Vote no on Prop. D
Cupertino isn’t ready for the development entailed by Prop. D just yet
Vallco is dead.
Cupertino residents have tried to revitalize the defunct mall for years, and one of the propositions on this year’s ballot reflects the culmination those efforts: proposition D, which calls for Vallco’s renovation into a shiny new center called the “Cupertino Hills”. It’s been backed by numerous local politicians including Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez and California State Assemblyman Paul Fong.
Proposition D is spearheaded by the developers of the complex themselves, Sand Hill Property Co. The developers have promoted the Hills extensively, describing it as a “lively, attractive center of community life” and promising abundant housing for seniors, a vibrant mall and a 30-acre eco-friendly park on top of the entire complex—the largest green roof in the world.
The Hills project seems too good to be true. And it is.
Sand Hill has an abysmal track record of failed city reform projects. In 2009, the company planned to construct a similarly vibrant community center in Sunnyvale to replace the city’s old mall. Sand Hill took a $108.8 million loan to complete the project, but has yet to begin construction on its promised town center seven years later. According to the San Jose Mercury News, the project “has been stalled since 2011 due to litigation related to the foreclosure of the property.”
It’s also worth noting that none of Sand Hill’s claims are binding in their written plans for the Cupertino Hills. Sand Hill has designed provisions for many of the concerns raised in this article, but the company has requested that the project be built without any sort of binding city-developer agreement to ensure they will actually construct any of the provisions they have advertised. According to the impartial Elections Code 9212 Report on Proposition D, the initiative will “reduce the City’s ability to impose conditions requiring community benefits or mitigation measures.” Sand Hill outlines several promises for our community in Proposition D, but requests that citizens take their claims based on faith.
Among these non-binding agreements are promises for 390 housing units and 640,000 square feet of commercial space for the mall, which seem appealing at first glance. But compared to the over 2,000,000 square feet allotted for private offices not related to the mall, this “center of community life” doesn’t seem geared towards our community. The proposed mall in the Hills is about half the size of Vallco as it stands now, and Proposition D will limit the city’s ability to request additional housing units in the complex.
Those 2,000,000 square feet also come with approximately 10,000 new workers at the Hills offices. Unfortunately, Cupertino’s infrastructure isn’t ready for this massive influx of residents—the measure’s 9212 report states that the Hills could have some significant effects on traffic in the area. Commute on I-280 is congested enough already without these plans for a new private industry stationed within our community.
Sand Hill proudly claims the Hills will support “the highest standards of environmental sustainability, water conservation and mandated recycled water use” on their website, but once again their actual plans seem contrary. In Proposition D, Sand Hill requests to bypass any sort of environmental impact analysis for the Hills altogether.
Review by third-party groups, however, has deemed “most environmental mitigations insufficient.” The measure’s 9212 report states that measure D indicates “an intention to limit the scope of future environmental review and the imposition of additional mitigation measures,” meaning that Sand Hill has requested the Hills project not be required to uphold their promises. The company also proudly claims their eco-friendly 30-acre green roof will be the largest in the world yet features plants that, while certainly green, are hardly friendly. Proponents of measure D assure that these plants will be drought-tolerant, but according to the Cupertino Citizens’ Sensible Growth Initiative, “[the roof] could use 86,000+ gallons of water daily. Its upkeep would likely fall upon the taxpayers.”
It’s become clear that we need some change in our community—but proposition D is not the answer. Sand Hill Property Co. has a history of selling ideas, not buildings. Cupertino Hills appears to contain everything our city needs, yet Sand Hill has conveniently requested they be held unaccountable for actually instituting any of these reforms. These requests for a lack of supervision through Proposition D are worrisome.
In Sunnyvale, Sand Hill Property Co. promised several additional features on their revitalization project, but their actual agreement with the city only obligated them to create a significantly smaller amount of public improvements known as the “Minimum Project”. Now, it seems as though Sand Hill will only be constructing a slightly updated version of the Minimum Project in Sunnyvale, despite all their promises seven years ago.
Despite its rapid growth, Cupertino remains a primarily residential community that is currently facing one of the largest housing crises since the city’s inception. It’s part of the reason our teachers are unable to stay in the area. Sand Hill Property Co., Cupertino Hills and Proposition D will further raise the demand for housing in the city, spend most of the Vallco land on private offices instead of a community mall and institute a completely unsustainable and drought-ignorant reform plan for our city.
Vallco may be dead, but Cupertino’s community is very much alive. Let’s keep it that way.
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