A six-story beige apartment building with a terracotta-colored roof sits behind an asphalt road.
The Westport Senior Apartments in Cupertino are pictured in this file photo. The city has essentially received state clearance on its housing plan for the next eight years.

Cupertino is inches away from securing approval of its state-mandated housing plan more than a year past the deadline — and following a legal battle due to its noncompliance.

Cupertino’s housing plan has received the state’s stamp of approval on all elements except its rezoning requirements, according to a letter it received Wednesday from the state housing department. The city is still touting its accepted housing element, an extensive plan submitted every eight years laying out how it will accommodate more affordable and market-rate housing, as a win.

But even after receiving a passing grade from the state, Vice Mayor J.R. Fruen said Cupertino cannot be considered legally compliant until it rezones sites selected for future housing because it submitted the latest version of its plan more than a year past the Jan. 31, 2023 deadline. Once the city completes its rezoning, which Fruen said will happen mid-May, the plan will likely pass legal scrutiny and be fully approved by the state — including plans to build 4,588 homes by 2031, 1,880 of which must be affordable for low-income residents.

Fruen said he’s pleased the city has reached a point where its plan is so close to approval, but said Cupertino could have gotten approval earlier if previous iterations of the Cupertino City Council had taken state requirements more seriously.

“This is a genuinely ambitious housing element which is responsive to the demands of a strong segment of the public that knows that we haven’t been meeting our housing obligations for a long time,” he told San José Spotlight.

The near-approval comes after Cupertino lost a judgment for its noncompliant plan in January after housing advocacy groups Yes In My Backyard Law and the California Housing Defense Fund sued the city last year. San José Spotlight revealed Cupertino misallocated more than $100,000 designated for affordable housing on legal fees associated with the lawsuit last month.

Sonja Trauss, executive director of YIMBY Law, said she’s glad the housing element is on its way to approval, especially since it is late.

“YIMBY Law is happy that Cupertino has a housing plan and we’re looking forward to seeing it implemented so the city can become more accessible and affordable,” she told San José Spotlight. “They should have made their plan much earlier, but late is better than never.”

Cupertino isn’t the only city struggling to meet its housing requirements in Santa Clara County. San Jose got its housing element approved a year after the deadline, and Sunnyvale followed in March. Los Gatos submitted its housing plan again last month and is waiting on state review.

Cupertino has already started working toward building more affordable housing. The city greenlit plans to transform the former Vallco Mall site into thousands of new homes, including 890 affordable homes, in February after years of delays.

Mayor Sheila Mohan said this signal from the state that the city is close to approval is a triumph.

“More than just a letter, it signifies our commitment to our community — equitable opportunities, inclusive neighborhoods, and a future where every resident has a place to call home,” she said in a news release. “Together, we’ve reached a milestone that reflects our collective commitment to building a stronger, more vibrant Cupertino.”

Contact Annalise Freimarck at [email protected] or follow @annalise_ellen on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Comment Policy (updated 5/10/2023): Readers are required to log in through a social media or email platform to confirm authenticity. We reserve the right to delete comments or ban users who engage in personal attacks, hate speech, excess profanity or make verifiably false statements. Comments are moderated and approved by admin.

Leave a Reply