Cupertino Mayor's 'Wall Joke' Gets Lots of Negative Feedback

Cupertino Mayor Steven Scharf, a fervent opponent of a new Bay Area housing initiative, opened his Jan. 29 state-of-the-city address with a short joke about "building a wall around Cupertino and making San Jose pay for it" that didn't go over well.

2 minute read

February 8, 2019, 8:00 AM PST

By Irvin Dawid


Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock

“You’ve heard about the wall along our southern border,” Mayor Scharf said near the beginning of his State of the City address, showing a picture of the city surrounded by a black border, reports Emily DeRuy of the Bay Area News Group.

“This is the wall around Cupertino. We have a big problem with all these Teslas coming through our city from Saratoga, and other people from other cities, so we came up with this proposal. San Jose will be mainly paying for it. It’s not going to come out of our own taxes.”

The apparent joke drew some chuckles when it was delivered. But the comments have drawn ire online, particularly from those who have criticized the city and other wealthy suburban towns for failing to add enough affordable housing. Plans to build housing at the old, almost-vacant Vallco Mall site have been met with intense pushback from some city residents.

For example, San Jose City Councilman Lan Diep, "the only remaining Republican on the council," tweeted after reading DeRuy's piece on Feb. 5:

“Congrats to Cupertino Mayor Steven Scharf for out-Trumping Trump on the night of the (State of the Union) by declaring Cupertino will build a wall and make San Jose pay for it. We are not amused."

While the tweets were heavily focused on housing, a sensitive subject with affluent South Bay suburbs that have resisted new, denser developments, the opening 25-second joke  appeared to be more about traffic than housing as the next two minutes of his address was about ensuring safety for children who bike and walk to school and praising a police officer for the number of traffic citations he had written.

Scharf is also a major opponent of a new group known as CASA – The Committee to House the Bay Area, that received regional approval of its initiative, known as the CASA Compact [pdf], last month.

“It’s called the Committee to House the Bay Area but I really call it the Committee to Destroy the Bay Area,” the mayor said during his address.

The funding scheme, Scharf added, is “very scary,” with the group wanting to take property tax revenue away from smaller cities. He also suggested that building high-density housing would drive up house prices.

On that last note, Scharf referenced an MIT study from Yonah Freemark, known for his blog, The Transport Politic (frequently posted here), now a doctoral candidate in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.). "Yimby narrative on housing is wrong according to MIT study," writes Tim Redmond for the San Francisco Tenants Union Freemark's research released Jan. 29.

Hat tip to MTC Transportation Headlines

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