Q: What are your plans to control the rapid growth Sunnyvale has been experiencing lately?
A: My plans for controlling growth are to increase development impact fees, change zoning and land use plans and require intermediate development caps. Sunnyvale needs better development policies and goals to meet the needs of its residents in the 21st century.
Increase Development Impact Fees Development fees are not a general revenue source like sales tax or property tax. Sunnyvale can't use development fees for pension or similar purposes. They are collected and to be spent based on the types of impact they cause.New development causes more traffic so the city charges a traffic impact fee. New residents need more open space so developers either need to donate land or pay 'parks-in-lieu' fees. The important question is "How high should those fees be?". Given the increased congestion almost each new development causes, it is clear the current fees are not enough to allow Sunnyvale to mitigate the impact. I will champion Sunnyvale increasing the impact fees as a key way to better mitigate the impacts of growth while also discouraging it. The Nexus study Sunnyvale recently conducted shows the fees the city is currently charging do not cover the cost of the impacts.
Sunnyvale currently charges $17/sq ft for some of these fees for commercial developments. Other cities which are struggling to control growth and mitigate its impacts are considering increasing the fees they charge. Palo Alto currently charges $30/sq ft and is considering increasing this fee to $50 or $60/sq ft as a way to slow growth and generate more funds to offset the impact. Sunnyvale should do the same.
Control growth through land-use, zoning and development agreements. Sunnyvale also controls growth via our land use plans, zoning, and development agreements. We need Sunnyvale to develop differently going forward. The old model of housing in one area and jobs in another is no longer the best choice in the 21st century. We need much more integrated land use going forward with apartments and/or condo or offices above ground floor retail in our transit corridors like El Camino Real. We need more mixed use housing near transit. We need more housing instead of more office space in Sunnyvale to reduce the jobs/housing imbalance. For example, after reviewing the Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) for Peery Park, I spoke in favor of rezoning much of Peery Park ( the area west of Mathilda and East of 85, North of Caltrain and South of US101) to mixed use residential instead of keeping it mostly industrial.The DEIR projected that if Peery Park were allowed to be redeveloped as proposed, the total # of vehicle miles traveled (VMT) by all the new employees there would double along with all the related increases in traffic, air pollution, and stress. Part of solving our traffic problem is adding more housing instead of more office space in Sunnyvale so more people who work in or near Sunnyvale can have shorter commutes. This is particularly important in areas close to the Sunnyvale and Lawrence Cal-Train stations. I think there are areas in Peery Park where a planned community, with schools, parks and local retail would be a much better use of land instead of more office towers. If elected, I would vote to start over with a new vision for Peery Park. Sunnyvale hopefully will continue to evolve its development requirements to require more open space with public access around new developments. The East Sunnyvale Sense of Place project will have 1 mile bicycle and pedestrian trail around it which is open to everyone.We need to work with developers to insure these type of community benefits are included in large projects.I support higher open space requirements in future developments.
Intermediate Development Caps Another way to control growth is with development caps or limits in land use plans. Development caps are based on the environmental impact reports used and approved as part of changing zoning. For example, the Moffet Park Specific Plan has a development cap of 24M sq ft. It was expected that it would take about 20 years for developers to add 24M sq ft of office in Moffet Park when it was approved. Instead, developers added about 24M sq ft office space in about 8 years. Approving all this new office space in such a short time did not give Sunnyvale time to see how it would impact resident's quality of life. If the Moffet Park Specific Plan (MPSP) had intermediate development caps, like only allowing 12M sq ft in the first 10 years and the next 12M sq ft in years 11-20, it would have worked out much better for Sunnyvale residents because it would have allowed the city time to adapt and mitigate the impacts. If elected, I would push for requiring intermediate development caps in new plans. Sunnyvale did include them in the Lawrence Station Area Plan.
General Plan - Land Use and Transportation Element (LUTE) The general plan is the master plan for all of Sunnyvale. It has various parts called 'elements'. General plans are updated about every 20 years. Sunnyvale has approved many parts of it General Plan for the next 20 years called the "Horizon 2035" plan. One element still being reviewed for approval is the "Land Use and Transportation Element". This piece is really important because it sets the general expectation for the growth in Sunnyvale for the next 20 years. The current draft calls for adding 15,000 housing units and 40,000 jobs by 2035. Thisplan to allow the jobs to housing ratio, currently ~1.4, to worsen to above 1.7. This will force thousands future employees to commute long distances into Sunnyvale to work at all these new jobs.
There are two huge problems if Sunnyvale approves the current LUTE draft. 1. All this added commuting will have serious impacts on everyone's quality of life by dramatically increasing congestion, air pollution and greenhouse gas emission. It will increase the # of intersections which are Level of Service(LOS) E or F from 3 today to 20. LOS is a measure of how long it takes to get across an intersection. The scale ranges from A to F. It would also result in a huge in 'Vehicle Miles Traveled' (VMT) for many of the people working at these new jobs because they would have long commutes. 2. It would aggravate the affordable housing crisis we are already suffering from, driving more middle and lower income residents from Sunnyvale. Some people are already predicting that the Bay Area could become 'Manhattan West' if we don't do more to provide better balance job growth and housing units, especially affordable ones.
One of the critical tools to control growth in Sunnyvale is to set different goals in LUTE. I advocate for dramatically lowering the job growth and increase the housing units target in the LUTE. Given the affordable housing crisis we and neighboring cities are already suffering from, I advocate for the setting a Job-to-Housing ratio in the LUTE of 1.2 and increase the housing unit target to 20,000. City staff in various recent presentations to city council have already stated the city has zoned for the capacity to add 20,000 more housing units. For example, one option to be voted on in the El Camino Specific Plan calls for zoning for 5,100 housing units along the 4 miles of El Camino Real in Sunnyvale. Please contact the city and ask them to Set a Job-to-Housing ratio target in the LUTE of 1.2 and increase the housing unit target to 20,000. Currently the most housing intensive option to be evaluated in the LUTE Environmental Impact report set the JTH ratio target of 1.49.