Some residents against massive growth at Cupertino's Vallco Mall

Cupertino is at the center of a test case for the development of much needed housing. While many hail plans to bring the outdated Vallco Mall into the 21st Century, some community groups decry the effort as destroying their way of life.

Old and new are on a collision course in Cupertino, with the path forward coming into greater focus this week. At issue, how best to redevelop the dormant Vallco Mall. The California legislature passed Senate Bill 35 last year, which mandates municipalities greenlight development that meets certain housing criteria.

“As long as a very large number of the proposed new homes are affordable housing,” said Kelly Snider, a professor in the San Jose State University Department of Urban and Regional Planning.

Sand Hill Properties has one plan under the new law that would create over 2,000 units of housing. Half would be deemed “affordable,” to go along with nearly 2 million square feet of office space and 400,000 square feet of retail space.

Two other plans, with more local input, would offer similar scenarios, with differing amounts of office and retail space. In an emailed statement, Sand Hill Property Company Managing Director Reed Moulds says the “…Plans would bring vibrancy and new life to the Vallco site as a downtown retail, dining, entertainment district.”

“While the city appreciates the spirit behind SB 35, the city has always preferred the path of the specific plan area process,  because it’s community driven, and allows for more community input,” said Brian Babcock, a Cupertino city spokesman.
Some of that community input has been negative. So-called “slow growthers” worry massive redevelopments of Vallco, coupled with Apple’s existing Spaceship, will transform this small South Bay town once covered by orchards, into another teaming metropolis.
“the impact is not just housing. It’s everyone who currently works or lives in Cupertino. Their life will be impacted, if we build without considering the current capacity of (the) infrastructure,” said Liang Chao, who four years ago co-founded the slow-growth group Better Cupertino.
In response, professor Snider says, “We need places for people to live. So the solution isn’t to take down what has already been built. The solution now is to fill in the gaps of what is needed. It necessitates change. We all as a city as a region everywhere in silicon valley, we have to adopt the mindset of change.”

It’s difficult to tell which mindset the city council will adopt when it considers the development plans Tuesday. A simple majority is needed to approve one of the three. But the meeting is expected to be emotional, with passions running high. Depending on the length, staffers say council members may continue Tuesday meeting into Wednesday.