Cupertino City Manager Reviewed After Housing Blunder

After a missed email exposed Cupertino to litigation, some wondered if City Manager Deborah Feng would be shown an open door.

Heading up the city’s annual $120 million operation since June 2019, Feng faced a closed-door performance evaluation on May 11—one week after she neglected to inform council members that a new Cupertino housing zoning ordinance up for a vote had been flagged by state housing officials. At the end of the closed door meeting, city officials said they had not taken any "reportable" action, meaning they'd not made a decision that was required to be explained to the public.

At 4pm May 3, the State of California's Housing and Community Development Department emailed Feng saying the city’s new ordinance to allow more affordable housing in Cupertino should not be approved, as it was inferior to existing state law. As first reported by San Jose Inside, the law would have let affordable housing projects be bigger, but it failed to also create a bypass option for costly rules, like height limits, retail restrictions and parking requirements, which can prevent construction.

Opening and responding to emails like the one sent by the HCD is expressly required as part of Feng's $239,000 base salary duties.

Despite the letter arriving in Feng’s inbox more than 24 hours before the decision, elected officials were seemingly unaware of the state’s advice not to adopt the housing ordinance, so they passed it with little fanfare last week.

Feng apologized to the City Council and met with HCD reps Monday.

“The fact that I had not reviewed or forwarded the letter from HCD prior to the City Council meeting was a complete oversight on my part,” Feng said in a statement. “The City Council should have had this information to consider prior to making their decision and I deeply regret this mistake.”

Other cities have remedied similar legal concerns by repealing inferior ordinances, and not everyone in City Hall thinks the mistake is grounds for Feng’s termination, which would come with a $60,000 severance.

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17 Comments

  1. Maybe Feng and Santa Clara’s Brian Doyle can form a consulting group, Dim and Dimwitted

  2. City Manager Deborah Feng has been a thoughtful, hard working, and responsible leader throughout her tenure serving Cupertino.

    Meanwhile, the department of Housing & Community Development (HCD) seems to serve to bully communities for no good reason except that they can.

    It would be a waste to sacrifice the City Manager over a failure to jump because a bully yelled “Jump!”.

  3. Deb Feng is a wonderful leader and she is truly appreciated by the community. This isolated incident speaks to the quick paced demands of this job and not a lack of transparency. If this letter was so important- why didn’t HCD provide adequate time for the City to review and respond? This isn’t newsworthy.

  4. Tell the State of California to go pound salt.

    It is past time to prohibit “super-majorities” in our government.

    The stinking legislature wants everyone to be dependent upon their piss-poor decisions.

    Feng did her spineless City Council a favor.

    Recall Newsom with extreme prejudice!

    David S. Wall

  5. David S. Wall,

    WOW, you aren’t even aware of the situation here.

    A Charter City has no “elected” mayor, they HIRE a City Manager from the City Council, and they act as in effect the CEO of the City.

    THe liegislature passed STATE laws that are both constitutional and legitimate no matter how much you “DON’T LIKE” them.

    Feng did no favors here, she is forcing the City to recind the newly passed ordinance to prevent another law suit againt the City.

    David, your statement here “Recall Newsom with extreme prejudice!” in effect is a clear THREAT against another person online, you just gave the CA DOJ cause to investigate you and perhaps charge you with tthreatening a persons life. You must be more careful, and you better write something here to clearly state you wish no harm to anyone.

  6. A charter city may have an elected mayor, or not, as specified in its “charter” and California has examples of both no matter how much you “DON’T LIKE” our STATE law. In fact, Newsom was an example of the former and Cupertino isn’t a charter city anyway. Why don’t you eat it and die and take him along?

  7. VACANCY VAQUERO you wrote:

    “In fact, Newsom was an example of the former and Cupertino isn’t a charter city anyway. Why don’t you eat it and die and take him along?”

    In referring to Gavin Newsom. Again, you people really have to show some self-control.

    Making statements like that just justifies more possible subpoenas to uncover your identity and potentially have you prosecuted for making threats to people. Especially when you are talking about a Governor? I just don’t understand how it got to be acceptable to have this conduct to be not only tolerated, but encouraged?

    People, “take your meds” and stop begging the proper authorities to investigate you by writing things like this. You can express yourself much more effectively if you are to show some kind of “more effective” action that makes the current situation better. But just by venting your anger like this is not constructive.

  8. Certain State Legislators push for extractive development to benefit investors with no regard for impact to communities, housing affordability, and the environment. HCD is the enforcer of unsustainable land use mandates pushed onto cities by the Legislature.

    Cupertino is among a growing group of communities rejecting heavy-handed authoritarianism from the State Legislature.

    Local legislators who push back against State control of local land use:

    https://localcontrolca.com/documents/Supporters-List.pdf

    Pushback against State control of land use from residents in another Bay Area community:

    https://www.smdailyjournal.com/opinion/guest_perspectives/owning-a-home-does-not-make-you-racist-elitists/article_b28eebec-b386-11eb-b0ee-8f488b27012e.html

    Housing Is a Human Right (not a commodity to be leveraged for the financial benefit of the fewest):

    https://www.make-the-shift.org

  9. I am confused, The Shift supports right to housing, butHOUSING IS A HUMAN RIGHT I am confused because you wrote:

    “Certain State Legislators push for extractive development to benefit investors with no regard for impact to communities, housing affordability, and the environment. HCD is the enforcer of unsustainable land use mandates pushed onto cities by the Legislature.

    Cupertino is among a growing group of communities rejecting heavy-handed authoritarianism from the State Legislature.

    Local legislators who push back against State control of local land use:

    https://localcontrolca.com/documents/Supporters-List.pdf”

    BUT theses same politicians are OPPOSED to INCLUSIONARY housing, which so far is the only reliable method of getting more affordable housing. Subsidies don’t work, and so do In Lieu fees. In fact, the Workforce Housing Opportunity Zones law is specifically a “INCLUSIONARY” housing act basically forcing the housing market to offer more “grades” of housing like a Gas Station. Currently the market only builds 93 Octane housing thinking it will have the ability to force lower income people to buy into it. What is the PROVEN method to provide more housing that these signers propose? You wrote:

    “Pushback against State control of land use from residents in another Bay Area community:

    https://www.smdailyjournal.com/opinion/guest_perspectives/owning-a-home-does-not-make-you-racist-elitists/article_b28eebec-b386-11eb-b0ee-8f488b27012e.html”

    Who said ANYTHING about Racism, this is actually a “CLASSISM” fight? Because affordable housing is a need for all races, religions, sexes, abilities, and more that simply do not earn the money these “COMMUNITIES” prefer to live in their places. It is nothing but a distraction, maybe we ought to establish a new “standard” or group discrimination in such a way that it will hold up in court, COVID seems to be the best case to establish it. Because EVERYONE got walloped by the loss of work in almost every level to a significant degree. You wrote:

    “Housing Is a Human Right (not a commodity to be leveraged for the financial benefit of the fewest):

    https://www.make-the-shift.org”

    This link is about of all things a website that is just documenting the problem of unstable and unreliable housing policy, but absolutely no solutions are written in it. I suppose their solution will be massive SUBSIDIES, but that has proven to be a failure ever since the 1980s when Reagan signed an Affordable Housing Law that was NEVER funded regarding SUBSIDIES, and no other law or STATE action has EVER proven to work in this direction. So, LAND CONTROL or DEVELOPMENT POLICY requiring MANDATORY PROVISIONS OF PRICE AFFORDABILITY seems to be the only ANSWER.

    Thus you have this CIVIL WAR AGAINST THE LOWER INCOME CITIZENS by the so called “INVESTEMENT AND COMMODITY” housing sectors.

  10. HOUSING IS A HUMAN RIGHT I am confused because you wrote:

    “Certain State Legislators push for extractive development to benefit investors with no regard for impact to communities, housing affordability, and the environment. HCD is the enforcer of unsustainable land use mandates pushed onto cities by the Legislature.

    Cupertino is among a growing group of communities rejecting heavy-handed authoritarianism from the State Legislature.

    Local legislators who push back against State control of local land use:”

    BUT theses same politicians are OPPOSED to INCLUSIONARY housing, which so far is the only reliable method of getting more affordable housing. Subsidies don’t work, and so do In Lieu fees. In fact, the Workforce Housing Opportunity Zones law is specifically a “INCLUSIONARY” housing act basically forcing the housing market to offer more “grades” of housing like a Gas Station. Currently the market only builds 93 Octane housing thinking it will have the ability to force lower income people to buy into it. What is the PROVEN method to provide more housing that these signers propose? You wrote:

    “Pushback against State control of land use from residents in another Bay Area community:

    Who said ANYTHING about Racism, this is actually a “CLASSISM” fight? Because affordable housing is a need for all races, religions, sexes, abilities, and more that simply do not earn the money these “COMMUNITIES” prefer to live in their places. It is nothing but a distraction, maybe we ought to establish a new “standard” or group discrimination in such a way that it will hold up in court, COVID seems to be the best case to establish it. Because EVERYONE got walloped by the loss of work in almost every level to a significant degree. You wrote:

    “Housing Is a Human Right (not a commodity to be leveraged for the financial benefit of the fewest):”

    This link is about of all things a website that is just documenting the problem of unstable and unreliable housing policy, but absolutely no solutions are written in it. I suppose their solution will be massive SUBSIDIES, but that has proven to be a failure ever since the 1980s when Reagan signed an Affordable Housing Law that was NEVER funded regarding SUBSIDIES, and no other law or STATE action has EVER proven to work in this direction. So, LAND CONTROL or DEVELOPMENT POLICY requiring MANDATORY PROVISIONS OF PRICE AFFORDABILITY seems to be the only ANSWER.

    Thus you have this CIVIL WAR AGAINST THE LOWER INCOME CITIZENS by the so called “INVESTEMENT AND COMMODITY” housing sectors.

  11. “…BUT theses same politicians are OPPOSED to INCLUSIONARY housing, which so far is the only reliable method of getting more affordable housing….”

    I disagree. I see these Cupertino Council Members standing against extraction capitalism in local real estate markets.

    Commercial real estate investors will never build enough affordable housing. Affordable housing is not supportive of their business model.

    For-profit real estate developers will build too many very tall, very expensive buildings with tiny micro units that almost no one (except investors) want.

    We are long overdue for public investment, public ownership in safe, sustainable housing that families and individuals of modest means can afford.

    “Streamlining” laws that exist to maximize for-profit investment in California real estate—such as AB 2345 and many others—do little more than socialize the costs of private real estate investment. If the public is going pay for housing (through entitlements or infrastructure waivers), it should own the housing and the property and hold onto both for public benefit for years to come.

    And do pay attention to The Shift (https://www.make-the-shift.org) and the recognition of the Housing Is a Human Right movement. The need to separate housing from extractive capital investment only grows.

  12. HOUSING IS A HUMAN RIGHT you wrote:

    “I disagree. I see these Cupertino Council Members standing against extraction capitalism in local real estate markets.”

    Please define “extraction capitalism”, because what you are saying is that the “capitalists” will leave or “extract” themselves from the market. Probably because they will resist building the INCLUSIONARY units I described. If this is correct, then there will be no choice for the “PRIVATE” options of housing development, because the “PRIVATE” sources will simply not provide any. You did say the correct statement here:

    “Commercial real estate investors will never build enough affordable housing. Affordable housing is not supportive of their business model.

    For-profit real estate developers will build too many very tall, very expensive buildings with tiny micro units that almost no one (except investors) want.”

    Which means if they do build them, they will fail and the “PRIVATE” options will lose. Most importantly, none of these projects can receive ANY PUBLIC SUBSIDIES because anyone with “Half a Brain” will know that the current and future markets will never use them unless the PRIVATE markets use violations of the California Anti-Trust laws to force them down the customers throats. You wrote:

    “We are long overdue for public investment, public ownership in safe, sustainable housing that families and individuals of modest means can afford.”

    The problem with this model is that “NON-PROFITS” are abusing the system, their executives get rich while failing to provide the housing they promised. There are multiple stories in the San Jose Inside, and Spotlight demonstrating it. The bottom line is that option is a proven failure at this time unless MAJOR REFORM is put in place. You wrote:

    ““Streamlining” laws that exist to maximize for-profit investment in California real estate—such as AB 2345 and many others—do little more than socialize the costs of private real estate investment. If the public is going pay for housing (through entitlements or infrastructure waivers), it should own the housing and the property and hold onto both for public benefit for years to come.”

    Again SUBSIDIES are a proven failure, lets just make in impossible for any project to move forward unless using the Workforce Housing Opportunity Zone model that requires 50% of any project to have price controls and it won’t separate ownership versus rentals for at least 45-55years.

    If the PRIVATE options reuse to provide them, then systemically increase price controls on all the existing housing until compliance STATEWIDE. Given their inaction is a violate of the state Anti-Trust laws, they have no case regarding “taking” in court. They fail the Doctine of Clean Hands test regarding seeking equity from the courts.

    And do pay attention to The Shift (https://www.make-the-shift.org) and the recognition of the Housing Is a Human Right movement. The need to separate housing from extractive capital investment only grows.

  13. Urban land is overvalued. It is priced according to what investors are willing to pay for it, not at the price that regular people can afford to pay for housing.

    And money invested in land does not circulate, it just locks up capital until the property owner (probably an anonymous LLC) finally decides to sell. Then the new property owner steps in to lock up new capital or debt obligation into the same land. And if an LLC owner, that land may never “sell” for generations.

    When we add density to neighborhoods (taller buildings, shorter setbacks, more units), we make the land more valuable because greater density means more developed square footage per acre to sell to investors.

    The problem of overvalued land plagues cities across the world. City leaders are starting to pushback creatively.

    Berlin is one city considering real disincentives to discourage investment interest in its real estate, including multi-year rent freezes and expropriations that would cap the number of apartments a single corporation could own. Government would buy back from corporate landlords the apartments owned above the threshold maximum and repurpose for public housing use: https://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/us_5caf1d7de4b0308735d59712

    There are critics of both ideas, of course, but public enthusiasm to limit corporate ownership of housing runs high.

  14. HOUSING IS A HUMAN RIGHT you wrote:

    “Urban land is overvalued. It is priced according to what investors are willing to pay for it, not at the price that regular people can afford to pay for housing.”

    OMG you couldn’t have ANYONE agree with you more. Both Commercial and Residential Mortgage-Backed Securities have restored and worsened the bubble since 2007. There is good reason why all governments have allowed it to happen, the increases in property taxes based on initial tax rates upon purchase of the buildings. Even though the owners can get them reassessed for a lower tax, they cannot do so without signaling they are inflated fictional values in the first place.

    On top of that the “Collateralized Debt Obligation” came back under a different name it is called the Bespoke Tranche.

    The both of these make up the “Derivatives” market, which simply buys and resells the same unique property debts to multiple people, called CDO or BT Squared. And the market did it again. When this started Mike Burry and others “SHORTED” the market by creating the “Credit Default Swap”.

    And now you have both Commercial and Residential Mortgage Companies negotiating behind the scenes for lower payments, both mortgage and rent, but only under the condition of NON DISCLOSURE AGREEMENTS where if disclosed the total savings are by default required to be paid throughout the ENTIRE term of the agreement in one payment. When asked the mortgage debt owners and renters must state they are still paying the SAME PRICES when in fact they are not. You should see the video here (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Trz65P1gnA) and (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GaK5MyNp_Bo&t=290s) and (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E39h8R1ufz4)

    Does this situation look unsustainable? I think it would look very strongly that it is very unustainable.

  15. HOUSING IS A HUMAN RIGHT you wrote:

    “Urban land is overvalued. It is priced according to what investors are willing to pay for it, not at the price that regular people can afford to pay for housing.”

    OMG you couldn’t have ANYONE agree with you more. Both Commercial and Residential Mortgage-Backed Securities have restored and worsened the bubble since 2007. There is good reason why all governments have allowed it to happen, the increases in property taxes based on initial tax rates upon purchase of the buildings. Even though the owners can get them reassessed for a lower tax, they cannot do so without signaling they are inflated fictional values in the first place.

    On top of that the “Collateralized Debt Obligation” came back under a different name it is called the Bespoke Tranche.

    The both of these make up the “Derivatives” market, which simply buys and resells the same unique property debts to multiple people, called CDO or BT Squared. And the market did it again. When this started Mike Burry and others “SHORTED” the market by creating the “Credit Default Swap”.

    And now you have both Commercial and Residential Mortgage Companies negotiating behind the scenes for lower payments, both mortgage and rent, but only under the condition of NON DISCLOSURE AGREEMENTS where if disclosed the total savings are by default required to be paid throughout the ENTIRE term of the agreement in one payment. When asked the mortgage debt owners and renters must state they are still paying the SAME PRICES when in fact they are not.
    You should see the video on Youtube titled “NYC real estate prices are being ARTIFICIALLY INFLATED by non-disclosure agreements.”

    And: “Commercial real estate ruled WORTHLESS in court after tenant denied ability to open business.”

    And: “Expert breakdown of NYC’s overpriced commercial vacancies.”

    And: “Crash more, corrupt NYC real estate bubble “,

    And “Manhattan commercial real estate market FINALLY CRACKING”

    And “Manhattan retail rents PLUMMETING? No Bloomberg.. no they are not.”

    Does this situation look unsustainable? I think it would look very strongly that it is very unsustainable.

    But all of the governments are ADDICTED to the Bubble, and they are trying anything to avoid it from finally correcting

  16. I hear Feng quit – walked out too! Couldn’t stand working with the crazy city council I guess. That or she couldn’t get san Jose to pay for the wall council wanted.

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