with,” Park-mcclintick said. “I think we can catch up … I'm feeling pretty optimistic, even if we won't have the ideal timeline.”

Park-mcclintick said he hopes that the city, under the guidance wof the new council — which includes newly elected mayor Hung Wei and newly elected Councilmem­ber J.R. Fruen and Vice Mayor Sheila Mohan — takes time to substantia­lly improve the existing draft, looking to role models of cities with compliant drafts like Emeryville and Alameda and determinin­g how to better meet the needs of Cupertino residents.

“We know that generally, what works is housing people, we know renter protection­s are helpful, and we know we need to produce housing for different income levels,” Park-mcclintick said.

“This whole experience is not about whether or not we're punishing Cupertino,” he added. “It's about actually making sure people get housing, because there's so much real pain going on, and we're partly responsibl­e for that. This is a chance for us to remedy that.”

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