By Kristi Myllenbeck – Cupertino Courier/The Mercury News, July 7, 2017
The city of Cupertino has announced dates for its summer speaker series that could be a bridge to resident discussion on the future of the mostly vacant Vallco Shopping Mall property.
The series will focus on local and regional development topics like retail shopping habits, the nature of growth, transportation and housing.
The series begins Wednesday with “Envisioning Santa Clara County: Change, Growth and Planning,” from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the Quinlan Community Center. Don Weden, a former Santa Clara County planner, will speak.
Three more sessions will follow at Cupertino Community Hall, featuring a “panel of industry experts,” according to the city. The first is on July 27 and will focus on retail and the economy. The second is Aug. 24 and the topic is housing. The third is Sept. 28 and will focus on transportation.
All events in this series are from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
The series comes more than eight months after The Hills at Vallco—Measure D—was rejected by voters in the Nov. 8 election. If built, the multibillion-dollar project would have brought to the site 2 million square feet of office space, 640,000 square feet of retail, approximately 400 residential units and a 339-room hotel, along with a 30-acre green roof, which project backers touted as the “largest in the world.”
The catalyst for the speaker series came in May when, in the face of opposition from residents, the city council shelved its plan to create “a community advisory committee” that would work together to study potential projects at Vallco as well as other development topics spanning the city.
The council opted for the speaker series instead.
Meanwhile, the mall continues to sit mostly empty. This newspaper reached out to Reed Moulds, managing director of Sand Hill Property Company, which owns the property, to get an update on the mall’s status or any future plans that could be submitted to the city.
Capt. Rich Urena, division commander for the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s West Valley Patrol Division, confirmed the location indeed has its share of criminal activity.
“We’ve had 156 calls for service at Vallco from January this year up to June 28,” Urena said. “We have a lot of suspicious vehicle calls, vehicle burglaries and disturbances.”
Urena also confirmed there’s been reports of vandalism on the property as well as battery incidents, trespassing and stolen vehicles, among other incidents.
“We’re working with the city to close significant portions of the mall,” Moulds said. “As long as there are threats to the public safety, we will continue closing nonessential portions of the mall.”
Brian Babcock, city spokesman, said incidents at the mall are on the decline. Fencing has been added to the property.
“We’ve seen a drop in June,” he said. “We don’t know if that’s necessarily connected to the partitioning and the fencing but since that has happened recently, we would expect so. The city and sheriff’s office are trying to ensure that it is as safe as an empty mall can be.”
The mall’s interior remains accessible, but most storefronts are shuttered. The AMC movie theater continues to operate, and Dr. Fred Slater, an optometrist, is one of the last tenants. He said he could not comment on the fate of his business.
Other tenants include Dynasty Chinese Restaurant and a Cold Stone Creamery near the theater.
Moulds said Sand Hill has “no strategy to monetize the property at this point,” but the company has leased parking lots for “temporary accommodation” of vehicles for car dealerships.
“Until we are shown by the city and community that there is a vision that people will support and will support us to pursue, we can’t be making any investments in any process,” he said. “We are in this for the long haul, and we’re going to do right by the property and we’re going to do right by the city. We’re in no rush to undertake a project that is infeasible, but we are eager to get started.”
As for the speaker series, Moulds said he commends the city for wanting to educate residents on relevant issues facing the region.
“We’re interested in supporting the city’s exploration of these issues and issues involving the revitalization of the mall,” he said.