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[whitespace] After two years, Rancho Rinconada annexation complete

Cupertino--A process that has taken two years and an election ended on March 1 when the City Council approved the annexation of Rancho Rinconada.

The Rancho Rinconada neighborhood is a 317-acre area between Stevens Creek Boulevard, Lawrence Expressway, Bollinger Road and Miller Avenue, composed of about 4,200 residents and 1,500 homes.

Although residents have had Cupertino addresses, Rancho Rinconada was an unincorporated county pocket that was governed by Santa Clara County and the Board of Supervisors.

"Yippee!" said Marc Auerbach, chair of the Rancho Pocket Annexation Committee. "We'll be able to vote in the next election for local representation."

The City Council unanimously ordered the annexation following a public hearing to gauge the support of the community. At the end of the hearing, the city had received a total of nine protests to the annexation.

Rancho resident Pat McGrath protested the timing of the annexation. He asked for a nine-month delay before annexation became effective so that homeowners of could take advantage of the county's more lenient building codes.

"There's a night and day difference between dealing with the county and city," McGrath said. "When people bought property, they knew they would be dealing with the county. In addition to building and expenses, there's this new [residential homes] ordinance."

The City Council on March 15 is expected to pass an ordinance that would restrict the size of homes and additions.

News and timing of the annexation shouldn't come as a surprise to residents, Auerbach said. People should have known about the annexation through posted flyers, articles written in the Community Crier, people going door-to-door and hearings at the county and city level.

"If people are complaining they are unaware of annexation and the impacts, that to me is their own faults that they weren't aware of the issues," Auerbach said. "In the course of the last two years, there's been ample opportunity."

Cupertino resident Richard Weaver also protested the annexation, demanding that if the City Council was going to annex the area, it should annex the sales tax revenue areas as well.

"If you annex homes without sales tax revenues, I'm paying these bills to pay for those homes," Weaver said. "I object to that. Don't vote to cut my services."

It would have taken roughly 500 protests to force a special annexation election and 1,050 protests for the council to terminate the proceedings, said Bob Cowan, director of Community Development.

The annexation won't become official until the county's Local Agency Formation Commission office issues a certification of completion.

The annexation date will be around March 15, said Colin Jung, associate planner.

To welcome Cupertino's newest residents, the city will host an informational fair and party 10 a.m. to noon on April 17 at Sedgwick Elementary School.

"The annexation committee's worked very, very hard for this and this is just our way of congratulating them in all their hard work," said Donna Krey, city spokesperson.

Mayor Wally Dean will present a proclamation to the Rancho Pocket Annexation Committee and each city department will have tables set up. Rancho residents can pick up brochures and pamphlets and other information related to city services and programs.

The county sheriff's and fire departments will be represented along with some of the service vehicles the new residents will be seeing on their streets, Krey said.

Residents asked to become a part of Cupertino two years ago so they could gain some control over housing development, get better protection for trees in the neighborhood and use the sheriff's office to enforce traffic.

"Cupertino has already come through and marked our sidewalks to estimate the amount of repair on the sidewalks," Auerbach said. "That's something the county never did."

The City Council would have completed the annexation earlier were it not for a 1996 proposition which gives property owners the right to vote on whether to pay new taxes if consent in the area is less than 100 percent.

In the November election, 55.9 percent of Rancho voters passed a measure to extend Cupertino's 2.4 percent utilities tax to all residences in the neighborhood. Sixty-six percent soundly approved an advisory measure to gauge support for annexation.

"The only wrinkle [in the process] was having to go through the Nov. 3 elections, but that turned out better. Prior to that, the only real opposition came from people who thought there should be a vote," Auerbach said. "Not that they were against annexation, but they thought it shouldn't happen without a vote, so I thought those concerns were appeased."

With the annexation of Rancho completed, the city could turn its attention to the other two unincorporated pockets in Cupertino: Garden Gate and Monta Vista.
Michelle Ku

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