Although the bustle has returned to Cupertino’s Vallco Shopping Mall in the form of demolition work that began Thursday to make way for a massive housing, office and retail development, not everyone is in the mood to celebrate.
Pam Hershey, who lives on the opposite side of a concrete wall that separates Vallco from her house on Wheaton Drive, raced home Thursday afternoon and asked her husband to do the same. While he slammed their windows shut to keep out dust, she banged on their neighbors’ doors, including one that runs a home daycare, to warn them about the demolition taking place next door.
The problem, Hershey said, is no one bothered to tell her or her neighbors it was going to happen — not Sand Hill Property Co., the mall’s property owner and developer, or the city. She didn’t find out until someone emailed her about it that morning.
At a press conference held Friday afternoon in front of City Hall by slow growth community group Better Cupertino, Hershey mocked the company’s characterization of itself as a “neighbor” to Cupertino residents.
“A neighbor doesn’t do that,” she said.
Ignatius Ding, who heads the Better Cupertino group, said Sand Hill had time to notify residents about the demolition but chose not to. “The Vallco site is next to people’s backyards and 1,000 feet from a preschool and public elementary school,” he said. “This site has multiple environmental conditions which the city has refused to test before issuing these demolition permits.”
Sand Hill has responded by saying it complied with the city’s demolition permit process. The city says the permit it issued to Sand Hill limits the company’s demolition to only the two parking structures near the old Sears and such work doesn’t require noticing. And Sand Hill agreed to implement mitigation measures, the city also notes.
But the dozen Better Cupertino supporters who had gathered in front of City Hall on Friday wearing the group’s trademark red T-shirts and holding signs that read “Let’s build a better Vallco” and “Stand up together, fight for a better Cupertino. Stop uncontrolled growth,” isn’t buying the developer or city’s explanations.
Ding said it’s a misconception that Better Cupertino opposes housing and growth. The group recognizes that growth is inevitable and supports affordable housing development, he said. It just doesn’t trust Sand Hill to build it.
“They have a tendency of taking below-market-rate housing and turning it into profitable luxury apartments,” he said, pointing to Sand Hill’s Main Street development as an example.
That distrust has compelled the organization to once again try and block Sand Hill’s plans for Vallco, just as it did in 2016 through a ballot measure that sought to restrict development at the mall site to 1.2 million square feet of retail-only space. That measure was defeated at the ballot box, leading Better Cupertino members to sue the city over its reworking of the ballot’s language. The lawsuit was dismissed as moot in Santa Clara County Superior Court and, just days ago, by the state Court of Appeal.
For the past few weeks, the group has maintained a regular presence outside the Cupertino Library to collect petition signatures to qualify a measure on next year’s ballot that would place a community-drawn plan for Vallco in jeopardy. Sand Hill has threatened to proceed with its own plan or toss out some of the benefits associated with the community plan if it encounters delays.
Ding said he is confident the group can gather the requisite 3,000 signatures by the end of the month.
“Oh, we’re going to get it; absolutely,” he said. “I’m almost certain we’ll get 4,000 signatures.”
Phyllis Dickstein, a resident who resides of the city’s North Blaney neighborhood, said she had hoped the city and Sand Hill would have assembled a project to appease all sides after the 2016 election skirmish.
“Since 2014, whatever formal or informal takings of opinion there have been, there has never been a public demand for office space,” she said. “This does not make sense to me.”
Published at Fri, 12 Oct 2018 18:20:53 +0000