Enviros and Builders Join to Oppose Cupertino Growth Measures

In Cupertino, CA, dogs and cats, living together… mass hysteria!

The Sierra Club and home builders don’t often find themselves on the same side of development issues. In other parts of the Bay Area, we’re in conflicting camps on issues regarding growth. But in Cupertino, we’re united. Both our national and local organizations agree that Measures A, B and C are terrible public policy. These extreme measures would restrict densities in Cupertino, impose inflexible ceilings on building heights and mandate buildings be set back from the street a certain distance regardless of their location. Even the slightest variations would require a public vote, which means they will not happen. The measures are totally contrary to principles of SMART growth, which promote development within existing cities rather than in open space. This practice, known as infill, leads to a more efficient use of land, including the reuse of outdated industrial and commercial buildings, of which Cupertino has too many. It turns blight into attractive office space and much-needed affordable housing for teachers, firefighters and public safety officers. Environmental groups support infill to preserve rural land. In areas where open land is plentiful, home builders sometimes believe development there is desirable. But in the South Bay, given the enormous public resistance to building in the hills and mountains, builders realize infill is the best option to provide housing that everyone agrees is essential to our economy. . . . . By severely limiting density, Measure A would make it impossible to build affordable housing for teachers, nurses, police and firefighters. Every community needs these workers, and it’s healthier for everyone to have them living close to their work and feeling a connection to the city they serve. Measure B’s height constraints would limit new retail in Cupertino to ugly, big box, warehouse-style buildings that are traffic magnets. It would constrain companies like Apple Computer, which hints that passage of these measures would lead it to plan future growth outside of Cupertino. And Measure C’s setback requirement would require builders to consume more, rather than less, precious land on any given project.

This piece is written from a very pro-smart growth slant, but it’s a good example of where the smart growth crowd and the free market & development crowds can come together to agree on what makes bad policy. Density limits and building height/setback mandates are artificial, counterproductive policy mechanisms that prevent the market from responding to changing consumer demand by limiting the ability of developers to produce innovative designs.