Cupertino Housing Policy Lawsuit

Avinash Pandit

Everyone raised in Cupertino remembers the days where Vallco Mall was the place to be. There used to be movie lines that stretched for what seemed like miles, high-class shopping outlets, an ice rink and great options for all sorts of food. People traveled across the Bay Area to check out the wonders of Vallco. Despite all that success, Vallco eventually vanished only to become a virtually dead lot that everyone avoided. The addition of Main Street helped heal the wound, but Vallco remains to be a desolate void. 


Recently, Cupertino received a letter from the Department of Housing and Community Development warning them of the consequences of not creating enough housing to support its workforce. If Cupertino doesn’t create around 1,000 new housing units by 2023, they could be hit with a lawsuit by the Department and Housing and Community Development. Vallco, a large unoccupied space located just near Highway 280, is a perfect spot for Cupertino to adopt a plan for housing, but Cupertino’s City Council has been hesitant to do so.    


Since California is in the midst of one of the most major housing crises, Gavin Newsom, the state governor, has made affordable housing one of his top priorities. Over 100 new bills dealing with housing issues have been introduced to combat the dwindling housing market. Cupertino – the home of the new Apple Spaceship, one of the densest employment centers, created many new jobs. So far, the main problem has been that Cupertino’s City Council and residents have been quite reluctant to building homes around the area for those new workers. According to the California Department of Housing and Community Development, Cupertino must shape up its housing efforts or face a lawsuit by the state of California.


The current state of Vallco has not pleased Cupertino High School students, who feel that the City Council should act on it. 


Said Cupertino High School sophomore Sujay Mehta, “[Vallco] is just pretty useless, and it’s not really contributing much to our city.”


When asked if the Cupertino City Council was doing an adequate job with Vallco, Mehta’s answer was concise and straightforward, “No.” 


On May 29, Stephen Scharf, the current mayor of Cupertino, and the Cupertino City Council rescinded a vote on Vallco, rather than putting it up for vote like they had promised. This plan had included traffic mitigation, a new city hall, and most importantly 2,923 new housing units, many of which were BMR (below market rate) houses. Scharf has commented on how the new housing units would not be suitable for families. With homelessness on the rise in Santa Clara County, both moves seemed classless by Cupertino. Unfortunately for the Council, under the SB 35 law, Vallco must have 1,203 BMR housing units once it is overhauled. 


On the other hand, Stephen Scharf and the Cupertino City Council have said they have looked into several projects with developers like Sand Hill. The Council claims that the developers become too greedy and try to incorporate office space and even more retail commercial shops and restaurants. 


The mayor has also advocated stopping the uncontrolled growth that he claims the Bay Area is going through. He has claimed that growth in Cupertino has infiltrated its schools and caused chaos. 


When asked about the “uncontrolled growth” Mehta said, “Well, there is some truth to that because at our school we are always at full capacity because there are a lot of people. The word “infiltrate” is kind of aggressive, and I don’t think it’s that bad.”