New state law may allow Cupertino development to proceed despite public opposition

CUPERTINO, Calif. (KGO) -- One thing Cupertino has is traffic. One thing the Bay Area doesn't have is enough housing, forcing workers to commute greater distances.

A developer wants to help ease the housing crunch by redeveloping the 42-year-old Vallco Mall at the corner of Stevens Creek Blvd. and Wolf Road. It's sitting mostly empty while awaiting its fate.

Sand Hill Property Company, based in Palo Alto, would like to turn the 58-acre site into a mixed-use project that includes about 2,400 housing units, some of them designated affordable.

The proposed development is just down the road from the new Apple Park, off Interstate 280.

Liang Chao and Jon Willey plan to be at a public hearing to oppose the project.

"It's an office-centric project with almost no parkland and very limited parking in an area with no transit," said Liang Chao. "It's going to worsen the traffic, worsen housing prices and worsen environment."

Sand Hill has a new state law it can use if Cupertino residents can't or won't work on a plan both sides can accept. SB 35 allows developers to build housing without public approval, as long as it meets state criteria and conforms with a city's general plan. Vallco will be the first major test in California of this new law.

Sand Hill managing director Reed Moulds says they're ready to go ahead if the community and council can't come up with a better plan.

"We've been at this for about four years at this site," said Moulds, "and we, along with the housing advocacy community, are very interested in moving a project forward that at a minimum addresses the housing shortage that we experience here on a day to day basis in Cupertino."

Opponents claim Sand Hill's SB 35 application doesn't comply with the law. The developer says it does, and says the city council agreed in June.

That sets up the potential for a legal challenge. This project is also having an influence on the November Cupertino City Council race. Opponents of the Vallco project are among the candidates running for three seats.

The council's public hearing begins at 5 p.m. Tuesday. It's expected to run long into the evening.
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