CUPERTINO (CBS SF) – The Mayor of Cupertino faces scrutiny after apparently joking that his community should build a wall along its borders and have neighboring cities pay for it.

Mayor Steven Scharf made the comments in the introduction of his State of the City address on January 30th.

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“You have heard about the wall along our southern border,” Scharf said, referencing President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall. “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.”

Mayor Steven Scharf of Cupertino jokes about building a wall around his community during his State of The City address on January 30, 2019. (City of Cupertino / YouTube)

Mayor Steven Scharf of Cupertino jokes about building a wall around his community during his State of The City address on January 30, 2019. (City of Cupertino / YouTube)

“San Jose will be mainly paying for it, so it’s not coming out of our own taxes. Saratoga will give a little bit too, since they are a big contributor to our traffic issue,” the mayor went on to say.

The mayor accompanied his comments with a PowerPoint slide that read “Securing Our Borders With the Cupertino Wall” and “Saratoga, Santa Clara, Sunnyvale, Los Altos, and San Jose Will Pay For It,” referring to the five communities that border the city.

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Scharf’s comments were roundly criticized by housing advocates who have often complained that the city of 60,000 and home to Apple has resisted new homes amid the ongoing housing crisis in Silicon Valley and the Bay Area.

Lan Diep, a city councilmember in neighboring San Jose (District 4), also responded to Scharf’s comments on Twitter. Diep, along with other members of the council, posed with signs saying they would not pay for such a wall.

“I think the idea of a wall, creating barriers around communities, whether it’s a wall along the southern border or a wall around cities, is not a good idea,” said Diep.

Cupertino residents didn’t take kindly to the mayor’s words, either.

“I think it’s ridiculous. I think it’s a friendly city. We have no border,” said Cupertino resident Doborah Kuo, who is originally from Taiwan.

Shcarf’s comments come at a time of tension between Cupertino and San Jose. Cupertino accuses its big neighbor of building large projects on its doorstep, leaving Cupertino with more traffic.
And San Jose accuses Cupertino of not doing its fair share to build affordable housing to help solve the regional crisis of homelessness.

“You can’t wall yourself off from these issues. These issues are all of our problem,” said homeless and housing advocate Pastor Scott Wagers of CHAM Deliverance Ministries.

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The entire State of the City Address 2019 can be watched on YouTube.

Advocates point to the long saga involving the redevelopment of the mostly empty Vallco shopping center as an example of the city’s attitude towards the housing crunch. After ballot measures and much debate, the City Council approved a mixed-use project with nearly 3,000 housing units, along with offices and retail on the site last September.

Several weeks later, opponents worried about potential traffic impacts and overcrowded schools gathered enough signatures to place a referendum on a future ballot to reverse the plan.

According to Zillow, the median home value in Cupertino is $2,255,700, and the real estate company expects home values in the city to rise more than 6 percent this year.

Mayor Scharf did not return emails or phone calls to KPIX 5, but one of the mayor’s supporters said the comments are being taken out of context.

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“I’m sure he wishes that he wouldn’t have said it given the fact that it’s not been taken as maybe it was given,” said Rick Challman, who said he has known Mayor Scharf for years and considers him
a friend.