Election 2006: Condo measures rejected

Hundreds, if not thousands, of e-mails and old-fashioned ink signatures on paper helped defeat measures D and E in Cupertino, measures that would have allowed the construction of two multiuse developments combining retail and high-density housing such as condominiums.

While Mayor Richard Lowenthal had a feeling that the measures might fail, he said Wednesday that he was impressed with the innovative grass-roots effort of the opponents and the whopping margin of defeat.

It's typical the mayor would be surprised, said Patty Chi of the Concerned Citizens of Cupertino. The majority of the council has consistently underestimated the various groups opposed to certain mixed-use development, labeling them the "angry minority," she said.

Measure D, which would have allowed mixed-use development on 5 acres near the Vallco Fashion Park, was rejected by 65.05 percent of voters, or 8,362 out of 12,855 voters, according to unofficial numbers released Wednesday.

Measure E, which would have allowed a multiuse development built by luxury home builder Toll Brothers on 32 acres near Stevens Creek Boulevard, was rejected by 63.36 percent of voters, or 8,067 votes.

The anti-condo/anti-mixed-use charge has been led mainly by residents concerned about overcrowding at Cupertino schools, which have some of the best test scores in the country, and the possible impact of high-density housing on area home prices, which have enjoyed huge run-ups in the past couple of decades.

The leaders of the various groups worked together, combining a sophisticated digital effort that featured Web sites, e-mail user groups and broadcast e-mails with a grass-roots campaign consisting of signature gathering and phone calls. The margin of defeat proves the existence of what the groups have called a broad anti-condominium and anti-mixed-use sentiment in the city, their leaders said.

The City Council recently approved parking on the fourth level of an under-construction parking lot near a neighborhood where Vallco Fashion Park wanted to build condos. The vote was unpopular with many people as the council had previously agreed to limit parking at three levels due to neighborhood concerns about noise and light.

In the long run, Lowenthal said, the city will survive this vote.

"In fact, on the positive side, it will defuse some anger and frustration that people have had," he said.

On the negative side, he said, the losses will mean that Vallco will have roughly $20 million less than it could have spent on its renovation and the city won't get a park, a new shopping center, and some senior housing.

By Aaron Claverie
Los Gatos Daily News
Friday November 10, 2006